There have been sixty people who can lay claim to being a vocal member of the Drifters, though for all intents and purposes most people only care (or are even aware of) about two of them, Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King.
I won’t talk much about McPhatter as he left the group six years before the Drifters’ lone number one song, but he is one of the few people who entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo and as part of a group (with the Drifters) and unlike Ringo Starr it is an earned accolade. Upon leaving the Drifters, McPhatter would sell his half interest in the band to former jazz musician George Treadwell, his manager who owned the other half of the band.
Treadwell was all about the bottom line and let’s just say that if you were a member of the Drifters in the 50’s, you’re wallet wasn’t exactly getting fat. At one point, Treadwell fired the entire group over money and there was little reason to think that any group that was put together under the Drifters banner without Clyde McPhatter would be a success, but if that were true I wouldn’t have talked about them at all.
One of the new recruits was Ben E. King, who would become the new lead tenor. With a final album to be produced for their label (Atlantic), the new version of the Drifters were sent to the studio but it would be under the successful writing team, now also a successful team of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller and what was referred to the “Golden Age” of the Drifters was set to commence.
The collection of gems would include “There Goes My Baby” (#2 in 1959), “Dance With Me” (#15 in 1959), “This Magic Moment” (#4 in 1960), “I Count the Tears” (#16 in 1961) and of course “Save the Last Dance For Me”, which many twenty something women think is a movie with Julia Stiles.
Ben E. King would leave the group over (what else) money, but he would have a very successful solo career, most notably with “Stand By Me”, a song that would go to #4 in 1961 and #9 in 1987 when it was re-released as part of the film with the same name. The Drifters would reload with a new lead singer, Rudy Lewis and continue the hits with “Up on the Roof” (#5 in 1963) and “On Broadway” (#9 in 1963) and later after Lewis died unexpectedly (possibly drug related but unconfirmed) “Under the Boardwalk” (#4 in 1964) with Johnny Moore taking the lead.
Like so many bands from this era the band splintered so much that multiple outfits toured simultaneously as The Drifters, unbeknownst to the public. Regardless of who toured in the last thirty years under that name, the members of the group who were represented them from 1953 to 1964 had one of the best music catalogues period.
Other Notable Songs that charted but did not go to number one in this time period: October 17, 1960 – October 23, 1960.
10/17/60: A Fool in Love by Ike & Tina Turner went to #27 but also went to #2 on the R&B Chart.
 Does having sixty members make having the name “The Drifters” one of the more accurate band names in history?
 Seriously…Ringo? Though I will say again how much I love Caveman.
 That movie was called “Save the Last Dance”, and how the hell didn’t Stiles become a bigger star? For a hot second she was poised to be an early 2000’s Julia Roberts.