Gary: “I know that we lightly touched on this group before (the first time was under The Birth of Doo Wop (1948 – 1955), but this is a closer look at them.
I was fortunate enough at 16 to see this group live at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. I have a favourite song and I was a huge Tony Williams fan; that man had a voice that could stop traffic. As usual, at my age, I digress (and I use the excuse that I cannot remember doing the group the fist time). I know that the group(s) went through law suits about the name and changing personnel, but I am only going to look at the “Original Group”. So for our fans of the early days this will be my eanest and honest look at…
featuring the Great
The Original Group that I knew:
- Tony Williams – Lead – Elizabeth N.J. April 5, 1928 – August 14, 1992
- Zola Taylor – Los Angeles California/ March 17, 1938 – April 30, 2007
- David Lynch – second tenor – St. Louis MO. July 3, 1929 – January 2, 1981
- Paul Robi – Baritone – New Orleans LA. August 20, 1931 – February 1, 1989
- Herb Reed – Bass – Kansas City MO. August 7, 1931 (the only surviving original member)
1. Only You (Any You Alone)/ Mercury 70633/ October 1955/ #5
2. The Great Pretender/ Mercury 70733/ December 1955/ #1 (2) (one of my all time favourites)
3. (You’ve Got) The Magic Touch/ Mercury 70819/ March 1956/ #4
4. My Prayer/ Mercury 70893/ July 1956/ #1 (3)
5. You’ll Never Know/ Mercury 70948/ October 1956/ #11
6. Twilight Time/ Mercury 71289/ April 1958/ #1
7. Smoke gets in Your Eyes/ Mercury 71383/ December 1958/ #1 (3)
8. Harbour Lights/ Mercury 71563/ February 1960/ #8
9. Red Sails in the Sunset/ Mercury 71656/ August 1960/ #36 (featuring Tony Williams)
I have chosen only a few of their many hits, but these are the songs and the group that I remember!
Tony, David, Herb and Alex Hodge formed the Platters in Los Angeles, in 1953. Shortly thereafter, Tony had the group audition for songwriter Buck Ram, who liked their sound. Buck worked with the group for a while and got them a recording contract with Federal records in Cincinnati, Ohio.
After a couple of records, Buck recruited a fifteen year old singer named Zola Taylor to add a little different sound to the group. Zola left a group called Shirley Gunter and the Queens to join the Platters. At this time Alex Hodge left and was replaced by Paul Robi.
In 1955, Buck had the group record a song he had written called “Only You” which was rather poorly done. Sales on the song were only moderate; consequently, Federal became disenchanted with the group.
Buck began looking for a major label to take on the Platters because he felt a large company would be able to promote his new group more effectively. Since Buck was ready to make a recording with Mercury for another group he managed, The Penguins (who of course did “Earth Angel” in 1954 on Dootone), Buck told Mercury that the only way they would be able to sign the Penguins was to sign the Platters as well. After long negotiations, Mercury finally gave in.
In the summer of 1955 the group recorded “Only You” for Mercury. Disc jockey Bob Salter in Seattle, Washington, began giving the record a great deal of air play, which resulted in it’s becoming the group’s first national hit.
Later that same year, the group recorded another Buck Ram song called “The Great Pretender,” which became a number one song and the group’s biggest all-time seller (and Gary’s Favourite).
From 1955 until 1960, with Tony Williams as the lead voice, the group had four number one songs and sixteen gold records. They became the most popular vocal group of the fifties.
Tony left the group on June 6, 1960, to become a solo performer. Tony introduced his replacement at the Copa Club in Newport, Kentucky, on that day. His replacement, a twenty-one year old Clevelander named Sonny Turner, premiered on June 16, 1960 at the Lotus Club in Washington.
That is about as far as I wish to go. The group changed and over the years law suits over who owned what, came about. I only remember the original Five people who made up one of the greatest groups of the fifties, my era.