Back in 1957, an unsuccessful Brooklyn group called The Chesters decided to reorganize with a new lead singer – Anthony Gourdine, formerly of the Duponts. The other personnel at that point: Tracy Lord, Ernest Wright, Clarence Collins and Nathaniel Rogers. Changing their name to The Imperials, the five signed with End Records and recorded “Tears On My Pillow” (a song heavily influenced by The Penguins’ “Earth Angel”) b/w “Two People In The World” as their first single. Anthony’s high-pitched falsetto voice transformed both tunes into New York area doo-wop sensations and sent “Tears On My Pillow” soaring to #4 nationally in the fall of 1958. His voice proved so sensational that while the first pressings of the single credited only “The Imperials,” later issues cited “Little Anthony & the Imperials” – partially as a result of DJ Alan Freed (an avid Gourdine admirer) awarding the young singer that nickname.
Five other less successful End singles charted through 1960, the biggest being 1959’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop” – the record with which Freed closed out his legendary run as a New York disc jockey. Little Anthony left The Imperials for a solo career in 1961, but when that didn’t work out, he reformed the group and signed with Don Costa’s DCP label. Five big hits followed in 1964-5: “I’m On The Outside (Looking In),” “Goin’ Out Of My Head,” “Hurt So Bad,” “Take Me Back” and “I Miss You So.”
Subsequent Little Anthony & the Imperials singles on Veep, United Artists and Avco charted lower on Billboard’s Hot 100. The last of their total of 19 Hot 100 hits was “I’m Falling In Love With You” in 1974. The group went through numerous personnel changes over the years, with some members dropping in and out of the line-up. Little Anthony & the Imperials turned up on many TV variety series, from “Shindig,” “Soul Train” and “Hullaballoo” to “The Tonight Show,” “American Bandstand” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” (twice).
In 1993, Little Anthony and the Imperials received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award. They entered the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007. Two years later in 2009 the group was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.