The Drifters

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Clyde McPhatter was singing lead tenor for Billy Ward and His Dominoes starting in 1950. The group probably owed a good part of their success to Clyde’s sweet high-pitched tenor voice. McPhatter left the Dominoes in 1953, and soon reached an agreement with Ahmet Ertegun, to form a group of his own choosing. He called them The Drifters.

Clyde wanted a mixture of different sounds, and brought together four members from his old church group. This first combination didn’t mesh very well, so he gathered a new group of vocalists consisting of himself (lead tenor), first tenor Bill Pinkney, second tenor Andrew Thrasher, baritone Gerhart Thrasher, Willie Ferbee on bass and Walter Adams on guitar. This assemblage worked!

The Drifters had their first major hit with “Money Honey”. It was released in September of 1953 displaying the name: Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters. This launched The Drifters into the limelight.

There were some early tragedies. One member was in a serious accident and had to leave the group, and death took another. Jimmy Oliver was the only replacement for the two departures. This new quartet released quite a few hits, including “Such A Night” in November of 1953, “Honey Love” in June of 1954, “Bip Bam” in October of 1954, “White Christmas” in November of 1954 and “What’cha Gonna Do” in February of 1955.

Clyde McPhatter received his draft notice in March of 1954 and eventually left the group. After completing his military obligations, Clyde continued with a solo musical career. His first replacement was David Baughan, whose voice was similar. Baughan soon left over creative differences. The very-talented Johnny Moore came in September of 1955. This new alignment produced a double-sided “Rhythm & Blues Hit” with the A side’s “Adorable”, hitting number one and the flipside “Steamboat”, reaching number five. February of 1956 saw two more releases, “Ruby Baby” and “I Got To Get Myself A Woman”.

There were other changes in the quartet with limited success. “Fools Fall In Love” in 1957, which reached #10 on the Rhythm & Blues chart & #69 on the Pop chart. A second release in April of 1958 was “Drip Drop” (Pop chart #58).

George Treadwell owned the rights to the name Drifters, and since there were multiple personnel problems , Treadwell fired the bunch. He approached the manager of another group featuring lead singer Benjamin Earl Nelson (Ben E. King). The newest lead singer of The Drifters became Ben E. King, with Charlie Thomas (tenor), Dock Green (baritone) and Elsbeary Hobbs (bass).

This newest formation of The Drifters released a few singles that hit the charts.”There Goes My Baby” was the first commercial Rock ‘N’ Roll recording to include a string orchestra. It was a Top 10 and number 193 onRolling Stones 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. “Dance With Me” followed by “This Magic Moment” (Number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960). “Save The Last Dance For Me” made it Number 1 on the U.S. Pop chart, proceeded by “I Count The Tears”.

With these successes, King asked for a raise, the request was not honored, so he left and started a successful solo career.

Rudy Lewis was brought in as the new lead singer, and The Drifters, again had some major hits with “Some Kind Of Wonderful”, “Up On The Roof”, “Please Stay” and “On Broadway”. More changes followed, but still there was one big hit that came from these changes. Originally Rudy Lewis was scheduled to record “Under The Boardwalk”, but he passed away the night before the recording session, so Johnny Moore took over that position.

The personnel changes have continued into the new millennium including a move to England. According to Rolling Stone Magazine there have been 60 vocalists in the history of the Treadwell Drifters, including various splinter groups using The Drifters name.

Source: Wikipedia

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