Herb Reed, the last surviving member of R&B group the Platters’ original lineup, passed away at a hospice facility in Boston on Monday. He was 83. Reed was the only person in the group to perform on all of their 400-plus songs. Until last year, Reed was on the continuously road with the Platters, singing their hits at more than 200 shows per year. Impressive, to say the least.
The Platters, widely considered to be one of the most successful vocal groups from that era, formed in Los Angeles back in 1953. The original lineup, which consisted of Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson, Gaynel Hodge, and Herb Reed, managed to land a record deal with Federal Records that same year.
After a few personnel changes, the group released a handful of R&B gospel songs for the label, though they didn’t really find an audience outside of a handful of folks on the West Coast. One song they tackled, “Only You (And You Alone)” was considered “unreleasable” by the label. After it was piece was re-recorded for Mercury Records, the tune would become one of The Platters’ most memorable endeavors. Interestingly, the song was originally penned for the Ink Spots by accomplished songwriter Buck Ram.
Over the course of their career, the vocal group unleashed 40 songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, with “The Great Pretender”, “My Prayer”, “Twilight Time”, and “Smokes Gets in Your Eyes” reaching the number one position.
Since its inception, the group has experienced quite a few alterations to their lineup. Over all, 116 singers/musicians have participated in the Platters at one point or another. However, through all of the changes, Herb Reed stuck around, lending his deep voice to anything and everything related to the group.
Due to a plethora of legal battles and lawsuits that ultimately divided the members, there were four groups touring under the Platters banner before Reed’s passing, including the Buck Ram Platters, Herb Reed and His Platters, Monroe Powell and the Platters, and Sonny Turner, the latter of whom was the group’s former leader singer.
“I have to laugh because when you ask me how I feel about it, I’m irate, I’m infuriated,” Reed said of these groups in 2007. “I’ve lost 25 weeks of work a year.”
Herb Reed will certainly be missed, though his legacy lives on. Take a moment today to listen to the Platters’ hit single, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.