Little Anthony and The Imperials
In 1957, a doo-wop group known as The Chesters existed with members Clarence Collins, Tracy Lord,
Nathaniel Rodgers, and Ronald Ross. Anthony Gourdine, a former member of The Duponts, joined as lead vocalist.
Ernest Wright took over for Ross, and the group recorded shortly for Apollo Records.
Changing their name to The Imperials, they signed with End Records
in 1958. Their first single was "Tears on My Pillow", which was an instant hit. (While playing this song, D.J. Alan
Freed dubbed the name "Little Anthony".) The B side, "Two Kinds of People" was also a hit. The group followed up
with "Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop" in 1960. When their success dwindled in 1961, Little Anthony left to attempt a
solo career. Some members left, and the line-up then became Collins, Wright, Sammy Strain, and George Kerr. Kerr
was replaced by Kenny Seymour after a short time. This line-up had little success.
Little Anthony returned in 1963, replacing Seymour.The group's classic
line-up,Anthony,Ernest,Clarence,and Sammy, was now complete. With the help of record producer/songwriter Teddy
Randazzo (a childhood friend of the group), the Imperials found success on the new DCP (Don Costa Productions)
label with the dramatic pop-soul records "I'm On The Outside Looking In" (1964), "Goin' Out Of My Head" (1964),
"Hurt So Bad" (1965), "I Miss You So" (1965), "Take Me Back" (1965),"Hurt" (1966), and "Out of Sight, Out Of Mind"
(1969). The Imperials then joined United Artists Records and were assigned to it's Veep Records subsidiary,and then
to the parent label itself, where they recorded "World Of Darkness","You Better Use Your Head,"Yesterday Has Gone",
and the Thom Bell produced "Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You") arguably their best song from this period.
Albums during this time included "Reflections", "Payin Our Dues",and "Movie Grabbers",which included a dynamic
rendition of "You Only Live Twice",the James Bond motion picture theme ,that many said was actually better than the
one that was used for the movie itself, (by Nancy Sinatra), and could have been, since their label , United
Artists, was the company that actually made the Bond films. . They then went on to Janus Records,where they
recorded the one-off single "Father Father" (which they performed on the Merv Griffin Show), and then on to Avco
Records in the early '70's and recorded their album "On A New Street", and charted with the songs "LA LA LA (At The
End)", and I'm Falling In Love With You" .This album was produced by Bell and Randazzo. All of these recordings did
well on the national R&B charts, although not as successful on the Pop charts as their earlier DCP material.
They also appeared on "Soul Train on May 26th, 1973.By this time, Sammy Strain and Ernest Wright had left the
group, although both would eventually return.
Ernest Wright left in 1971 to join Tony Williams' Platters. He was
replaced by the returning Kenny Seymour, who was again replaced after a short time by Bobby Wade. Strain left in
1972 to join The O'Jays, and was replaced by Harold Jenkins (who had already been functioning as the group's
choreographer). Jenkins and Seymour had previously performed together in The Impacts. Little Anthony left for a
second (more successful) attempt at a solo career. The trio of Collins, Wade, and Jenkins continued as "The
Clarence Collins left in 1988 and was replaced by Sherman James.
They toured as "Bobby Wade's Imperials". James left in 1992, and was replaced by Ron Stevenson. That same year,
Collins, Wright, Strain, and Little Anthony reunited for a concert at Madison Square Garden. When the decision was
made for the foursome to tour together again, Wade relinquished the Imperials name, with his group becoming "Bobby
Wade's Emperors". They became the house band at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.At this point, Sammy Strain left the
O'Jays, and returned to the Imperials.The lineup of Little Anthony,Sammy Strain, Ernest Wright, and Clarence
Collins is considered the "classic" and "definitive" Imperials lineup,as this was the unit that is the best known,
and that had virtually all of the groups' big 60's hits.This is also the lineup that has been seen by millions of
fans on shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Shindig!, Hullabaloo, Perry Como's Kraft Music
Hall, and other national network programs