and early Ď60ís were indeed heavenly when the Platters sang. After a
few run-of-the-mill doo-wop songs on the Federal label, the four-man group
hooked up with manager/songwriter/producer Buck
Ram, who brought in a girl
singer to spice up their sound. Lead singer Tony Williams had an
absolutely incredible tenor voice, and the rest of the group chimed in
with low key doo-wop sounds. The results proved that the Platters and Ram
had "The Magic Touch."
With their first Mercury record, "Only You," the Platters
reached number five; and their number one follow-up, "The Great
Pretender," cemented their position as my favorite group, an honor
they continue to hold five decades later.
After Tony Williams went on his own, the group flirted with the top 40
only once or twice, but continued to perform, with a changing line-up.
Many groups continued to use the name, but none had any original membersóand
none of them came close to the real thing. Tony had a successful solo
career, though without the benefit of chart hits. He was born in 1928, and
died much too young
at age 64 in August, 1992.
The other original Platters were: David Lynch, second tenor
(1929-1981); Paul Robi, baritone (1931-1989); Herbert
Reed (1928-2012), bass; and Zola
Taylor (1938-2007), alto.
Listening to the group over the years, I have always felt that the
addition of Zola was a stroke of genius. Although her voice does not stand
out in the backup vocals, there is a certain flavor added by the female
sound. The few solos she had, mostly on albums, reveal her to have a
slightly nasal but very pleasant voice. I think that nasal quality added
to the "zing" in the vocal mix.
I also detect a softening of the doo-wop sound in their later hits,
which in my opinion makes them a little less powerful than their early
recordings. On the other hand, I have to declare that their rendition of
"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes," strings and all, is one of the four
or five greatest recordings of all time.
Although many albums of the 50ís are considered to be "one hit,
plus filler," the Platters produced a number of very enjoyable albums
during their heyday. Setting the tone for later efforts, they recorded a
lot of standards on their first two releases. The acme of their album work
was "The Flying Platters Around the World," which
introduced two very beautiful Italian songs, "For the First Time
(Come Prima )" and "Itís Raining Outside (Chove la Fora)."
The Platters top ten hits:* "Only You" (5), "The Great
Pretender" (1), "The Magic Touch" (4), "My
Prayer" (1), "Twilight Time" (1), "Smoke Gets in Your
Eyes" (1), "Harbor Lights" (8).
Warning: Beware of
low-budget "greatest hits" tapes and CDs. There are some
available that are not by the original group, even though the original
members are shown on the cover and there is nothing to warn you of this on
--Dick Estel, updated August
2006 and November 2013
*Billboard pop singles chart, as reported in the book Top 40
Hits, copyright 1992 by Joel Whitburn.