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Profile: The Platters


Profile: The Platters

The Platters' classic lineup


1953 (Los Angeles, CA)


Pop Vocal, Doo-Wop, R&B, Soul

Principal Members:

Tony Williams (b. Samuel Anthony Williams, April 5, 1928, Elizabeth, N.J.; d. August 14, 1992, New York, NY [Manhattan]): tenor (1953-1961)
Herb Reed (b. August 7, 1931, Kansas City, MO): bass (1953-present)
Zola Taylor (b. 1934, Los Angeles, CA): contralto (1955-1962)
Paul Robi (b. August 30, 1931, New Orleans, LA; d. February 1, 1989, Los Angeles, CA): baritone (1955-1962)
David Lynch (b. July 3, 1929, St. Louis, MO; d. January 2, 1981, Long Beach, CA): tenor (1953-1981)

Contributions to music:

  • The biggest-selling vocal group of their era
  • Considered the ultimate in Fifties "make-out music"
  • Helped bring pop vocal into the rock and roll era
  • Lead singer Tony Williams is one of pop's all-time great tenors
  • First African-American group to hit Number One in the rock era
  • Were the first black group to beat out a white group's rendition of their song on the pop charts
  • Considered the classiest of pop acts, then and now

Early years:

The story of the Platters is that of three men: Buck Ram, Tony Williams, and Herb Reed. Reed started the group in 1953 as a fairly typical doo-wop unit, but it was manager/songwriter/arranger Samuel "Buck" Ram who made them the Platters we know today, replacing all but Reed, introducing Williams as the group's lead, adding a female (unusual for the time) in Zola Taylor, and forcing Mercury to take them on as a package deal with his other group, The Penguins, who'd just scored with "Earth Angel."


Ram had already tasted success as a songwriter, and his songs -- "Only You," "The Great Pretender," "Twilight Time," were all huge smashes, as were the group's renditions of old standards like "Harbor Lights," "My Prayer," and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes." The combination of the new Platters' smooth sound, impeccable taste, beautiful harmonies, and Williams' bel canto tenor was irresistible. Unfortunately, Williams left for a solo career in 1961, effectively ending the group's classic era.

Later years:

Although the group soldiered on through the Sixties, releasing unused cuts featuring Williams singing lead and even scoring a minor soul hit in 1967 with the beach music standard "With This Ring," the ever-changing lineup was essentially reduced to a traveling oldies act by the turn of the decade. Indeed, legal wrangling led to over 125 different "Platters" lineups touring the country, a practice that continues even today. Only Herb Reed's group contains an original member of the quintet.

Other facts:

  • Other members include: Cornell Gunter, Alex Hodge, Joe Jefferson, Sonny Turner, Nate Nelson, Monroe Powell
  • Gunter, an original member, went on to success with the Coasters
  • The four male members were all charged with having sex with a minor in 1959; all were acquitted
  • Zola Taylor is one of Frankie Lymon's three wives, and became his lover when he was only 13
  • Buck Ram, a popular arranger for Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and the Dorsey Brothers, also wrote the standard "I'll Be Home For Christmas"


  • Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1990)
  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1998)
  • Grammy Hall of Fame (1999, 2002)

Songs, Albums, and Charts:

#1 hits:
  • "My Prayer" (1956)
  • "The Great Pretender" (1956)
  • "Twilight Time" (1958)
  • "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (1959)
  • "Only You (And You Alone)" (1955)
  • "My Prayer" (1956)
  • "The Great Pretender" (1956)
  • "Twilight Time" (1958)
Top 10 hits:
  • "Only You (And You Alone)" (1955)
  • "(You've Got) The Magic Touch" (1956)
  • "Harbor Lights" (1960)
  • "(You've Got) The Magic Touch" (1956)
  • "You'll Never Never Know" (1956)
  • "My Dream" (1957)
  • "On My Word Of Honor" (1957)
  • "He's Mine" (1957)
  • "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (1958)
  • "Enchanted" (1959)
  • "I Love You 1000 Times" (1966)
Top 10 albums:
  • The Platters (1956)
  • Encore Of Golden Hits (1960)
Other important recordings: "I'm Just A Dancing Partner," "Winner Take All," "Heaven On Earth," "It Isn't Right," "One In A Million," "I'm Sorry," "The Mystery Of You," "You're Making A Mistake," "Where," "My Secret," "Red Sails In The Sunset," "To Each His Own," "I'll Never Smile Again," "With This Ring," "Washed Ashore (On A Lonely Island In The Sea)"
Covered by: Carl Perkins, Ringo Starr, Freddie Mercury, Sha-Na-Na
Appears in the movies: "Rock Around the Clock" (1956), "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), "Carnival Rock" (1957), "Rock All Night" (1957), "Europe By Night" (1959), "Girls Town" (1959)
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