Formed in Los Angeles in 1953, The Platters were one of the very first black vocal harmony groups to reach a mass white audience.
They signed to Mercury in 1955 and had a hit with Only You, which reached #5 in the US charts, despite a competing cover version by one of Randy Wood’s white groups, The Hilltoppers.
They followed this with The Great Pretender, My Prayer, I’m Sorry, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes and Harbour Lights, racking up over a dozen hits, including four #1’s and five gold discs.
Guided by their perceptive manager and mentor, Buck Ram – who also penned The Great Pretender and Twilight Time – The Platters achieved national success only after 15-year-old Zola Taylor had joined the group to complement the magnificent tenor of Tony Williams – and for five years they reigned supreme.
In 1959 the four male members of the group were arrested in Cincinnati on drug and prostitution charges, contributing to their fall from grace with the record-buying public.
Williams left the group in June 1960 to embark on a solo career, and neither he nor The Platters ever recaptured their previous magic.
Various permutations of the group continued to perform, leading to a landmark court case over which line-up had rights to the original name.