At the height of their career, the Platters were an anachronism, performing classic Tin Pan Alley material updated slightly to fit the rhythmic framework of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Founded by Herbert Reed in 1953, the group—which also included David Lynch, Paul Robi, and lead singer Tony Williams—initially recorded in a doo-wop style for the Federal label. Failing to achieve a hit record, members were working as parking lot attendants in Los Angeles when they met music business entrepreneur Buck Ram. Initially using them to make demonstration discs of his own compositions (which tended to fall within the crooning genre), Ram insisted that Mercury Records sign them as part of a package deal involving another of his clients, the Penguins, then on the verge of stardom with the recording, "Earth Angel" (Dootone 348; 1954-1955). In one of the supreme ironies in recording history, the Penguins faded from the public eye without another pop hit, while the Platters (adding Zola Taylor in late 1955) became the top-selling vocal group of the second half of the 1950s. Their Top Ten singles included "Only You" (Mercury 70633; 1955), "The Great Pretender" (Mercury 70753; 1955-1956; #1), "(You’ve Got) The Magic Touch" (Mercury 70819; 1956), "My Prayer" (Mercury 70893; 1956; #1), "Twilight Time" (Mercury 71289; 1958; #1), "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" (Mercury 71383; 1958-1959; #1), and "Harbor Lights" (Mercury 71563; 1960).
The group’s decline in the early 1960s has been attributed to a number of causes, most notably the morals arrest of the male members on August 10, 1959, the departure of Williams (one of the most gifted vocalists in pop) for a solo career in 1960, and changing consumer tastes. The Platters continued to enjoy steady album sales with the release of titles such as Encore of Golden Hits (Mercury 20472; 1960; 174 weeks on pop charts) and More Encore of Golden Hits (Mercury 20591; 1960). By the early 1970s, the group—by then recording for Musicor— was considered a nostalgia act, sometimes performing in Richard Nader’s rock ‘n’ roll revival shows. As copyright holder of the Platters’ name, Ram continued to manage the official version of the group well into the 1980s. However, he was continuously forced to file lawsuits to keep pseudo groups from using the name. Greatest hits packages featuring the Mercury material have remained popular; Rhino issued a two-disc anthology and the German Bear Family label released a nine-CD box set in the late 1980s. [Stambler. 1989.]
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