In 1957, a doo-wop group known as the Chesters existed with members Clarence Collins, Tracy Lord, Nathaniel Rodgers, and Ronald Ross. Anthony Gourdine, a former member of the Duponts, joined as lead vocalist. Ernest Wright took over from Ross, and the group recorded briefly for Apollo Records.
Changing their name to the Imperials, they signed with End Records in 1958. Their first single was “Tears on My Pillow”, which was an instant hit. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA. (While playing this song, D.J. Alan Freed came up with the name “Little Anthony”.) The B-side, “Two People in the World”, was also a hit. The group followed up with “Shimmy, Shimmy, Ko Ko Bop” in 1960. When their success dwindled in 1961, Gourdine left to attempt a solo career. Original Imperials member Nate Rogers was drafted into the service and Tracey Lord, another original member, left to get married. and the line-up then became Collins, Wright, Sammy Strain, (a childhood friend who had grown up together with the Imperials in Brooklyn), and George Kerr. Kerr was replaced by Kenny Seymour after a short time. This line-up had little success.