"You don't remember me, but I remember you. 'T was not so long ago, you broke my heart in two. Tears on my pillow, pain in my heart, caused by you" A sweet opening lyric, introducing one of Doo-Wop's all time classic ballads, "Tears On MY Pillow", by Little Anthony and the Imperials. To quote WINS radio, 1950's DJ, Alan Freed, "Where ever a juke box was played, this song was sung and hummed by millions".
In early 1958, a vocal group named The Chesters, were renamed The Imperials / signed with End records / recorded "Tears On My Pillow" (side A) with flip side "Two People In The World" (side B), one of the most popular double sided records in vocal group history. Once again, DJ Alan Freed enters the scene, announcing"...and here's a new record that is making a lot of noise, LITTLE ANTHONY and The Imperials ...singing Tears On My Pillow...". The added LITTLE ANTHONY was carved forever in Doo-Wop stone. One more added tid-bit about my man, Alan Freed...Their late '59 hit " Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop" was the last record Freed played when he resigned from WINS radio in 1960.
The group disbanded twice over the years, but reunited in 1992. With seventeen Pop and twelve R&B chart hits to their credit, the two nights at Treasure Island Casino look to be a real happening for anyone who remembers the innocence and sense of wonder attached with this new R&B sound and growing up in the late '50s and early '60s....all this for ten bucks ...COOL ...on with the show !!!
The recipients of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation's fourth annual Pioneer award, Little Anthony and the Imperials are: Anthony Gourdine, Sammy Strain, Ernest Wright and Clarence Collins. They gave two performances, Fri. the 29th and Sat the 30th, at the Indigo Bay room, Treasure Island casino. On Fri. night, I didn't know what I was in for, but this show and the Imperials were way more than I expected! I weaseled my way back stage before the show and meet three of the four Imperials. Really nice guys... excited about the show...talking about how they are the original group members (Sammy Strain came on board in '63)...telling me about their new web site. Cool! - I grew up listening to these guys and I felt in awe.
The show opened about 8:10, to a two thirds full capacity crowd. With nine pick - up musicians, a permanent drummer and the permanent keyboard artist and leader, Mary, the band cut loose with a five min. instrumental melody of the Imperials hits. Next... enter Little Anthony. He started out solo singing "All By MY Self" joined later by the other three Imperials. This ended to a rousing applause. The rousing applause was standard operating procedure for the rest of the evening. The Imperials kicked it up a notch on song number two, "A New Attitude" and the house was theirs! The shining moment of the evening was number three song, "Tears On My Pillow" (I am in Doo-Wop heaven - right?). They sung them all..."Shimmy, Shimmy Ko- Ko-Bop" (Anthony's least favorite), "I'm On The Outside Looking In," "Going Out Of My Head," "Hurt So Bad" (Anthony's favorite). Along with all these hits of their own, they mixed in some great covers. An awesome gospel flavored tune had the joint hand clapping and sit down dancing. They did a version of "I Want To Know What Love Is", joined by Mary on vocals, that would give Foreigner a run for their money. A cover of Stevie Winwood's "Higher Love" hit the mark . Doo-Wop fans got what they came for as the Imperials cut loose on an a cappella, pure (and I say again - pure), street corner rendition of "Two people in the world." Doo-Wop people - it don't get any cleaner than this! The show ran about an hour and a half with no encore.
This is a class act, with great dance moves, great stage presence, great matching tangerine outfits and great vocals that brought out a crowd response (45 yrs+ in age) that is really cool to witness. It's heart warming to watch what the old music does to the people. Lots of memories tied into this kind music that stands up to the test of time. Everyone was clapping and weaving to the sound that gave the whole ballroom a kind of motion.
I've taken in a lot of music venues and I'll bite the bullet and say that on Fri. night, DEC 29, year 2000, I enjoyed one of the coolest vocal performances in my music watching! "Love is not a gadget, love is not a toy. When you find the one you love, he'll fill your heart with joy"...Sweet! Check these guys out next time, trust me.
This review is copyright © 2001 by Al Rohweder, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.