The story of Little Anthony & the Imperials is a story of the early days of rock and roll,when our music was new and breathtaking. It not only reached our ears but our hearts. It’s also a story of chemistry - that special coming together of talent that makes magic happen
in show business. Let’s begin in 1957, when Jerome Anthony Gourdine was singing with a group called the Duponts, and Clarence Collins, Ernest Wright, Tracy Lord, and Glouster Nathaniel “Nate” Rogers formed a group called the Chesters. Anthony and Clarence had known each other as toddlers when their dads worked together at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. After the Duponts broke up,Anthony joined the Chesters. And I’ll bet you didn’tknow that when the guys would be harmonizing in Brooklyn, a young girl by the name of Altovese Gore, a
neighbor, would listen. Altovese would later become Mrs. Sammy Davis Jr. While rehearsing one day, thé Chesters were heard by Richard Barrett, formerly of the Valentines and then director for George Goldner, one of the great champions of doo-wop and owner of the labels Gone, End, Gee, and Rama. Goldner had some of the most influential groups of the time—the Cleftones, the Grows, the Chantels, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. Barrett auditioned the Chesters, loved what he heard, and immediately brought them to the attention of Goldner, who agreed they had a sound he like, but he didn’t like the name the Chesters. As the story goes, after seeing an ad on T V for Imperial margarine, Richard Barrett renamed the group the Imperials. Into the studio Goldner took them, to record a song he liked called “Tears on M y Pillow.” As Anthony told me, after the second take of “Tears,” Goldner stopped the session, took Anthony aside, and said to him, “Don’t sing the lyric; talk the lyric.” The result was the unforgettable opening o f the song: “You don’t remember me —but I remember you.” For the B side, Goldner selected a piece of material that was the Imperials’ audition song and took them back to their roots, street-
corner harmony: “Two People in the World,” with Anthony’s amazing falsetto leading the group. Released in 1958, the label said the Im perials and the recording was rushed immediately to Alan Freed.W hen Freed got the disc, in his excitement over
presenting it on the air, and remembering Anthony from an appearance with the Chesters, he announced,“Here’s a record that’s making a lot of noise . . . Little Anthony and the Imperials singing ‘Tears on My Pillow.’ ”And the name stuck. Goldner had to re-press the record
on the End label to read Little Anthony and the Imperials . And both sides became smashes. Now they were playing every major rock n roll show in the country and touring. During the Goldner years, they put out numerous records on End, including another hit,Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop. When Goldner sold his labels, in the early sixties, it brought a lull to their career, as well as some personnel changes, with Anthony becoming a solo artist and the Imperials recording and touring on their own under the direction of Clarence. The year 1964 found the group together again, with Anthony, Clarence, Ernie, plus Sammy Strain, who joined after the departure of Tracy Lord and Nate Rogers .A successful new era would begin for Little Anthony and the Imperials when Ernie met Teddy Randazzo. Teddy,who had recorded for the great arranger-conductor Don Costa at A B C Paramount, now was Don’s partner in DCP Records. Both loved the Imperials’ sound, and Costa decided to take them in a new direction. Back into the studio they went. Teddy’s compositions “I’m on the Outside (Looking In)” —one of the only U.S. records to chart during a time dominated by the British Invasion -plus “Goin’ Out of M y Head,” “Hurt So Bad,” “Take Me Back,”“I Miss You So,” “Get Out of M y Life,” and the lesser-known but equally potent “If I Remember to Forget” combined many powerful elements: the group’s harmonies, Anthony’s delivery, Teddy’s music and lyrics (written at a time of persona ltorment in his life), and Costa’s masterful arrangements. They were also sporting a new look: appearing onstage in tuxedos.
Eventually, they would move on to other labels. In the seventies, when musical tastes were in transition,the guys went in different directions. But they reunited in 1992 at Madison Square Garden, and the magic happened all over again. They have been together since then, with Harold Jenkins, a member from the seventies and also the group’s choreographer, replacing Sammy Strain, who we honored in 2005 when he was inducted with the O’Jays. Jerry Blavat says, "We all must agree that Little Anthony and the Imperials have come a long way since their early days singing on street corners in their Brooklyn neighborhood. But their passion, showmanship, and extraordinary talent and chemistry take us all back to a time when our music was young and first began, They captivate us. Every time I feature them, whether on T V or concerts we produce at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia,hey are as sensational and dynamic as when they first began."
