Formed in Brooklyn, New York, USA, in 1957, and originally called the Chesters, the group comprised ‘Little’ Anthony Gourdine (b. 8 January 1940, Brooklyn, New York, USA), Ernest Wright Jnr. (b. 24 August 1941, Brooklyn, New York, USA), Clarence Collins (b. 17 March 1941, Brooklyn, New York, USA), Tracy Lord and Glouster Rogers (b. 1940). A vital link between doo-wop and sweet soul, the Imperials were the prototype for the Delfonics and Stylistics. Gourdine first recorded in 1956 as a member of the Duponts. From there he helped form the Chesters, who became the Imperials on signing to the End label. The ‘Little Anthony’ prefix was subsequently added at the suggestion of the influential disc jockey Alan Freed. The group’s first hit, the haunting Al Lewis-penned ‘Tears On My Pillow’ (1958), encapsulated the essence of street-corner harmony. Further success came with ‘So Much’ (1959) and ‘Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop’ (1960), before Gourdine was persuaded to embark on an ill-fated solo career. In 1964, he formed a ‘new’ Imperials around Wright, Collins and Sammy Strain (b. 9 December 1940). Their first hit, ‘I’m On The Outside (Looking In)’, showcased Gourdine’s dazzling falsetto, a style continued on ‘Goin’ Out Of My Head’ and ‘Hurt So Bad’ (both of which reached the US pop Top 10). Complementing these graceful releases were such up-tempo offerings as ‘Better Use Your Head’ and ‘Gonna Fix You Good’ (both 1966). The line-up later drifted apart and in 1974 Sammy Strain replaced William Powell in the O’Jays. Three years later, Collins formed his own ‘Imperials’, touring Britain on the strength of two hit singles, a reissued ‘Better Use Your Head’, and a new recording, ‘Who’s Gonna Love Me’. In the 80s Gourdine released Daylight on the religious outlet Songbird.
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