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Five Emprees

Benton Harbor

They played in Bridgeman, Shadow Land, Blossom Lanes, and the one down town.

The Princetons (aka The Princeton Five) were a rival band and also friends.

Artist Biography by Richie Unterberger

From Benton Harbor, MI (about 60 miles from Chicago), the Five Emprees had a big hit in Chicago in 1965 with “Little Miss Sad,” a cover of a song originally released (and written) by the Addrisi Brothers. Driven by an infectious ascending riff, close British Invasion-influenced harmonies, and the kind of Trini Lopez-influenced rhythm that Neil Diamond would popularize on songs like “Cherry, Cherry,” “Little Miss Sad” also had some success in a few other regions, and made number 74 on the national Billboard charts. Most of the Five Emprees‘ scant recorded repertoire leaned heavily on cover versions, however, and they never repeated the success of “Little Miss Sad,” despite recording an album and several follow-up singles through 1968.

 

Little Miss Sad

the Five Emprees originally formed in high school as “Cook and the Chefs” (named after singer Don Cook), changing their name to the Impressions and then the Five Empressions before getting a contract with the small Chicago indie label Freeport Records. Although “Little Miss Sad” was originally released under the name the Five Empressions, it was quickly changed after the famous soul group the Impressions got an injunction against them. Though originally issued as the B-side of the Debbie Dovale cover “Hey Lover” (co-written by Don Covay), it was “Little Miss Sad” that saw chart action, motivating an album (also called Little Miss Sad) in late 1965 that was filled out by hastily recorded and rather poorly produced cover versions, many of the songs dating from the pre-Beatles era. The group did release a few more singles in 1966-68 on various labels, most of which were covers of obscure pop/rock and soul songs done in a passable but callow British Invasion harmony-influenced manner betraying their young age (all but one were still teenagers when they began recording). For their final releases, they moved toward a soul-rock sound with horns, and although they hung around until the early 1970s, they didn’t release anything after 1968. Their Little Miss Sad album was reissued by Arf! Arf! on CD in 2004, with the addition of numerous bonus tracks from non-LP singles and unreleased outtakes.

Review by Richie Unterberger

The Five Emprees‘ sole album was a typically thrown-together effort for a mid-’60s band that had some local success, surrounding the regional hit debut single title track with its B-side; both sides of their second 45; and a bunch of cover versions. Actually every song on the LP was a cover version, save for the B-side of that second single, “Why.” “Little Miss Sad” itself, a cover of an obscure Addrisi Brothers single, is pretty good pop-oriented garage rock with a foot in early-’60s pre-Beatles sounds. Unfortunately, The Five Emprees never did match it, and most of the rest of the album was filled with too-hastily recorded, thinly produced unimaginative covers of familiar songs by the likes of Chuck Berry, Roy Orbison, and the Zombies. The greater effort they were able to invest in the production and performance of their singles is evident on not only “Little Miss Sad,” but also the three other tracks from their initial pair of 45s, “Hey Lover,” “Hey Baby,” and “Why.” There’s a glimmer of promise in those sides, which are likable if modest poppy garage, but it’s not enough to make the album too interesting overall.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:17
2
2:48
3
2:04
4
2:16
5
2:24
6
2:40
7
2:21
8
2:39
9
2:41
10
2:19
11 2:36
12
2:08
13
2:05
14
2:48
15
2:19
16
2:09
17
2:18
18
2:03
19
2:27
20
2:18
21
2:57
22
2:14
23
2:23
24
2:19
25
2:01

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