Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The History Of The Platters

The Platters

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The Platters
The Platters First Promo Photo.jpg
Background information
OriginLos AngelesCaliforniaU.S.
GenresRhythm and bluessoulrock and rolldoo-wop
Years active1954 to 1970 (original band)
1970 to present
LabelsFederal RecordsMercuryMusicor Records, Antler Records
MembersSee: Current lineups
Past membersSee: Former members
The Platters were one of the most successful vocal groups of the early rock and roll era. Their distinctive sound was a bridge between the pre-rock Tin Pan Alley tradition and the burgeoning new genre. The act went through several personnel changes, with the most successful incarnation comprising lead tenor Tony Williams, David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and Zola Taylor. The group had 40 charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 1955 and 1967, including four no. 1 hits.



Band formation and early years[edit]

The Platters formed in Los Angeles in 1952[1] and were initially managed by Ralph Bass. The original group included (Alex Hodge,Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge and Herb Reed).[2] Reed is credited with creating the group's name.[3] In June 1953, Gunter was replaced by lead vocalist Tony Williams. The band then released two singles with Federal Records, under the management of Bass, but found little success. The band then met music entrepreneur and songwriter Buck Ram. Ram made some changes to the lineup, most notably the addition of female vocalist Zola Taylor; later, Hodge was replaced by Paul Robi. Under Ram's guidance, the Platters recorded eight songs for Federal in the R&B/gospel style, scoring a few minor regional hits on the West Coast, and backed Williams' sister, Linda Hayes. One song recorded during their Federal tenure, "Only You (And You Alone)," originally written by Ram[4] for the Ink Spots, was deemed unreleasable by the label,[5] though copies of this early version do exist.
The Platters performing in their early years.
Despite their lack of chart success, the Platters were a profitable touring group, successful enough that The Penguins, coming off their #8 single "Earth Angel," asked Ram to manage them as well. With the Penguins in hand, Ram was able to parlay Mercury Records' interest into a 2-for-1 deal. To sign the Penguins, Ram insisted, Mercury also had to take the Platters.[4] The Penguins would never have a hit for the label.[6]

Charting hits[edit]

Convinced by Jean Bennett and Tony Williams that "Only You" had potential, Ram had the Platters re-record the song during their first session for Mercury. Released in the summer of 1955, it became the group's first Top Ten hit on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts for seven weeks. The follow-up, "The Great Pretender," with lyrics written in the washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas by Buck Ram,[4]exceeded the success of their debut and became the Platters' first national #1 hit. "The Great Pretender" was also the act's biggest R&B hit, with an 11-week run atop that chart. In 1956, The Platters appeared in the first major motion picture based around rock and roll, Rock Around the Clock, and performed both "Only You" and "The Great Pretender."[7]
The Platters' unique vocal style had touched a nerve in the music-buying public, and a string of hit singles followed, including three more national #1 hits and more modest chart successes such as "I'm Sorry" (#11) and "He's Mine" (#23) in 1957, "Enchanted" (#12) in 1959, and "The Magic Touch"[4] (#4) in 1956. The Platters soon hit upon the successful formula of updating older standards, such as "My Prayer,"[4] "Twilight Time," "Harbor Lights," "To Each His Own," "If I Didn't Care," and Jerome Kern's "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."[8] This latter release caused a small controversy after Kern's widow expressed concern that her late husband's composition would be turned into a "rock and roll" record. It topped both the American and British charts in a Platters-style arrangement.
The Platters also differed from most other groups of the era because Ram had the group incorporated in 1956. Each member of the group received a 20% share in the stock, full royalties, and their Social Security was paid. As group members left one by one, Ram and his business partner, Jean Bennett, bought their stock which they claimed gave them ownership of the "Platters" name. A court later ruled, however, that “FPI was a sham used by Mr. Ram to obtain ownership in the name ‘Platters,’ and FPI’s issuance of stock to the group members was ‘illegal and void’ because it violated California corporate securities law.” [9]
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1998. The Platters were the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America. They were also the only act to have three songs included on the American Graffiti soundtrack that fueled an oldies revival already underway in the early to mid-1970s: "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," "The Great Pretender," and "Only You (and You Alone)."