Jerome Anthony Gourdine, better known as “Little Anthony” recently collaborated with author Arlene Krieger to release a memoir book entitled, “Little Anthony: My Journey – My Destiny”. The book is more – much more than a bio. It is a story of how a kid from Ft. Greene, Brooklyn went on to become not only an inductee into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (along with Metallica, Jeff Beck and Run DMC) but one of the vocal architects to emerge in the era called the “Golden Age of Rock and Roll”.
Usually a bio begins with they grew up here, went to school there but when telling the story of Little Anthony and his group The Imperials backing him, all that has been documented many times over. The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame website perhaps captures it best. The LittIe Anthony & The Imperials’ Rock Hall site details how they were singing under a street light, rehearsing in the city subways of Brooklyn, performing at sock hops, getting signed to a “Broadway record company”, touring and finally after decades, breaking up/regrouping years later.
Anthony said, “Some of my greatest acclaims came later in life and I’m glad they did. When we were younger, The Imperials and I squandered so much. We made all the wrong moves, had the wrong managers, listened to almost no one (at first), were ripped off unknowingly and got caught up in our own celebrity. When we were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, we fully had come full circle and are eternally thankful to be honored by our peers. I said we stand on the shoulders of giants and I meant every word.” Little Anthony & The Imperials were further honored, a year later, when they appeared on the 25th Anniversary of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame concert at Madison Square Garden. The sold out audience gave Anthony and The Imperials a standing ovation before they sang an acapella note.
When the book opportunity presented itself, Anthony is quoted as saying, “I did not want to write a ‘me book’ but my life has been quite a journey, a people journey. People say I am an icon and I thank them for that but truth be told, the real Little Antony story is about the people I’ve known and those who influenced me for the better. I should have died 3 times but now at age 75, I am one of the pioneers of the early days of Rock and R&B. I survived. I was there and now 60 years later – I had my first singing gig at 14 years old - I am fortunate enough to chronicle it all”.
The “Little Anthony story” is about the people he has known – his boyhood friends, his family, his Dad and Mom, his aunts, his showbiz fathers: Redd Foxx and Sammy Davis Jr., his “brother” Smokey Robinson, friendships with Paul Simon, the support of Ed Sullivan, Dick Clark, Paul Shaffer, Moms Mabely, Eartha Kitt, Frankie Lyman, the Motown artists, Don Costa, Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Winestein, Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band and on so many others. Anthony says, “Some of them are not gone but, they are with me every time I go on stage. Their influence and teachings are in me and I carry on everything they taught or instilled in me”.
You could say it all started when at age 17, attending summer school – Boys High in Brooklyn – when on a hot New York City day, Anthony heard his “Tears On My Pillow” via a smuggled in transistor radio. “I started to walk out of the class when the teacher said, ‘Mister Gourdine where do you think you are going?’ I remember it like it was yesterday – “My song is on the radio – I’m out of here”.
Do you know that Anthony did not even realize he graduated high school? Anthony chuckles and recalls, “I finally received my diploma 50 years later when someone found it in an old desk at Boys High and sent on.”
More hits followed for Little Anthony & The Imperials: “Hurt So Bad”, “I’m On The Outside Looking In”, “Shimmy Shimmy Koko Bop”, “I’m Alright” (co-written with Sam Cooke) and “Just Two People In The World”. In the book, Gourdine tells of how he was tagged with the name “Little Anthony” by radio legend Alan Freed, watching Bob Marley record “No Woman, No Cry”, touring with Dick Clark, following the “Chitlin Circuit”, Bruce Springsteen opening for him at Jersey dates in the ‘70s, sock hops, performing on the “Tonight Show”, co-hosting for a week on the “Mike Douglas Show”, singing his hits on “Hullabaloo”,” “Soul Train”, “American Bandstand” and being inducted into the Long Island-based Vocal Group Hall of Fame by Billy Joel. Billy also honored Anthony personally two years ago, when he encouraged the sold-out Madison Square Garden audience to give his hero, Little Anthony, a standing ovation right after singing a stanza of “Tears On My Pillow”.
