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.)
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.