The year is 1953, the place Los Angeles, California. It is here a recently discharged young Army veteran named Herb Reed recruited Cornell Gunther, Joe Jefferson, and Alex Hodge to form a vocal quartet he would eventually name The Platters.
The name came from the metal disk, or “platters,” that rotate vinyl records and facilitate the playing of recordings on the turntable of a phonograph. These four men were The “original” Platters.
(L to R) HERB REED, DAVID LYNCH, TONY WILLIAMS, ZOLA TAYLOR, AND PAUL ROBI.
After a failed attempt at recording Only You (and You Alone)on Federal Records in 1954, Jefferson, Gunther and Hodge left the group and were immediately replaced by Tony Williams, David Lynch, and Paul Robi. That same year, Zola Taylor joined becoming the first female vocalist to break through the gender divide as part of an all-male vocal group. This second lineup of the newly formed quintet is often mistakenly referred to as the “original Platters.”
That same year, The Platters worked with music producer, acclaimed song writer and artist manager Buck Ram to sign a major deal with Mercury Records. It was then that the trendsetting group re-recorded Only You (and You Alone), launching them onto the national stage, but it was reportedly done in error.
As the story goes, a popular U.S. DJ of the time named Alan Freed accidentally played the single on air during a "prime" time that was traditionally reserved for only "white artists.” The romantic ballad, based on the then groundbreaking Tin Pan Alley sound, became an instant hit with the public and would eventually reach number five on the pop charts, pioneering the “new sound” of rock ’n’ roll as we know it today.
The follow-up single, The Great Pretender, propelled The Platters to the number one position on the pop charts, providing the launch pad for their meteoric rise as crossover artists. As a result, The Platters became the first African-American group to achieve international superstardom.
The Platters enjoyed great success, charting several number one hits during the 1950s and 1960s.
Through their recordings and performances, Reed and the other members made The Platters famous and of major importance in the music industry.
Only You (and You Alone) and The Great Pretender were named songs of the century and entered in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999 and 2002 respectively.
Litigation involving The Platters trademark has been ongoing for more than half a century, due to the proliferation of fake “Platters” groups and individuals falsely claiming to be “Platters.” This paved the way for a plethora of legal battles over control of the name and rights to the iconic quintet. Competing versions of so-called “Platters” groups sprang up worldwide with unscrupulous identity thieves trying to cash in on The Platters historical success.
The public was consistently deceived and misled for years until 2010 when Reed and his manager, Frederick J. Balboni, Jr., hired Eric Sommers, an East Coast intellectual property litigator, to stop the myriad identity thieves from preying on the public.
(L to R) FREDERICK J. BALBONI JR. & HERB REED
The trio became a dynamic team, and together they worked tirelessly with local West Coast counsel John Krieger of Dickinson and Wright to correct half a century of wrongs.
The legal strategy, executed by Sommers, set out to untangle the dark legal web that had been spun over the vocal group. They developed a precedent-setting winning legal strategy, brilliantly navigating a long and winding road to victory. Reed and his company, Herb Reed Enterprises, LLC (“HRE”), initiated a series of lawsuits, which reinforced his sole stake in The Platters name, finding his rights superior to all others.
One year before his death on June 4, 2012, Reed felt the thrill of a long overdue victory after a federal judge ruled he had superior rights above all others to the group's legendary name. This ruling, in principle, was subsequently validated by three other federal judges as well as two, three-judge panels in the 2nd and 9th US Circuit Courts of Appeal.
In 2015, The Platters returned to the recording studio, and after a 50-year hiatus, released the CD Back to Basics with The Platters® LIVE! This sold-out, limited edition 10-song LP eerily captures the blueprint of the original sounds of the hit songs made famous by the The Platters in a live studio recording.
In July of 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Herb Reed Enterprises, LLC with the trademark, thus granting Herb’s dying wish that the legacy of The Platters be secured and that The Platters’ music live on, evolve and continue to influence America’s diverse soundtrack.
Because of these actions, there is now only ONE legally authorized vocal group performing around the world today. All rights to The Platters name have been consolidated into HRE, which is listed on the principal register with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Registration Number 5,001,469.
If you see the famous registration mark ® after the name in all forms of visual media then you know you’re experiencing the authentic vocal group that is part of The Platters historical lineage!
In keeping with Reed’s wishes, The Platters continue to evolve and entertain music fans of all ages worldwide.
In addition to continuing to tour the world, The Platters are involved in myriad projects and are planning to go into the studio soon to record much anticipated new music highlighting an evolved, contemporized sound founded on the music tradition that won The Platters their enduring international music acclaim.