Little Anthony and the Imperials were named for lead singer Jerome Anthony "Little Anthony" Gourdine, who was noted for his high-pitched voice. The group signed with End Records in 1958 and their first single, "Tears on My Pillow", was an instant hit. The group followed up with "Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop" in 1960. One of the highlights of my brief Portland Bandstand TV hosting appearances in 1960 was offering dance sheets to KGW-TV viewers so they could learn the new dance craze based on the song.
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), and "Hurt" (1966). They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009 by longtime friend Smokey Robinson.
In this interview, recorded at the Legends Of Rock'n'Roll show at EXPO 86 in Vancouver, Anthony tells me how pioneering DJ Alan Freed came up with the "Little" part of his name; how Freed helped popularize black music; how rockabilly and R&B combined to form rock'n'roll; Don Costa's influence on his music; and why he loves entertaining.
Anthony just turned 80 and he lives in Florida with his wife, Linda. Visit him at littleanthonyandtheimperials.org.