Saturday, June 16, 2012

Platters Founder Herb Reed R.I.P.

Herb Reed, one of the founding members of The Platters, passed on 4 June 2012 at the age of 83. The cause was lung disease.

Herb Reed was born on 7 August 1928 in Kansas City, Missouri. Both of his parents died when he was 13. When he was 15 years old he moved to Los Angeles California. There he started singing in church choirs and later participated in amateur talent contests. It was in 1953 that Herb Reed formed The Platters with David Lynch and lead singer Tony Williams. It was Herb Reed who was credited with naming the group, the term "platters" being slang at the time for records.

The Platters released their first two singles through Federal Records. Unfortunately, both singles failed. Eventually songwriter, producer, and arranger Buck Ram took The Platters under his wing. He would also manage The Penguins, who had a hit single with the song "Earth Angel. When Mercury Records wanted to sign The Penguins, Mr. Ram insisted that they take The Platters as well. In the end The Platters would be the more successful of the two groups. In 1955 they had their first hit with the song "Only You," which went to #5 on the Billboard singles chart. It was followed by the hit single "The Great Pretender,' which went to #1 on the Billboard singles chart.

The Platters would continue to have several hit singles in the late Fifties, including "(You've Got) the Magic Touch," "My Prayer," "You'll Never Know," "Isn't It Right," "I'm Sorry," "Twilight Time," "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," and "Harbour Lights." Unfortunately, as the Fifties became the Sixties, The Platters went into decline. After the song "Harbour Lights," The Platters would not hit the top twenty on the Billboard singles chart until 1967 with "With This Ring." From 1961 to 1968 only four of their songs made even to the top 40. While the line up of The Platters changed over the years, Herb Reed remained a constant with the band, staying with the group well into the Sixties.

Once The Platters' recording career ended Herb Reed would continue performing. In the Seventies he toured with a group called The Platters. Unfortunately, other groups calling themselves "The Platters" would eventually spring up, some with no real ties to the original group. Herb Reed would find himself embroiled in a long legal battle to the rights to the name. Eventually, as the lone survivor of the original Platters, Herb Reed would win the rights to the name.

The Platters were one of the most legendary R&B vocal groups of all time with a string of hits, many of which became standards. The Platters were also one of the first groups to break the colour barrier, as their manager Buck Ram encouraged Mercury Records to market the group to both blacks and whites. Herb Reed was a large part of the group's success. He was gifted with a melodious bass voice that lent strength to the group's many songs. Beyond his singular talent as a singer, Mr. Reed was also the original member who remained with The Platters the longest, from the group's founding into the Sixties. With the passing of  Herb Reed, a part of  R&B history has also passed.

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