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The Voice of an Era

Little Anthony & The Imperials perform at Town Hall

by Rebecca M. Alvin    

If there’s one thing that gets Little Anthony upset, it’s the constant reference to his 60+ year body of work with Little Anthony & The Imperials as “doo wop.” The term actually originated in 1961 and was used to describe street corner singers of the 1940s and 1950s who sang in a style that emphasized group harmonies and swing rhythms. While Little Anthony (a.k.a Jerome Anthony Gourdine) acknowledges that his musical career did begin on the street corners of Brooklyn, NY, he has never taken to the “doo wop” term because it was applied after the fact. For Gourdine, his music is and always will be R&B.

“You know how I can tell you it wasn’t ‘doo-wop’?” Little Anthony asks. “Because I was there,” he answers emphatically.

Sometimes time and the intricacies of human memory conspire to confuse the general public, and our collective understanding is tainted by lazy attempts to classify things under arbitrary labels. And so, even on the group’s own website biography, the term “doo wop” has to be referenced. Regardless, for Outer Cape fans it will be an absolute delight to welcome Little Anthony & The Imperials to Provincetown Town Hall on April 16th for a concert produced by Payomet Performing Arts Center.

The group is one of the few 1950s era pop R&B groups to continue touring, albeit with some replacements in their lineup. For Gourdine, music is all he ever did, having been discovered in 1957 at the age of 17. The following year, the group released its first single “Tears on My Pillow” (written by Sylvester Bradford and Al Lewis), and the hits continued into the 1960s, including “I’m on the Outside,” “Goin’ Out of My Head,” and  “Hurt So Bad.”

Gourdine recalls his state of mind at the time: “No kid at 17 starting out with a singing group would ever think anything other than what you immediately experience and feel that a hit record can do. Number one, you knew that you would get closer to girls.”

In 2009, Little Anthony & The Imperials were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. More recently, the 75-year-old has continued recording, including a few duets he’s done, such as the song “Electric Together” he collaborated on with George Benson and a new duet that will be released this June with actress and singer Rebecca Holden.

“Rebecca Holden was really fun because I’ve done a lot of things, but she was the first stage singer – what we call Broadway type singer…She has this very high, very trained voice, classical, and here I am a saloon singer, and I had to match up with her,” Gourdine explains with a laugh.

In 2014, his biography Little Anthony: My Journey, My Destiny, written by Arlene Krieger, was released. For Gourdine, the process of preparing his memoirs for the book was filled with the good and bad we all experience when we reflect on our lives. Mostly, Gourdine says he wanted the book to be about all of the amazing people that came in and out of his life and not just about his own adventures in the music business.

Would Little Anthony do anything differently if he had it to do again?

“Probably,” he laughs. “I mean, if I knew what I know now, oh my goodness, I’d be a billionaire!… The thing that I would change is I learned that it’s a business, that’s why they call it show-business.”

That’s something many of us in the arts can identify with. While he may not have focused his energies on the business end of things, he certainly has survived the many changes in the industry and stands tall with a voice that is still a remarkable gift.

Little Anthony & The Imperials will perform on Saturday, April 16, 7:30 p.m. at Provincetown Town Hall, 260 Commercial St. The opening act is former American Idol contestant and local musician Siobhan Magnus. For tickets ($42–$85/$125 for meet and greet) and information call 508.487.5400 or visit 

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Ginger Mountain

Ginger Mountain (MS Communications Media, BA Fine Arts/Teaching Certification K-12) has been part of the graphic design team at Provincetown Magazine since 2008. Ginger has worked as a creative director, individual contractor, and freelance designer with clients representing many areas —business software, consumer products, professional services, entertainment, and network hardware to name just a few — providing creative layout and development of a wide range of print media content. Her clients ranged from small local businesses to large corporations and Fortune 500 companies, from New Hampshire to Georgia

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