Something Else! Featured Artist: The Platters

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NICK DERISO: Though ever-changing subsequent lineups weakened the Platters’ considerable impact, the fact is — they still matter.

The first rock band to have a Top 10 album, these 1990 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame appeared in the initial motion picture based around this then-new music, “Rock Around the Clock.” The Platters perform “Only You (and You Alone)” and “The Great Pretender” in that 1956 film.

Later, this timeless sound connected with a new generation when three Platters songs were included on 1973’s “American Graffiti” soundtrack — “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and, again, “The Great Pretender” and “Only You.”

The original lineup from two decades earlier was headed by vocalist Cornell Gunter. Buck Ram then joined as manager and songwriter, and the Platters found their widest popularity with singers Tony Williams and Zola Taylor. Williams’ 1960 departure, however, led to a series of legal entanglements as Ram, Williams and several others laid claim to the name.

Forty years later, you could find the legacy being upheld by Lawrence “Rooster” Lockard, who isn’t an original member but grew up around vocal music, idolizing groups like the Platters.

Lockard said bumping into Taylor turned his youthful dream into a life spent in song. She invited Lockard and Eddie Stovall to join her, and they began performing as the World Famous Platters. The original group’s best stuff – the song list also includes “My Prayer,” “Twilight Time” and others – became Rooster’s own.

Still, with countless versions of the Platters popping up over the decades (the Buck Ram Platters, Herb Reed’s Platters, the Platters starring the legendary Sonny Turner, the Five Platters, The Platters featuring Monroe Powell, etc., etc.), Lockard considers himself blessed to have appeared with one of its founders.

“I had sung with many other groups over the years, but this was different,” Lockard told me. “I never had to go any further. When I met Zola, that was the highlight of my life.”

The World Famous Platters, rounded out by Dee Dee Hamilton and Eddie Nash, began a decade-plus run in the 1990s at Branson, Mo. — then quickly became known for their consistency, presenting a two-hour concert twice a day, six days a week.

“We take our audience back,” Lockard said, “to the time when music was really music.”

In fact, the original Platters — which, along with Taylor and Williams, also included tenor David Lynch, baritone Alex Hodge (then Paul Robi, when Hodge died) and bass singer Reed — have long been considered the most romantic of the doo wop acts.

They started out on the tiny Federal label, a subsidiary of Cincinnati’s King Records. Later, the Platters had their greatest success on Mercury — as that imprint’s larger distribution base helped the group become the first African-American act of the era to top the pop charts.

Lockard, in his way, was still pushing down those barriers. His version of the Platters debuted as the first black act in Branson. “In Branson, we have found a home,” Lockard said.

With that comes an older audience, though Lockard insists this music still has relevance to the younger set.

“Most of them say their parents played it,” he said. “We ask them about it when they come. They have a level of respect. I tell them if it wasn’t for the Platters, there wouldn’t be any Boyz II Men.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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