Clyde McPhatter Biography

Clyde Lensley McPhatter, 15 November 1932, Durham, North Carolina, USA, d. 13 June 1972, New York City, New York, USA. For three years, McPhatter was the lead singer in the seminal R&B vocal group Billy Ward And His Dominoes. He left in 1953 to form the Drifters, whose early releases were enhanced by the singer’s emotional, gospel-drenched delivery. In 1954 McPhatter was drafted into the US Army, where he entertained fellow servicemen. Such work prompted a solo career, and the vibrant ‘Seven Days’ (1956) was followed by several other superb performances, many of which, including ‘Treasure Of Love’, ‘Without Love (There Is Nothing)’ and ‘A Lover’s Question’, became R&B standards. A hugely influential figure, McPhatter inspired a generation of singers. His work was covered by Elvis Presley, Ry Cooder and Otis Redding, but his departure from the Atlantic Records label to MGM Records in 1959 precipitated an artistic decline. He had several minor hits on Mercury Records during the early 60s, and arguably his finest work was the US Top 10 single ‘Lover Please’ in 1962. The follow-up, ‘Little Bitty Pretty One’, became standard fodder for many UK beat groups in the early 60s (it was recorded by the Paramounts). The singer became increasingly overshadowed by new performers and his career started to wane in the mid-60s. Beset by personal problems, he came to Britain in 1968, but left two years later without an appreciable change in his fortunes. A 1970 album on Decca Records, Welcome Home, was his last recording. McPhatter, one of R&B’s finest voices, died from a heart attack as a result of alcohol abuse in 1972. He was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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