Beyond Doo-Wop – The Original Platters   4 comments

I’ve never been able to come up with a catchy name for a type of song I’ve written about before. It’s not a genre in the usual sense of the word, although in the broadest definition – as a category of music – I guess you could call it a genre. But this particular genre is different than most, because it consists entirely of songs that seem to have been bouncing around in my head for as long as I can remember.

I realize that it’s not a category that applies to me alone – I’m sure everybody has songs like that – but the specific tunes themselves are unique to each person, and since I’m doing the writing here, mine are the songs that count. (I also realize that my sometimes-fuzzy memory can play a part in all this, but that’s a subject for another time.)plat

My common sense (another suspect facility) tells me that I probably first started hearing these songs during my childhood, either on the radio or from the stacks of platters we played on our record player. One thing I know — at least a couple of those platters featured – er – the Platters. (Sorry.) Even after more than fifty years, when I hear songs such as “Only You”, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”, or “The Great Pretender”, it’s as if I just heard them yesterday.

Doo-wop is a term used by some to describe early R&B singing groups, but others feel that it applies only to specific types — and some don’t much care for the term at all. Whatever your feelings, the fact remains that the Platters were one of the best of those groups, especially on romantic ballads. Their precision harmonizing was almost hypnotic, and they became one of the biggest successes of the 1950’s, transcending any discussion of their doo-wopism. (Like that word? Just invented it.)

The Platters went through some changes in the early years, but the group that made it big in the mid 1950’s included lead tenor Tony Williams, joined by Zola Taylor, Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and David Lynch. The force behind the group was Buck Ram, who wore a lot of hats, including manager, songwriter, producer, and mentor. Under his guidance, the group had a string of hits that also included “Twilight Time”, “Harbor Lights”, and many others.

The group continued to be successful for many years through many personnel changes, with ex-members setting up competing Platters groups. It’s continued to the present day, and the group has become a sort of franchise, blanketing the oldies tour circuit with countless versions of itself — all billed as The Original Platters. Gotta love it.

The Platters – “Only You”

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4 responses to “Beyond Doo-Wop – The Original Platters

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  1. Nice article about one of my favorite harmony goups the Platters. Sadly only Herb Reed is alive to carry on the name. Zola Taylor just having past away here in the year 2007. Herb Reed now living in Massachusetts puts on a great show with non originals and is quite successful. It’s tough though not to hear that great lead voice of Tony Williams on the stage today. He had his problems but to me is one of the all time great lead singers. You can catch my group harmony radio show Tuesday nights from 6pm to 8pm (east coast time) on the internet at http://www.wnhu.net or if local at 88.7 FM radio.

  2. Enjoyed your insight, RR – and I’ll be sure to check out your site.

  3. I loved The Platters but I never considered them a doo-wop group. I always thought they were built on the success of The Ink Spots, with similar vocal harmonies featuring lead singer Bill Kenny, who preceded them by several years. Some of the songs The Platters included on their albums were covers of The Ink Spots.

  4. Yeah, I’ve always been a little unsure about labels too (hence my comments in the 4th paragraph) but a lot of my normal sources seem to throw the ‘doo-wop’ around pretty freely.

    Good point about the Ink Spots. I also explored the subject with a piece about The Mills Brothers.

    Good stuff! Thanks for writing.

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