The Platters Legacy
People often ask, “Who are The Platters? Are these the real Platters? Are there any original Platters left? Is there more than one Platters group? How do I know these Platters are authentic?”
To answer these questions, we must understand the history of this legendary vocal group.
The year is 1953, the place is Los Angeles, California. It is here that a recently discharged young Army veteran named Herb Reed recruited Cornell Gunther, Joe Jefferson and Alex Hodge and formed a quartet vocal group he would eventually name The Platters. The name came from the metal disk, or “platters,” that rotated vinyl records and encased recordings on the turntable of a phonograph. These four men were the original members of The Platters.
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 to become part of an all-male vocal group. This second lineup of the newly formed quintet is often mistakenly referred to as the “Original Platters.”
Also, that year, The Platters worked with music producer, acclaimed song writer and manager Buck Ram, signing a major deal with Mercury Records. It was then that the trendsetting vocal group re-recorded Only You (and You Alone), launching the vocal group onto the national stage, but it was reportedly done by mistake. As the story goes, a popular U.S. DJ named Alan Freed accidentally played the single on air during a "prime" time that was traditionally reserved for "white artists" only. 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. Through their recordings and original performances, Reed and the other original members of the group made the group “The Platters” famous and a group of major importance in the music industry. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998. 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.
The Platters enjoyed great success, charting several number one hits during the 1950s and 1960s. Litigation involving The Platters trademark has been ongoing for over 50 years, due to the proliferation of fake “Platters” groups and individuals falsely claiming to be Platters.
This opened the door to more than 50 years 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 deceived and misled for years until, in 2010, Reed and his manager, Frederick J. Balboni, Jr., hired Eric Sommers, an East Coast intellectual property litigator, to stop the music identity thieves from preying on the public.
Frederick J. Balboni Jr.
The trio became a dynamic team, and together they worked tirelessly with local West Coast counsel, led by stalwart John Krieger of Dickinson and Wright, to right half a century of wrongs. The team’s 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 executed on a road to victory. Reed and his company, Herb Reed Enterprises, LLC (“HRE”), engaged in a series of lawsuits which clarified Reed’s rights to The Platters name, finding his rights were superior to all others.
One year before his death on June 4, 2012, Reed could feel the thrill of a long overdue victory when a federal judge ruled that 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 Circuit Courts of Appeal. In July of 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Herb Reed Enterprises, LLC with the trademark, allowing for Herb’s dying wish that the legacy of The Platters be secured and that their music live on and continue to influence America’s diverse soundtrack. Because of these actions, there is now only ONE legally authorized The Platters vocal group to perform around the world today. Eventually all rights to The Platters were consolidated into HRE, the holder of the registered trademark The Platters, which is registered 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, you know you’re experiencing the authentic vocal group!
In keeping with the Reed’s wishes, The Platters continue to evolve and entertain music fans of all ages worldwide. With a solid foundation of multiple hit songs under their belts, The Platters today consist of all seasoned, veteran performers of film, stage and music from Broadway to Hollywood who continue to captivate audiences under the baton of Music Director Michael Larson.
In 2015, The Platters returned to the recording studio, and after a 50-year hiatus, they released the CD Back to Basics with The Platters® LIVE! This 10-song CD eerily captures the blueprint of the original sounds of the hit songs made famous by the group’s founders in a live studio recording.
The Platters 21st century injection into today’s music scene continues to open the hearts and minds of new generations of music consumers to the rich vocal and historical tradition that is making timeless melodies relevant to all ages of worldwide fans.
As evidence to the vocal group’s enduring legacy, The Platters’ classic hit My Prayer was featured in a key spot on the Oscar®-nominated soundtrack The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. In 2015, The Great Pretender was pivotal to a riveting “Russian roulette” scene in FOX Television’s Emmy Award-winning Series Empire.
Video of the scene from
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
featuring The Platters singing (My Prayer)
Image of the Scene from
Season 1 of "Empire"
featuring The Platters singing (The Great Pretender)
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 enduring international music acclaim.