• Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina Heritage Stage
•5:30 – 6:45 p.m.
The story of The Drifters began in early 1953, when high-tenor vocalist Clyde McPhatter, a native of Durham, N.C., stepped away from The Dominoes and signed to Atlantic Records. Label exec Ahmet Ertegun encouraged McPhatter to start a group of his own. After several backing group configurations comprised of gospel singers and various veterans of ’50s R&B vocal ensembles, they finally recorded two of their early hits, “Such a Night” and “Honey Love,” in 1954.
Unfortunately, a complicated series of contract disputes, financial decisions, and lineup changes led to something of a permanent revolving-door lineup that characterize The Drifters’ history.
Later collaborations with hitmakers/songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller led to a more stable period for the band, with Charlie Thomas on lead vocals, backed by young baritone Benjamin Earl Nelson (later known under the stage name “Ben E. King”), baritone Dock Green (of The Crowns), and bass singer Elsbeary Hobbs.
In 1959, “There Goes My Baby” won over both R&B and pop audiences. Hit singles “Dance With Me,” “This Magic Moment,” “I Count the Tears,” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” followed in 1960.
Vocalist Rudy Lewis signed on as lead singer in time for “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Up on the Roof,” “Please Stay,” “What to Do,” and “On Broadway.” Johnny Moore, a veteran of a mid-’50s version of the band, came into the studio in 1964 to sing lead on “Under the Boardwalk,” the group’s last top ten hit.
Various assemblages of The Drifters came and went through the 1970s and ’80s. Currently, Atlanta-based singer Bennie Anderson sings lead and second tenor harmonies with the official version of the group. According to the band, he has been an integral part of the group’s overall sound for more than 30 years. In his earliest Drifters experiences, he sang harmonies with original members Gerhart “Gay” Thrasher and Bill Pinkney. No matter the official Drifters lineup this year, Anderson and the gang will surely draw from the elegance of the early days and deliver a polished performance. –T. Ballard Lesemann