And so we come to the last gasp of the Big Band era. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was a number one song by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra in 1934 and charted by other performers that year as well. It was revived briefly in 1941 by Artie Shaw and was heard throughout the Forties. The song disappeared in the Fifties, until 1959 when Buck Ram, who produced the Platters, decided it was a good idea for them to revive the song.
“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” was written by Otto Harbach and Jerome Kern. It was written for the stage play Roberta. Kern died in 1945 and when his widow found out the Platters were covering his song, she got really upset, to the point of threatening legal action against them. She had her lawyer contact the music publisher who owed rights to the song, Max Dreyfus to have him put a stop to it. What she didn’t know was that Dreyfus was the one who had suggested that the Platters record the song. He thought it would breathe some life into a song that hadn’t been heard in a few years.
So, no legal action was taken, the record went forward and when Kern’s widow found out how much money she was making from the re-issue, she decided it was ok after all to record the song.
The Platters were known for their ballads and the songs that had been the most popular for them were the old songs, the kind the kid’s parents grew up listening to. But, the Platters appealed to all ages. And “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” was another smash for the group.
Unfortunately, this would be the last big Platters hit. They covered “Harbor Lights” which was a big hit back in 1950, and it reached number eight, but that was their last time in the Top 10. In August of 1960, the four male members of the Platters were arrested on morals charges. They were accused of using drugs and soliciting prostitutes.
Today, something like that would probably just be dismissed, but in 1960, that sort of behavior was a big deal and the Platters career was essentially over. If the scandal wasn’t enough to kill their career, their lead singer Tony Williams left the group that same year and they brought in Sonny Turner to replace him. Now, Turner had been around a long time. He was an original doo-wop singer from the early Fifties, but he couldn’t breathe life back into the Platters and they eventually faded away.
The group continued on, changing personnel over the years, but never regained the magic of 1958 and 1959.
“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” debuted on the charts on December 1, 1958, but didn’t hit number one until January 19, 1959 where it stayed for three weeks.