Changing lineup[edit]

The group's original lineup has changed many times. The lineup in 1953 included lead vocalist Cornell GunterHerb Reed, Alex Hodge, Joe Jefferson, and David Lynch. This lineup changed when the group signed with Ram, who built the group around tenor Tony Williams' distinctive and versatile voice and his ability to bring life to Ram's songs.[8]Within a year, Hodge, Jefferson and Gunter were out and Paul Robi, new lead Williams, and a female, Zola Taylor, were in. The details of baritone Hodge's departure are muddy; author Peter A. Grendysa says Hodge was fired by Ram in October 1954 after having been accused of possession of marijuana,[10] Bookers and the record company were told that Hodge was let go for bouncing a fifteen-dollar check.[11] The resulting lineup—the one remembered for the group's biggest and most lasting hits—lasted until 1960.
As a group, the Platters began to have difficulties with the public after 1959, when the four male members were arrested in Cincinnati on drug and prostitution charges. Reed said he lost contact with Taylor shortly after this time.[12] Although none was convicted, their professional reputation was seriously damaged and US radio stations started removing their records from playlists,[13] forcing the group to rely more heavily on European bookings.
In 1960, lead vocalist Williams left for a solo career, and was replaced by tenor Sonny Turner. Mercury refused to issue further Platters releases without Williams on lead vocals, provoking a lawsuit between the label and manager Ram. The label spent two years releasing old Williams-era material until the group's contract lapsed. Singer Jack Hammer, who co-wrote several songs including "Great Balls of Fire," also performed with the group.
As the group's lineup splintered further, endless wrangling over the lucrative "Platters" name began, with injunctions, non-compete clauses and multiple versions of the act touring at the same time. Williams would lead his own Platters group, as would Taylor (who left in 1964[14] to be replaced by Beverly Hansen Harris[15] and later by Barbara Randolph), and Paul Robi (who departed in 1965). The Buck Ram Platters had the strongest legal claim to the name. Since Ram had built the group to showcase his songs, he added his name to that of The Platters to distinguish his group from that of the off-shoots started by the original members. For a short while, original members Lynch, Taylor, and Robi billed themselves as "The Original Platters" with Williams-clone Johnny Barnes as their lead singer. Despite the confusion, Ram's Platters lineup, with lead vocalist Sonny Turner, Herb Reed, David Lynch, Nate Nelson (former lead voice of The Flamingos and replacement for Robi), and Sandra Dawn (who replaced Barbara Randolph in 1965),[16] signed toMusicor Records and enjoyed a short chart renaissance in 1966–67, with the comeback singles "I Love You 1000 Times," "With This Ring," and the Motown-influenced "Washed Ashore." Sonny Turner sang the lead on these three records.
Reed, the final member of the original Platters, resigned in 1969. He would eventually lead an "official" Platters group under license from The Five Platters, Inc. Nelson had left in 1967, and later worked with Reed's group until suffering a fatal heart attack in 1984. Dawn left in 1969 and was replaced by Regina Koco, who stayed with the group until 1983.[17]
After Reed left The Platters, Ram continued to promote his own "Platters" group.[18] Turner left in 1970 and was replaced by Monroe Powell. Turner led his own Platters group starting in 1970. Powell remained a constant member from 1970 to 1995, amid many other lineup changes. In 1995 a dispute between Powell and owner/manager Jean Bennett (who had purchased Personality Productions, the booking/management arm of The Platters business, from Ram in 1966) led to the two parting ways. At the time, the group's lineup was in limbo, leaving one person, Kenn Johnson, as the only other group member. Powell and Johnson continue touring as "The Platters," with Bennett hiring five new singers to be the "Buck Ram Platters," with lead Myles Savage.[19]
Despite Ram and Bennett's assertions, it was later determined that Five Platters Inc., and Jean Bennett never had legitimate rights to "The Platters" name.[20][21]

Legal battles[edit]

