Acts and Performers
Little Anthony and The Imperials
Little Anthony and the Imperials is a rhythm and blues/soul/doo-wop vocal group from New York, first active in the 1950s. Lead singer Jerome Anthony “Little Anthony” Gourdine was noted for his high-pitched falsetto voice, influenced by Jimmy Scott. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009, 23 years after the group’s first year of eligibility for induction, waiting longer than any other artist for the honor.
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 from Ross, and the group recorded briefly 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 came up with the name “Little Anthony”.) The B-side, “Two People in the World”, 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 – Gourdine, Ernest Wright, Clarence Collins, and Sammy Strain – 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). In 1965, the Imperials appeared on the CBS-TV special Murray The K – It’s What’s Happening, Baby, where they performed “I’m Alright” before a live audience in New York. At the height of their career, the group made two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, at the time television’s top talent showcase, on March 28th, 1965, and again on January 25th, 1970. They also performed on many other popular television variety shows during the sixties, including Shindig!, Hullabaloo, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall, Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and The Tonight Show.
The Imperials then joined United Artists Records and were assigned to its Veep Records subsidiary, and then to the parent label itself, where they recorded “World Of Darkness”, “Better Use Your Head”, “If I Remember To Forget”, “Yesterday Has Gone”, and the Thom Bell-produced “Help Me Find A Way (To Say I Love You)”.
Albums from this era include: Reflections, Payin’ Our Dues, Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind (named after their hit cover of The Five Keys song), and Movie Grabbers, which included a rendition of “You Only Live Twice”, the James Bond motion picture theme.
They recorded the one-off single “Father Father” for Janus Records, which they later performed on the Merv Griffin Show. Then they went to Avco Records in the early 1970s and recorded “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 both Bell and Randazzo. A second LP for Avco Records entitled Hold On was withdrawn from sale in the USA after the failure of the title track to sell and AVCO’s subsequent financial difficulties. The group appeared on Soul Train on May 26, 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 Imperials”. Clarence Collins left in 1988, and was replaced by Sherman James. They then 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. This reunion proved to be a success. 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 Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. At this point Sammy Strain left the O’Jays, and permanently returned to the Imperials. 1992, the year of the group’s reformation, just happened to also be the 40th anniversary of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, and he invited the Imperials to appear as part of the televised special celebration.
On August 30, 1997, the group was featured on NBC’s Today show as part of that show’s “Summer Concert Series”, and appeared on two popular PBS specials; Rock, Rhythm, and Doo-Wop, and Soul Spectacular: 40 Years Of R&B in 2002 and 2003, respectively. Also, during this period, they recorded two new CDs: Little Anthony & the Imperials – Live: Up Close & Personal (the group’s first ever live album), and Pure Acapella, an all a capella CD showcasing the group’s vocal talents on several classic 50’s doo-wop songs, including their own hit, “Two People In The World”, which was written by Imperials member Ernest Wright. These two recordings marked the first time that the classic line-up had recorded together in over 30 years.
Anthony, Collins, Wright, and Strain continued touring as “Little Anthony and the Imperials”, until Strain retired in 2004, and Harold Jenkins returned to take his place.In 2010, Jenkins also retired,and was replaced by Robert DeBlanc. As of 2011, the Imperials are (along with the Dells), one of few 1950s-era R&B groups still touring with the great majority of their original members (Gourdine, Collins and Wright). They are also one of the very few late 1950s-based groups to successfully re-invent themselves and go on to maintain consistent recording success well into the 1960s/1970s.
Little Anthony and the Imperials released their first new LP in several years in October 2008, entitled “You’ll Never Know”, and they performed on the Late Show With David Letterman on August 26, 2008. On their Discovery album, the electronic music duo Daft Punk sampled Little Anthony and the Imperials’ 1977 recording of “Can You Imagine” for the track “Crescendolls”.
Their Top 20 Pop hit, “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko Bop” was sung by young actors Jared Rushton and David Moscow in a scene in the 1988 Tom Hanks hit movie Big.
As of January 2012, Little Anthony and the Imperials continue to tour and attract large audiences throughout the United States and abroad after 54 years in the music business. January 2013 will mark the 55th year of Little Anthony and the Imperials. The group will embark on their 55th Anniversary and Farewell Tour to show their appreciation to the loyal fans that have enjoyed their music. Although this marks the end of the iconic group’s historic run together; Little Anthony will continue to perform to the delight of his adoring fans for years to come.