Anthony’s book pulls no punches and offer little known facts, such as: Little Anthony & The Imperials were the first to record “You Only Live Twice”, which became famous thanks to Nancy Sinatra and its James Bond legacy. Or how Marvin Gaye was always the big loser at the crap-games played backstage at The Apollo Theater or how he and Marvin smoked pot in the catacombs of the famed Harlem venue. There is sadness as well in his life: his failed first marriage, the death of his son Casey, his best buddy Frankie Lyman ‘s overdose, Teddy Randazzo passing and the break-up of The Imperials.
Little Anthony & The Imperials still perform live today after regrouping in 1992 (original member Ernest Wright backs Anthony with two new members. A solo career for Little Anthony is another example of the renaissance he is experiencing. About two or three years ago, Anthony initiated a one-man show thanks to long-time friend Bruce Morrow, recorded “A World Without Love”, written by Sir Paul McCartney (for a benefit EP – The Women And Cancer Fund) and released a fully-orchestrated version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” – all in association with the Nashville-based indie, Reviver Records. Anthony’s most recent single, “Back To Brooklyn” was produced by Preston Glass and Anthony also collaborated with long-time friend George Benson on a follow-up single.Little Antony & The Imperials have sold over 22 million records (singles) worldwide. Little Anthony continues to add to his legacy and tending not to rest on his laurels. He was inducted into the R&B Hall of Fame in Detroit and he devotes a great of his time to charity and veterans’ related events. He recently attended a San Diego ceremony involving the roving Vietnam Memorial wall. At a date in Norfolk, VA., prior to performing his one-man show at a private concert, Virginia law convention, Little Anthony will meet 100 kids who are special guests of “For Kids Help Us Help Homeless Families”.“Little Anthony: My Journey – My Destiny” is published by Mascot Books in association with Reviver Records, who executive produced the book in association with the Gourdine family. It is available on Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com and ReviverMusic.com
NOW LITTLE ANTHONY IS OFF ON A NEW JOURNEY WITH MIKE MILLER AS HIS PRODUCER. HE AND MIKE HAVE BEEN FRIENDS FOR DECADES AND ANTHONY HAS INTERVIEWED ON HIS HARMONY STREET SHOW A FEW TIMES. IN DISCUSSING A NOW INTERVIEW THE CONVERSATION DRIFTED INTO THE FACT THAT ANTHONY WHO IS 81 NOW WANTS TO BE "VOCALLY FREE" TO SING AND RECORD WHAT HE WANTS AND TO EXPRESS HIMSELF IN HIS OWN WAY. THE CONCEPT OF "LITTLE ANTHONY & THE MUSIC EXPLAINS IT ALL AND THE FIRST VENTURE OF "ANTHONY NOW" IS THIS NEW ALBUM, PRODUCED BY MIKE MILLER AND HARMONY STREET PRODUCTIONS AND DISTRIBUTED BY STEVIE DUNHAM AND STREET CORNER ENTERTAINMENT. MIKE AND STEVIE HAVE BEEN PRODUCING TOGETHER FOR DECADES SINCE THE EARLY HARMONY STREET DAYS. THIS NEW ALBUM PRESENTS SONGS HAND PICKED BY MIKE AND ANTHONY AND NARRATED BY ANTHONY IN A TIME LINE TAKING YOU THROUGH THE SONGS THAT HAD THE MOST IMPORTANCE IN ANTHONY'S JOURNEY. THERE ARE SOME HITS, SOME SONGS THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HITS, A TRIBUTE TO BILLY JOEL, SOME UNRELEASED, NEVER BEEN HEARD TUNES AND SOME OTHER SURPRISES. GONE IS THE STREET CORNER BUT WHAT IS LEFT STANDING IS LITTLE ANTHONY GOURDINE AGED LIKE FINE WINE, MATURE IN HIS THINKING, HIS CREATIVITY AND HIS VOCAL PROWESS. WE HOPE YOU ENJOY THIS ANTHONY AS YOU ENJOYED THE ANTHONY THROUGH THE YEARS. HE IS THE BEST THAT HE CAN BE, A TRUE AMERICAN MUSIC ICON. PLEASE ENJOY "LITTLE ANTHONY & THE MUSIC"