A profusion of legal challenges ensued among the many groups of Platters. Those looking to hear the classic lineup of songs had their pick of approved, disputed, and ersatz Platters, including Sonny Turner's, Zola Taylor's, Ritchie Jones' (member 1984-85), Milton Bullock's (member 1967–70), Paul Robi's (managed by his widow), Jean Bennett's "Buck Ram Platters," Monroe Powell's, Herb Reed's, and several other groups with no current ties to the original group. Many had once contained former members who were now retired or deceased.
Powell, who had been touring under the Platters name, was sued by Bennett for breach of contract. Bennett and Powell later reached an agreement that Powell would be able to tour, but only as "The Platters featuring Monroe Powell".[22] In 1994, Jean Bennett licensed the name to a tribute group for a show at the Sahara Casino in Las Vegas; that show ran for 15 years.
Shortly before Robi succumbed to pancreatic cancer on February 1, 1989, he won a long court battle against Ram's estate and was awarded compensation and the right to use The Platters' name. Those rights were stripped from Robi's widow in 1997, and the exclusive right to tour as "The Platters" was awarded to Reed. A series of rulings in 1999, 2002, and 2004 gave Bennett the common law right to the name. The 2002 case legally rescinded Reed's exclusive trademark rights, and the trademark was returned to The Five Platters, Inc. and Bennett.
In January 2006, Bennett sold her corporate Platters-related assets and intellectual property rights to the Las Vegas-based company G.E.M. Group, Inc. But there was an immediate disagreement between Bennett and G.E.M., which filed a lawsuit to attain certain corporate assets, Bennett's personal property and the assets of the 1950s Platters. In June 2006, G.E.M. entered into an agreement with Sonny Turner, who'd been the lead singer of The Platters from 1960 to 1970. Turner had not been able to bill himself as "The Platters" since 1972 due to a legal injunction. However, Turner later sued G.E.M.
In 2007, Reed discussed the abundance of touring Platters groups: "I have to laugh because when you ask me how I feel about it, I'm irate, I'm infuriated. ... I've lost 25 weeks of work a year."
None of the original Platters are still alive. Last founding member Reed died in June 2012 at 83.[19] Reed was the only group member to appear on every original Platters recording. Sonny Turner, who replaced Tony Williams in late 1959, is still alive and performing. Sonny brought The Platters back to the charts in 1966 with the hits, "I Love You 1000 Times", "With This Ring", and "Washed Ashore".[23]
In 2011, Herb Reed and his companies obtained judgments declaring that his rights to the name were superior to others, including Five Platters Inc. and Jean Bennett.[24] In March 2014, Herb Reed’s companies were granted a judgment finidng they had superior rights to the name "The Platters" over Larry Marshak and his companies, who claimed to have received rights through FPI and/or Tony Williams [25] In April 2014, Reed's company obtained a judgment againt The World Famous Platters requiring them to identify themselves as a "Tribute to The Platters" or a "Salute To The Platters."[26]
In June 2014, Herb Reed's companies obtained a judgment against former singer Monroe Powell for trademark infringement. The Nevada district court granted Mr. Reed summary judgment, awarding him over $59,000 in damages (from US and international tour performances) and permanent injunctive relief, preventing Mr. Powell from using "The Platters" name without using the words "tribute" or "salute." [27][28]


Official Platters group as of 2014[edit]

  • Wayne Miller
  • Valerie Victoria
  • Frank Pizarro
  • Cheo Bourne

Former line-ups[edit]

Various line-ups using The Platters' name toured concurrently since the 1970s. The following are some of the groups that at one time or another called themselves The Platters.

Former members[edit]

  • Kathleen Lewis
  • Kristy Love Brooks
  • Willie Nash McCall
  • Herb McQuay
  • Paris Red
A detailed chronology of lineups can be seen here.[29]

Singles discography[edit]

