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Music

'Little Anthony' recalls Motown, Aretha and all those hits

| Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018, 12:03 a.m.
Little Anthony and the Imperials will perform their classic hits at The Palace Theatre.
Little Anthony and the Imperials will perform their classic hits at The Palace Theatre.

Like the songs he made famous in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, Jerome Anthony Gourdine has stood the test of time.

The lead singer for Little Anthony and the Imperials — known for its RB and soul style and songs including “Tears on My Pillow,” “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Hurt So Bad” and “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko-Ko-Bop” — is 77 years young and still singing with his group, which includes one other original member, Ernest Wright, as well as Robert Deblanc and Johnny Britt.

Little Anthony and the Imperials, along with special guests Terry Johnson’s Flamingos, will perform their classic hits at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at The Palace Theatre, Greensburg.

Gourdine took a break from his busy tour schedule a few weeks ago to pay his respects to an old friend, Aretha Franklin, at her funeral celebration in Detroit.

“It was a beautiful ceremony — until the politicians showed up,” he says with a laugh.

MEETING A LEGEND

He reminisced in a phone call from his home in Boca Raton, Fla., about meeting the music legend some 55 years ago in Detroit.

“We were doing a tour date together with Brenda Lee and Aretha invited us to her house for dinner,” he said. “I remember she had this beautiful baby grand piano in her living room.”

They would continue their friendship over the years, including working together on TV shows such as “Shindig” and “Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.” In recent years, he said his band would perform at Aretha’s birthday parties at her home in Detroit — until this year.

“We were scheduled to play at her party in March, and we got the call that it was called off because she was ill,” he said. Franklin passed away on Aug. 16.

MOST CREATIVE TIME OF ALL

Gourdine isn’t surprised that his fans, along with their children and grandchildren, still show up faithfully at his concerts to hear the songs he made famous during the ‘60s, an era he said is unsurpassed for its contribution to the music scene.

“Motown was blowing it up, and you had us, the Drifters, the Beatles, Dionne Warwick, The Fifth Dimension, Three Dog Night — it was just the most creative time of all,” he said.

Next to fishing and watching sports on TV, performing for audiences still gives Gourdine a lot of pleasure.

“I hate getting there,” he said, “but once I’m on stage, in my own world, it’s a place I enjoy being.”

At 77, he said he’s still going strong for his age — except for some nagging back pain he hopes to find time to address in the near future.

“I guess I’m paying the price for all those splits I used to do onstage and the high-energy dancing, moving around and flying through the air,” he said.

His favorite song of all his hits is still “Hurt So Bad,” he said, because “it’s a singer’s song, and it was unique. The great Nancy Wilson said it was so energetically raw that she had to sing it. She recorded it and did a great job.”

Little Anthony and the Imperials were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

Performing as special guests at the Palace Theatre will be Terry Johnson’s Flamingos, a ‘50s doo-wop group best known for their versions of “I’ll Be Home” and “I Only Have Eyes for You.” The Flamingos were a 2001 Rock and Rock Hall of Fame inductee.

Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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