The Drifters are a long-lasting American doo-wop and R&B/soul vocal group. They were originally formed to serve as a backing group for Clyde McPhatter (of Billy Ward and his Dominoes) in 1953.
The Drifters were the least stable of the great retro vocal groups, as they were low-paid musicians hired by George Treadwell, who owned the Drifters name. There have been 60 vocalists in the history of the Treadwell Drifters line.
There were three golden eras of the Drifters; the early 1950s, the 1960s, and the early 1970s (post-Atlantic period). From these, the first Drifters, formed by Clyde McPhatter, was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as "The Drifters".
The second Drifters, featuring Ben E. King (Stand by Me), was separately inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as "Ben E. King and the Drifters". In their induction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected four members from the first Drifters, two from the second Drifters, and one from the post-Atlantic Drifters.
Following Clyde McPhatter's departure in 1956, Treadwell ran through six different lead singers in two years before firing the entire group in 1958 and starting over from scratch.
Version 2.0 of the Drifters was a group centered around lead singer Benjamin Nelson and originally called the Five Crowns.
With that group taking on the new name "the Drifters," and with Nelson changing his to Ben E. King, a new era of success for the group began. Placed in the hands of producer Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller by their label, Atlantic Records, these new Drifters scored immediate hits with "There Goes My Baby" (1959) and "This Magic Moment" (1960) followed by the song that topped the Billboard pop charts on this day in 1960, "Save The Last Dance For Me."
But this was not the last lineup of the Drifters to enjoy success. Following Ben. E. King's departure in 1960, group member Rudy Lewis (Please Stay) took over lead singing duties on the hits "Up On The Roof" (1963) and "On Broadway" (1963), and following Lewis's sudden death in 1964, Johnny Moore took over and scored yet another hit with "Under The Boardwalk" (1964).
Considering the group's track record, it was little wonder that voters for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame selected the Drifters for induction in 1988 alongside the Beatles, the Supremes, the Beach Boys, and Bob Dylan.
The thorny question was, "Which Drifters to induct?" From among more than 30 singers who had been Drifters up to that point in time, the Hall of Fame selected seven for induction, including all four of the aforementioned lead singers: Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King, Rudy Lewis, and Johnny Moore.