Release dateTitlesChart positionsAlbum
US chartsUS R&B chartUK chartsAustralia
November 1954"Voo-Vee-Ah-Bee"
b/w "Shake It Up Mambo"
The Platters (Federal LP)
January 1955"Maggie Doesn't Work Here Anymore
"b/w "Take Me Back, Take Me Back"
July 1955"Only You (And You Alone)"
b/w "Bark, Battle and Ball" (Non-LP track)
51519Encore of Golden Hits
November 1955"The Great Pretender"
b/w "I'm Just A Dancing Partner" (Non-LP track)
December 1955"I Need You All The Time
"b/w "Tell The World"
The Platters (Federal LP)
February 1956"(You've Got) The Magic Touch"
b/w "Winner Take All" (Non-LP track)
4419Encore of Golden Hits
June 1956"My Prayer" /1144The Platters (Mercury LP)
June 1956"Heaven on Earth"391341
August 1956"You'll Never Never Know" /1192318Non-LP tracks
August 1956"It Isn't Right"131023
November 1956"On My Word of Honor" /207The Platters (Mercury LP)
November 1956"One in a Million"311132Encore of Golden Hits
February 1957"I'm Sorry" /111518The Platters (Mercury LP)
February 1957"He's Mine"165Non-LP track
February 1957"My Dream"
b/w "I Wanna" (from The Platters (Mercury LP))
247Encore of Golden Hits
August 1957"Only Because"
b/w "The Mystery Of You" (Non-LP track)
65The Flying Platters
December 1957"Helpless"
b/w "Indiff'rent"
56Non-LP tracks
April 1958"Twilight Time"
b/w "Out Of My Mind" (Non-LP track)
1131The Flying Platters Around The World
June 1958"You're Making a Mistake"
b/w "My Old Flame" (from The Flying Platters Around The World)
51Non-LP track
September 1958"I Wish" /42More Encore of Golden Hits
September 1958"It's Raining Outside"93The Flying Platters Around The World
October 1958"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
b/w "No Matter What You Are" (Non-LP track)
1311Remember When?
February 1959"Enchanted"
b/w "The Sound and The Fury" (from More Encore of Golden Hits)
12913Encore of Golden Hits
May 1959"Remember When"
b/w "Love Of A Lifetime" (Non-LP track)
412562Remember When?
September 1959"Where" /4466More Encore of Golden Hits
September 1959"Wish It Were Me"61
January 1960"Harbor Lights" /8151133Reflections
January 1960"Sleepy Lagoon"65
5/60"Ebb Tide" /5659
5/60"(I'll Be With You) In Apple Blossom Time"102Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries
8/60"Red Sails in the Sunset"
b/w "Sad River"
10/60"To Each His Own"
b/w "Down The River Of Golden Dreams" (from Reflections)
2157More Encore of Golden Hits
1/61"If I Didn't Care"
b/w "True Lover" (from Song For The Lonely)
3095Remember When?
b/w "Immortal Love" (from Song For The Lonely)
6298Life Is Just A Bowl Of Cherries
7/61"I'll Never Smile Again"
b/w "You Don't Say" (Non-LP track)
25[30]17Remember When?
12/61"You'll Never Know" /109Song For The Lonely
11/61"Song For the Lonely"115
1/62"It's Magic"
b/w "Reaching For A Star"
5/62"More Than You Know"
"b/w"Every Little Movement (Has Meaning All Its Own)"
Encore of Golden Broadway Hits
b/w "Memories" (from The Platters Sing of Your Moonlight Memories)
Non-LP track
3/63"Once In A While"
"b/w"I'll See You In My Dreams"
The Platters Sing of Your Moonlight Memories
6/63"Here Comes Heaven Again"
Non-LP tracks
6/64"P.S. I Love You"
Encore of Golden Hits of The Groups
4/66"I Love You 1,000 Times"
b/w "Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil" (from Double Gold: The Best of The Platters)
316I Love You 1,000 Times
b/w "Alone In The Night (Without You)"
111The Platters Have The Magic Touch
11/66"I'll Be Home"
b/w "(You've Got) The Magic Touch" (from The Platters Have The Magic Touch)
97I Love You 1,000 Times
2/67"With This Ring"
b/w "If I Had A Love" (from I Love You 1,000 Times)
1412100Going Back To Detroit
6/67"Washed Ashore"
b/w "What Name Shall I Give You My Love" (early copies)
"One In A Million" (later copies)
(Both B-sides from The Platters Have The Magic Touch)
5629New Golden Hits
10/67"Sweet, Sweet Lovin'"
b/w "Sonata"
7032Sweet, Sweet Lovin'
12/67"Love Must Go On"
b/w "How Beautiful Our Love Is" (from Sweet, Sweet Lovin')
Going Back To Detroit
2/68"Think Before You Walk Away"
b/w "So Many Tears"
I Get The Sweetest Feeling
8/68"Hard To Get a Thing Called Love"
b/w "Why"
12/68"Fear Of Losing You"
b/w "Sonata"

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