Little Anthony and the Imperials received the Rhythm and Blues Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 1993. They were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006. On January 14, 2009, it was announced that Little Anthony and the Imperials had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In addition to Anthony, Wright, Collins, and Strain, Original Imperials member Nathaniel “Nate” Rogers was also present to be honored. The group was inducted by longtime friend, Miracles member Smokey Robinson. In October 2009, the group performed “Two People in the World” at the 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert.
Imperials member Sammy Strain is one of the few artists in popular music history who is a double Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, having been inducted with The O’Jays in 2005 and the Imperials in 2009.
Anthony and the Imperials were inducted into Mohegan Sun’s Wolf Den Hall of Fame on January 8, 2011, Anthony’s 70th birthday.
JAY AND THE AMERICANS
JAY AND THE AMERICANS, started by four teenage boys in Sandy Yaguda’s Brooklyn basement fifty years ago, is one of the lasting success stories in Rock ‘n Roll history. Few bands have ever reached the musical heights of JAY AND THE AMERICANS. From 1962 to 1971, this group charted an amazing twelve Top Ten records. With three original band members, founding member Sandy Yaguda (aka Deanne); original member Howie Kirschenbaum (aka Kane); and original member Marty Kupersmith (aka Sanders), plus the addition of Jay Reincke, the third and likely the best “Jay” yet, they have recreated the authentic sound of their greatest hits.
JAY AND THE AMERICANS’ first recording was Tonight (from the musical West Side Story); but their breakout hit song was She Cried. The group’s next chart hit was Only In America, followed by top-ten hits Come A Little Bit Closer, Cara Mia, and This Magic Moment. These songs and many others are featured in JAY AND THE AMERICANS show, along with stories of the artists and writers who influenced this 1960s super-group.
JAY AND THE AMERICANS’ recording of Some Enchanted Evening holds the record for most copies sold of this legendary musical masterpiece. The group also holds the distinct honor of recording the great Neil Diamond’s first hit song, Sunday and Me. Their recording of Crying pays tribute to the legendary Roy Orbison, with whom they toured, along with many other acts including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
In 2002, JAY AND THE AMERICANS were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, placing them among the greatest vocal groups in Rock ‘n Roll history.
Lou Christie’s chart topping, multi-million selling career as a songwriter, recording artist, and performer started in a two-track studio in Glenwillard Pennsylvania, his rural hometown near Pittsburgh. Lou’s first million selling song, THE GYPSY CRIED, transformed a local choirboy, Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, into LOU CHRISTIE – national teen idol, while still a teenager himself.
Over the decade of the 1960’s Lou followed success with greater success. TWO FACES HAVE I was his next big hit featuring his stratospheric falsetto. LOU forever embedded himself and his uniquely talented voice into America’s consciousness with his number 1 multi-million selling success LIGHTNING STRIKES. LOU’S chart topping success continued with two more million selling hits, RHAPSODY IN THE RAIN and I’M GONNA MAKE YOU MINE. RHAPSODY’S success was fueled by the fact that it was the first song banned on the radio due to its suggestive lyrics.
Lou was more than just your average teen idol. He was one of the decades first singer-songwriters. Together with his eccentric collaborator, Twyla Herbert, LOU co-wrote nearly all of his songs. Twyla, nearly 30 years LOU’S senior, was a classically trained musician. It was the perfect partnership since LOU had no formal musical training.
Highlights from LOU’S performing career include appearances on “Dick Clark’s Caravan Of Stars”, sharing 72 consecutive one-nighters with Diana Ross and the Supremes, and a command performance for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Family. Lou has shared the stage with many of the greats of Rock ‘n’ Roll including The Rolling Stones, The Who, Neil Diamond, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Little Richard.
Elton John, John Lennon, Madonna are among the music legends upon whom Lou has had an effect. Elton John played piano for LOU during LOU’S ‘London Period’ in the early 70’s and recorded LOU’S song, SHE SOLD ME MAGIC. John Lennon repeatedly pointed out in his interviews that “LOU CHRISTIE was one of my influences”. And, Madonna thanked LOU in the liner notes of her ten million selling Immaculate Collection LP.
Over the past decade, Lou has led the resurgence of Rock ‘n’ Roll heroes performing through-out the world. LOU’S fans recognize his distinctive vocal and writing performances in major motion pictures. Many distinguished directors are also fans. Films that feature Lou’s songs include Barry Levinson’s -RAINMAN, Whit Stillman’s – BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, Tony Bill’s – A HOME OF OUR OWN, Richard Linklatter’s – BEFORE SUNRISE, John Hughes – DUTCH, Michael de Avila’s – BURNZY’S LAST CALL, and Oliver Stone’s TV mini-series WILD PALMS.