The Drifters Drift on Forever

The Drifters seem to be more of a brand and franchise than a band. The Wikipedia profile says that the group, which it defines as having its (many) feet in doo-wop, R&B and soul, was formed in 1953. Rolling Stone – which named The Drifters the 81st greatest artist/band of the rock and roll era – called it “the least stable” because members were low paid and, presumably, quickly shuffled in and other.

The Drifters were put together by George Treadwell to back Clyde McPhatter. Eventually, the group – which still exists – went through 60 vocalists. That is just in the “Treadwell line.” There have been knock-offs by ex-members, all of which have their own line of vocalists.

The profile says that the two main versions backed McPhatter and Ben. E. King. They each are in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame addressed the situation with Solomon-like wisdom: The hall includes four “classic” (McPhatter) Drifters, two King Drifters and one post-Treadwell Drifter.

All of these Drifters drifting around meant, of course, that there is a lot of confusion and at least one lawsuit (by Treadwell heirs in the U.K.). The profile does an admirable of separating out the versions.

Some of the classic Drifters songs are “Ruby Baby,” “There Goes My Baby,” “This Magic Moment,” “Stand by Me,” “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Up on the Roof.” They presumably all are from the McPhatter Drifters, but I am not smart or patient enough to figure it out. Geniuses such as Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Gerry Goffin, Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman contributed songs.

Above is “Saturday Night at the Movies” (Mann/Weil) and below is “Up on the Roof” (Goffin/King).

Wikipedia and Rolling Stone were used to write this post.

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