The Platters were one of those rare groups of the Fifties that were liked by the kids and were also liked by the parents. Rock and roll was, after all, a rebellion of sorts. It was a whole new style of music that the kids loved and could dance to and the parents hated and forbid their kids to listen to. The Platters were one of only a few exceptions to that. The group had many personnel changes over the years, but the group that was the most popular was led by Tony Williams and consisted of four others, David Lynch, Paul Robi, Herb Reed and Zola Taylor. They were the first African-American group to be accepted into the mainstream and were one of the most popular groups in the world for a time. They had 23 Top 40 songs during the late Fifties, four of those going to number one. Their first hit was “Only You (And You Alone)” which peaked at number five and they followed that with “The Great Pretender.”
“The Great Pretender” was written by Buck Ram, who was The Platters manager and producer at the time. He said he wrote it in about 20 minutes in a men’s room in the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. The song has been covered by many performers including Stan Freberg who did a parody of the song. Perhaps the most famous of the covers was by Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of the group Queen, who recorded the song in 1987 as a solo effort and reached number five in the United Kingdom.
My wife and I went to Elko, Nevada to see a group calling themselves The Platters about 2003 or so. I don’t think the group at that time consisted of any of the original members. I know Tony Williams died in 1992, David Lynch in 1981 and Paul Robi in 1989. The other two lived longer, but would probably been too old in 2003 to do much singing, but I can’t be sure.
Here is a video of the original group.
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