At the age of 15, Herb Reed ran away from a physically and emotionally abusive home in Kansas City, Missouri, and ended up in Los Angeles, California. After meeting friends, “couch surfing,” and eventually settling into a stable home with two friends, he enlisted in a brief stint with The United States Army.
Once discharged, he quickly reconnected with old friends, made some new ones, and found himself “singing under the lamplight” on street corners with a group of talented vocalists that included Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, and Joe Jefferson.
Ralph Bass of Federal Records wanted to record the group, but they didn’t have an official name. Sitting around a kitchen table, Reed thought about the “platter” commonly known as a record player’s turntable that spins vinyl discs. Hence, The Platters name was born!
Bass decided to use a tune penned by his friend Buck Ram’s called “Only You,” but the label would deem it “unreleasable” by the label, so he asked Ram to take the group under his wing and coach them to success. Gunter left The Platters to join the “Flairs” before starting The Coasters. Tony Williams replaced him. Hodge left, and David Lynch joined the group, followed by Paul Robi. The Platters never achieved commercial success under Bass’ management.
Ram eventually became their manager, and shortly before going into the studio to rerecord Ram’s Only You for Mercury Records, 15-year-old Zola Taylor joined the all-male vocal group breaking the gender divide, a rarity back in the 1950s.
In 1955, Only You (and You Alone) was played on the radio by legendary DJ Alan Freed, launching The Platters onto the top of the U.S. music charts!
Considered the most romantic of all the early rock & roll groups (that is, the ultimate in “make-out music”), The Platters produced hit after hit. The Platters achieved domestic and international chart success in a seemingly effortless manner with multiple tracks, including The Great Pretender, My Prayer, Twilight Time, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Harbor Lights, Ebb Tide, Red Sails in the Sunset, and many more. This success established The Platters as the classiest, groundbreaking vocal group of the early rock & roll era.
In 1959, Tony Williams stopped making appearances and performing on-stage with The Platters after being arrested with Robi and Lynch for violating Ohio’s “Jim Crow race laws.” The three had their 18 and 19-year-old (the legal age back then was 21) “underage white girlfriends” in their hotel rooms after an appearance in the Buckeye state.
Williams was replaced “on-the-road” by vocalist Sonny Turner. Ram and Mercury Records decided to move The Platters to Europe because of the ensuing scandal. In what appears to be an act of poetic justice, The Platters’ relocation to Europe enables them to become the first African American vocal groups to become global superstars.
Williams continued to record with the vocal group, no longer touring with Reed, Robi, Lynch, and Taylor while pursuing a solo career until 1963. Turner would later record lead vocals on the Musicor Label during The Platters measured resurgence with moderate hits such as Love You 1000 Times and With This Ring during the “Beach Music” years. Soon after, Sandra Dawn replaced Taylor, and Nate Nelson replaced Robi.
In 1970, Turner left the group. Reed fired manager Ram and continued performing as The Platters or Herb Reed and The Platters. Unfortunately, during this time, many music identity thieves falsely call themselves The Platters both in the U.S. and abroad, causing great confusion among music consumers. It wasn’t until after years of legal litigation that reached the United States Supreme Court that Mr. Reed, the only “original” member of the group since the first formation, was awarded superior rights to the name in 2011. In addition, he is the only member to record on the group’s more than 400 music recordings.
The Platters’ rich vocal and historical tradition is unmistakable, making its timeless melodies relevant to fans worldwide. With myriad vocalists cycling through the vocal group over the years, The Platters comprises many voices with one name. The group’s vocal evolution continues today through the crisp, vocal stylings of Lance Bernard Bryant, Omar Ross, Jovian Ford, and Brittany Michelle Wallace. They perform timeless hits and new music accompanied by The Platters longtime Music Director Michael Larson.
The music that comprises the foundation of this vocal powerhouse is as relevant and unwavering today as it was in its inception. In December of 2019, Twilight Time played a prominent part in the Sony PlayStation Now® radio, TV, and online advertising campaign. Both motion placements serve as an introduction of The Platters to younger generations of music consumers.
The classic hit Twilight Time plays a significant role in the Marvel Studios’ – Disney+ much-anticipated series WandaVision, effectively inaugurating The Platters as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This 2020 placement led to The Platter’s recording a new video and re-releasing their classic single.
The Platters, America’s Rock & Roll, Vocal, and Grammy® Halls of Fame group’s timeless music appears on many classic and contemporary major motion pictures and television soundtracks. For example, the powerhouse ballad, My Prayer, was used in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, leading to its nomination for a coveted Oscar® as part of the motion pictures soundtrack. In addition, Great Pretender prominently appears in a pivotal scene on Disney® Television’s Golden Globe®, Emmy® Award, hit drama “Empire.”
The Platters continue to open the hearts and minds of new generations of music lovers and are currently recording their first EP/LP in more than 50 years featuring new music scheduled for release in early 2022! There’s something for everyone in their uplifting stage show that takes the audience back in time and into the future.
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Continuing the Evolution of the Platters
Many Voices ONE Name.
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