The Drifters

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About The Drifters

Though close to 60 singers rotated through The Drifters over the decades, the doo-wop and R&B group recorded some of the most indelible tunes of the post-war era, including “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance for Me.” • The Drifters were originally intended to back singer Clyde McPhatter, who put the group together in 1953 after leaving his post as lead tenor for Billy Ward and His Dominoes. The Drifters’ first single, 1953’s “Money Honey,” topped the R&B chart. • The group’s pop breakthrough came the following year with “Honey Love,” which reached No. 21 hit on the Hot 100 singles chart and No. 1 on the R&B chart. • McPhatter’s tenure with The Drifters ended after he was drafted into the military in 1954. He sold his share of the group to manager George Treadwell, who owned the Drifters name starting in 1955. A string of lead singers would follow McPhatter, most notably Johnny Moore, Charlie Thomas, Ben E. King, and Rudy Lewis. • Moore was lead tenor for The Drifters’ first post-McPhatter hit, 1955’s R&B chart-topper “Adorable.” King was in the lead spot, with Mike Leiber and Jerry Stoller producing, for 1959’s “There Goes My Baby”—the group’s first Top 5 pop hit—and 1960’s “Save the Last Dance for Me,” which reached No. 1 on the pop and R&B charts. King also sang lead on another iconic song,1960’s “This Magic Moment,” which peaked at No. 4 on the R&B chart. • When King left for a solo career, Lewis stepped into the lead spot, landing Top 40 pop hits with songs including 1961’s “Some Kind of Wonderful,” 1962’s “Up on the Roof,” and 1963’s “On Broadway.” • When Lewis died unexpectedly the night before The Drifters were supposed to record “Under the Boardwalk” in May 1964, Moore stepped back in on lead vocals. The song reached No. 4 and was the group’s last Top 10 pop hit. • As the group’s fortunes declined in the ’70s, The Drifters left Atlantic Records and moved to England. Fronted by Moore, they landed nine songs in the UK Top 40 between 1973 and 1978, including 1974’s No. 2 hit “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies” and 1975’s No. 3 hit “There Goes My First Love.” • By the ’80s, frequent lineup changes made the roster impossible to keep straight. The Drifters, and various offshoots featuring former members, have continued to tour. •In 1988, The Drifters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which named Clyde McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Gerhart Thrasher, Johnny Moore, Ben E. King, Charlie Thomas, and Rudy Lewis.

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