Soul Serenade: Little Anthony and the Imperials, “Hurt So Bad”

Written by Ken Shane's Soul Serenade, Music

In 1965 Little Anthony and the Imperials released the third in a string of dramatic pop soul smashes and cemented their place in rock and roll history.

Smokey Robinson inducted Little Anthony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. It had been 23 years since they were eligible for induction, making them the artists who waited the longest time to be inducted. Just another hideous oversight for an institution that has quite a history of them. Please keep the Kiss comments to an absolute minimum.

Maybe you wonder why Little Anthony and the Imperials should be in the Hall of Fame at all. Well, how about their long string of hit singles that been with “Tears on My Pillow” in 1958, continued for 20 years, and included smash hits like “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Shimmy Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop,” and this week’s featured song “Hurt So Bad”? Then there is their Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation (1993), and their inclusion in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999). At least the rock hall finally woke up.

It began for the Imperials when Jerome Anthony Gourdine joined a doo-wop group called the Chesters in 1957. They changed their name to the Imperials the following year, and hit it big with their first single, “Tears On My Pillow,” for End Records.

The hits continued into the early ’60s, and then the group took the took it to the next level when they signed with the Don Costa Productions (DCP) label in 1964. They scaled the heights with a trio of dramatic pop soul hits that started with “I’m On the Outside Looking In,” and continued with “Goin’ Out of My Head,” and “Hurt So Bad.” The main feature of all three records was the brilliant, soaring lead voice of Gourdine, who had been designated “Little Anthony” by Alan Freed a few years earlier.

“Hurt So Bad” was released in 1965 as a follow-up to “Goin’ Out of My Head.” It was another big score for the group, reaching #10 on the Billboard pop chart, and #5 on the R&B chart. The song was written by the group’s longtime friend and advisor Teddy Randazzo especially for them, and produced by Don Costa for DCP. The record engendered numerous covers including releases by Linda Ronstadt, Alicia Keys, the Delfonics, and Ramsey Lewis.

The group soldiered on through the inevitable lineup changes, and the hits continued well into the ’70s. Various members left the group only to return later. Little Anthony of the Imperials are still around to this day. You can catch them on those PBS specials from time to time, and their most recent album, You’ll Never Know, was released in 2008.

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