“The Drifters” name is apt.
Members have drifted in and out of the lineup ever since the legendary vocal group formed in 1953, led by the iconic Clyde McPhatter. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, the group has had more members — 60 plus — than hits — fewer than 50.
But it’s less about who was in the group than the act’s music, which is timeless.
“I was always a huge Drifters fan,” vocalist Michael Bolton said. “I’ve covered Drifters songs. There was no group that was ever like them. They were unique singers, who sung songs that will never go out of style.”
“Save the Last Dance for Me,” “There Goes My Baby” and “This Magic Moment” are some of The Drifters’ biggest hits. The latter was turned inside out by Lou Reed, who grew up an ardent Drifters fan while coming of age in New York. Reed turned “This Magic Moment” into a dark, dramatic song, with industrial elements.
Another huge Drifters fan in Gotham is Art Garfunkel, who listened to the act with his old friend Paul Simon.
“The Drifters were definitely an influence on us,” Garfunkel said. “The way they sang had an impact on me. They hit me on a personal level, since the songs felt so New York.”
Great point since such disparate acts like Simon & Garfunkel and Sonic Youth and the Drifters exude New York through their music. It doesn’t matter whether you’re “Up on the Roof,” “Under the Boardwalk” or “On Broadway,” the Drifters songs definitely have a sense of place.
Charlie Thomas, 81, who joined the Drifters in 1957, is part of the act that will perform on a bill with Cornell Gunter’s Coasters and the Platters on Friday) 10/19) at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Cedar Rapids. However, it’s been difficult to keep track of the many Drifter splinter groups.
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Dock Green, Bill Pinkney and Rick Sheppard have each led acts, which have performed under the Drifters moniker over the years.
However, fans can be assured of an evening of hits from a group, which has been honored many times over its lauded and lengthy career. Along being enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the ensemble has been inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame.
Perhaps the most beloved and best known Drifter is the late Ben E. King. Iconic artists ranging from John Lennon to U2 have covered “Stand By Me.” After King donated his time to a benefit show in Red Bank, N.J., in 2013, he took some time to talk Drifters.
“I was in a great situation,” King said. “The guys were great in The Drifters. I have such good memories. When I sing The Drifters songs, everyone goes back in their mind to where they first heard the songs. In that way, the songs are like magic. They take you back to a different time and place — and that’s a good thing.”
After King performed, he received an ovation on a par with local boy Jon Bon Jovi.
“I think it was more about the songs than me” that prompted the reaction, King said. “These songs make you feel good.”
WHAT: The Drifters, Cornell Gunter’s Coasters & The Platters
WHERE: Paramount Theatre, 123 Third Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday (10/19)
TICKETS: $39.50 to $59.50, Paramount Ticket Office, (319) 366-8203 or Paramounttheatrecr.com