By Dag W. Walker
Music history was grand in 1953. It was the year the American group The Platters was formed in Los Angeles, California. In LIberia that year, Solomon Carter Fuller, born in Monrovia, a pioneering physician, psychiatrist, pathologist, and professor died] on January 16, 1953. William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman was the 19th president of Liberia, with William Tolbert as Vice President.
In Los Angeles, Herb Reed, a recently discharged Army veteran recruited Cornell Gunther, Joe Jefferson, and Alex Hodge to form a vocal quartet he would eventually name The Platters. The group’s name came from the metal disks, or “platters,” that rotate vinyl records on the turntable of a phonograph. These four men were the “original” Platters in 1953.
In that year, Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor was six years old. Samuel Kanyon Doe was three. Prince Yormie Johnson was a year old. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was 25. The Platters were just being born and soon after made musical history.
Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union, died; the Rosenbergs were electrocuted at Sing Sing prison in New York; and Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay of Nepal climbed Mount Everest; and the Platters were on their way to the top of the musical charts around the world.
Original members Jefferson, Gunther and Hodge left the group and were immediately replaced by Tony Williams, David Lynch, and Paul Robi. Zola Taylor joined, becoming the first female vocalist to break through the gender divide as part of an all-male vocal group.
With lead tenor of Tony Williams, the Platters were among the most successful black vocal groups of the ’50s. Three of their many songs are still immensely popular today.
On July 3, 1955 “Only You” became the group’s first Top Ten hit on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts for seven weeks. It stayed on the charts for 39 weeks.
The Platter’s next release “The Great Pretender” was issued in November 1955 and became their second #1 R&B and first #1 Pop hit. This began a streak of eleven two-sided hits.
In October 1958 Mercury released “Smoke Gets In Your Eye’s” which had been recorded in France while The Platters were on tour. It reached #1 Pop on June 19, 1959, for three weeks and #1 R&B.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990…
The Platters provided music for adults in love. As eternal as is love, so too is the music we dance to as the stars fade and love blooms in the light of the coming dawn.
Main Photo: The Platters, Open.spotify.com