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Platters, The , very successful, smooth doowop group of the 1950s. Membership : Tony Williams, lead ten. (b. Elizabeth, N.J., April 5, 1928; d. N.Y., Aug. 14, 1992); David Lynch, 2nd ten. (b. St. Louis, Mo., 1929; d. Jan. 2, 1981); Paul Robi, bar. (b. New Orleans, La., 1931; d. Feb. 1, 1989); Herb Reed, bs. (b. Kansas City, Mo., 1931); Zola Taylor, contralto (b. Los Angeles, 1934). Later members included Sonny Turner (b. Cleveland, Ohio, 1939); Nate Nelson (b. N.Y., April 10, 1932; d. Boston, Mass., June 1, 1984); Monroe Powell; Gene Williams. Mentor-manager-songwriter Buck Ram was born on Nov. 21, 1907, in Chicago, Ill., and died Jan. 1, 1991, in Las Vegas, Nev, at age 83.

In 1953 in Los Angeles, Tony Williams, David Lynch, Alex Hodge and Herb Reed formed The Platters and met Buck Ram, a former writer and arranger for the big bands of the 1930s and 1940s. Becoming their manager in February 1954, Ram added female vocalist Zola Taylor, from Shirley Gunter and The Queens, in May. Paul Robi replaced Alex Hodge in July, and Ram signed the group to the Federal subsidiary of Cincinnati’s King Records. The group unsuccessfully recorded Ram’s “Only You” and other songs for the label, later issued on King and Deluxe. Ram next placed the group with Mercury Records and, in the fall of 1955, they scored a top R&B/smash pop hit with “Only You.” The song was quickly covered by the white group The Hilltoppers for Dot, but, unlike many recordings originated by black artists, The Platters’ version proved more successful.

The Platters’ recording of Ram’s “The Great Pretender” became the first R&B ballad to top the pop as well as R&B charts. Ram’s “(You’ve Got) the Magic Touch” proved a smash pop and R&B hit and the standard “My Prayer” became a top pop and R&B hit in 1956. Although their sound was more akin to The Ink Spots and The Mills Brothers than the doo-wop groups of the day, The Platters appeared in several rock ‘n’ roll movies, including 1956’s Rock around the Clock and The Girl Can’t Help It. Their crossover smashes continued with “You’ll Never Never Know” (co-written by Tony Williams and Paul Robi), “It Isn’t Right,” “On My Word of Honor,” “One in a Million” (co-written by Williams), “I’m Sorry” backed with “He’s Mine,” and Ram’s “My Dream.”

Developing a widely based audience among television viewers, rock ‘n’ roll fans and the larger pop audience, The Platters performed at rock ‘n’ roll shows and supper clubs. In 1958 they scored top pop/smash R&B hits with the classic “Twilight Time” (co-authored by Ram) and the standard “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” recorded in Paris, France. Subsequent crossover hits included “Enchanted” and the standard “Harbor Lights.” The Platters’ anthology album Encore of Golden Hits, released in early 1960, remained on the charts for more than three years.

In 1961 Tony Williams left The Platters to pursue an inauspicious solo career. He was replaced by Sonny Turner, and the group managed major pop hits with the standards “To Each His Own” and “I’ll Never Smile Again.” In 1962, Zola Taylor and Paul Robi left the group, to be replaced by Sandra Dawn and Nate Nelson (lead singer of The Flamingos’ 1959 crossover hit “I Only Have Eyes for You”), respectively. Switching to Musicor Records, The Platters’ last major hits came in 1966–67 with “I Love You 1000 Times” and “With This Ring.”

Sonny Turner left The Platters in the early 1970s, and Nate Nelson left in 1982. Buck Ram maintained the group with lead vocalist Monroe Powell and bass singer Gene Williams through the 1980s. During this time former members Paul Robi, Herb Reed, and Tony Williams each toured with their own groups as The Platters. During the 1980s, several former members died, including David Lynch (1981), Nate Nelson (1984) and Paul Robi (1989). The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. The two principals of The Platters, Buck Ram and Tony Williams, died in 1991 and 1992, respectively.


The Platters (1955); The Platters (1956); The Platters—Vol. 2 (1957); The Flying Platters (1957); Around the World with The Flying Platters (1958); Remember When (1959); Reflections (1960); Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries (1961); Encore of Broadway Golden Hits (1962); Sing for the Lonely (1962); Moonlight Memories (1963); Sing All-Time Movie Hits (1963); Sing Latino (1963); Christmas with The Platters (1963); 20th Anniversary Album (1965); The New Soul of The Platters (1965); I Love You 1,000 Times (1966); Have the Magic Touch (1966); Going Back to Detroit (1967); Sweet, Sweet Lovin’ (1968); I Get the Sweetest Feeling (1968); Singing the Great Hits Our Way (1969); Greatest Hits, Featuring Paul Robi (ree. 1986; rei. 1987).

—Brock Helander