Little Anthony and the Imperials may have hailed from Brooklyn, but the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame vocal group had a strong affinity for and a close connection with Motown.
“We spent most of our time with the Motown artists,” recalls the group’s Ernest Wright, who co-founded the group during the late ’50s in Brooklyn. “We got to know everybody we were in the trenches together with, and everybody on Motown became like family, from the (Four) Tops to Martha & The Vandellas, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles, Stevie (Wonder) everybody, the whole entire company.
“We sort of did the same circuit, and anywhere we played some of those Motown acts would be with us. We got to spend a lot of time and ... we became brother groups.”
They also shared the charts, with the Imperials notching seven Top 40 entries — including “Tears on My Pillow,” “Goin’ Out of My Mind” and “Hurt So Bad” — between 1958-65. And “Little” Anthony Gourdine says there was even a time when Berry Gordy Jr. wanted to bring the group into the Motown family.
“I think he wanted to sign us just to keep us away from all those girls at Motown, so they could control us,” Gourdine says with a laugh. “We almost came close ... in 1968, but we never did sign. We were sort of rebels. We felt like we wanted to do what we wanted to do and sing what we wanted to sing and didn’t want anybody to tell us what to sing. We really just wanted to be ourselves, so that’s probably one of the reasons we didn’t do it.
“Don’t get me wrong — it probably would’ve been a good move. But we made that decision, and we’ll stand by it.”
Little Anthony and the Imperials perform at 8 p.m. Friday, March 25, at Sound Board in the MotorCity Casino-Hotel, 2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit. Tickets are $35 and $32. Call 313-237-7711 or visit www.motorcitycasino.com.
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