Herb Reed (pictured), the founding and very last surviving original member of the hottest pop vocal group of the 1950’s The Platters, died Sunday at age 83, after a period of declining health, reports the Boston Business Journal.
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Reed, who was a Kansas City, Missouri, native and born in to abject poverty, lost his parents when he was in his tweens. In his teens, he bounced from home to home and managed to secure odd jobs, which was the beginning of how he learned how to save his money.
In 1953, Reed put together a group of street singers who were great at harmonizing and gave them the name The Platters. Amateur shows and club dates led the group to a savvy business manager, Buck Ram, who would eventually lead the singers to success.
The original members of the group were Reed (pictured far left), Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, and Gaynel Hodge. They sang in doo-wop style, a genre music that harmonized vocals.
Soon, the group underwent a radical lineup change, where the core members of The Platters became Reed; Lynch; Tony Williams, who was brought on as the lead; Paul Robi; and Zola Taylor, who was their female vocalist, in 1954. The added recruits helped to improve The Platters’ sound quality, and from here, they recorded their greatest hits.
Watch “Only You” here:
The 1955 classic “Only You” became the group’s signature hit and rose to the top 10 on the pop charts and topped the R&B charts as well for seven straight weeks. “The Great Pretender” was the follow-up to the group’s first hit and became another monster seller across the nation in the No. 1 spot, exceeding the success of their first release. Both songs actually helped to segue the group into motion pictures, where they appeared in the film “Rock Around the Clock” as themselves.
Watch “The Great Pretender” here:
The group continued to churn out chart toppers until the late-fifties, when group members began experiencing personal problems that were interfering with their obligations and fracturing the group. Arrests for drugs, prostitution, and a bounced check was the news that leaked out and disc jockeys began removing their music from playlists.
Reed finally wound up leaving the group in 1969, but he eventually lead an “official” Platters group under license from The Five Platters Inc. In 2011, a federal court judge in Nevada ruled that Reed possessed superior rights to the name The Platters, a decision that returned rights to the name of the group to Reed, making him the sole heir to the group’s tremendous legacy.
The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. Their recordings are in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Reed was the only member of the group to appear on all of their nearly 400 recordings. He continued touring — performing up to 200 shows per year — until last year, often performing with younger singers under the name Herb Reed and the Platters or Herb Reed’s Platters.
Reed, who settled in Arlington, Mass., is survived by a son, Herbert, Jr., and three grandsons.