Staying on the subject of tears and venturing into scary ground for anyone that might be investigating this site thinking it might be concerned only with guitar bands – the concept behind the archive is to collect and cover all types of music from different generations and genres – there’s nothing worse than a terrible record in a genre you like exposed by a brilliant record in a genre you don’t. Lou Reed’s favourite artist was Dion. Frank Zappa was obsessed with Doo Wop – Cruising with Ruben And The Jets (1968).
Little Anthony Gourdine And The Imperials were one of the enduring Doo Wop groups. So named with help from DJ Alan Freed, their first hit was their first single on End Records, Tears On My Pillow hitting No.4 on the US chart in the year of my birth, 1958 and selling a million copies. Perhaps what kept Little Anthony And The Imperials in the spotlight was that they were also a Soul group, an R&B group and had a lead singer with an unusual and distintive voice. That and the classic line “Love is not a gadget” in Tears On My Pillow might have given an old fashioned romantic sound a modern lyrical take.
One unconfirmed piece of information suggests that The Penguins’ song Earth Angel (Will You Be Mine) a No.8 hit in 1954 used the same backing track due to the record company having so little money. Although such an idea sounds absurd perhaps if you took any genre, removed the lead singer changed the guitar riff and sang a different melody and words you might find that there’s more than one song in a single backing track. After all, how many songs have the same chords and a similar tempo. By the way, Earth Angel was the first indie single to appear on the Billboard charts and sold ten million copies – or more.
The Penguins only had one Top 40 hit, but it was a different story for Little Anthony And The Imperials. After Gourdine left in 1961 for a solo career, he returned in 1963 and the band found themselves consistently in the US charts throughout the sixties. It’s difficult to tell the whole story here, a book on each band probably wouldn’t do justice to a fascinating history on the interconnecting styles of the day, the rise of American Soul, different band members leaving and returning, the competition, producers, record labels and the changing scene.
Songs like these seem simple, their importance lost in the mists of time but talented producer/engineers with rudimentary equipment recorded incredible vocal harmonies and reverb soaked lead singers with unsung drummers and talented musicians that would often not recive any credit at all despite their contributions. Musicians think they have it hard now, in this period, a black singer in the fifties, singing/writing a huge hit would have struggled to receive royalties – nothing changes. Cover versions and sales of these songs have continued into the 21st century with versions by Elvis Presley, Kylie Minogue, Joan Baez, Reba McEntire, Neil Sedaka and many more. So just close your eyes and listen closely to these incredible singers and musicians either recording in a garage in L.A. or having a 3 hour session in a small studio at a forgotten location and imagine what it was like suddenly finding themselves in the US Top Ten being heard on everyone’s radio whilst struggling to survive.
This first clip is Little Anthony And The Imperials performing Tears On My Pillow on Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show on January 2nd 1960.