Formed in Brooklyn in 1957, the group’s first hit, the haunting 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 Anthony Gourdine (the “Little” prefix was added at the suggestion of influential disc jockey Alan Freed) was persuaded to embark on an ill-fated solo career.
In 1964, he formed a new Imperials around Ernest Wright, Clarence Collins and Sammy Strain.
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 Top 10).
This lineup 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 1980s Gourdine released Daylight on the religious outlet Songbird.
‘Little’ Anthony Gourdine
Ernest Wright Jnr