(24) Family Feud in The Platters
in Japanese

The Doo Wop group that made spectacular hit records in the 1950s, The Platters, started in 1953 when Herb Reed, the bass singer, teamed up with 3 others and won prize after prize in amateur shows. In 1954, a female singer, Zola Taylor joined as the 5th member, and song writer Buck Ram backed them up, which garnered them a contract with Mercury Records in 1955. Thence, we have been able to listen to many million sellers such as Only You; The Great Pretender; My Prayer; Twilight Time; Youfll Never, Never Know and Sixteen Tons.

The records that came onto the market in the late e50s were made after Alex Hodges was replaced by Paul Robi, when the lead tenor was Tony Williams (back left, d:1992), bass Herb Reed, tenor David Lynch (d:1981), baritone Paul Robi (d:1989), and Zola Taylor. This was the golden era of The Platters.

Now, in September 2001, when terrorists hijacked two commercial flights and rammed into New Yorkfs World Trade Center buildings, a performer scheduled to appear at BLUE NOTE Tokyo could not make it because his flight was canceled.

The Platters

The Platters, who were touring Japan at that time was called upon to fill in, but since this was a very sudden change of schedule, there was no time to promote the sales of the tickets. I was asked to gather as many as I could for their show. I managed to mobilize more than 30 people to attend it. Of course, none of the original members in this photograph were in the groupe.

One of the mobilized brought with him a flyer of The Platters, saying, gThe Platters are coming at the end of the year, and I thought you might want to join me.h On this flyer was the title, gSonny Turner with the Plattersh, and the photograph was of an entirely different group. Sonny Turner was one of the members of The Platters during the e60s for about 10 years as the lead tenor after Tony Williams.

gWhatfs this? Who then are The Platters who are singing in front of us right now?h

The next day, I saw Yasushi Sawada, so I related this to him, and his reply was, gThere are 7 or 8 Platters. If you go into the countryside, itfs so easy to get a crowd with their name.h@So, after I returned home, I did a search and got a big surprise. There were at least 7 groups in the US, and over 20 when one counted the groups active in Great Britain and France! This is one big joke! What a mess!

Herb Reed and The Platters

The Platters (large plate, meaning records) is a blue-blooded name, first named by Herb Reed himself in 1953. When Paul Robi, who was a member of The Platters in the 1960s, left the group, he started touring with a new group that included his wife calling themselves gThe Plattersh. Since then, there had been a long law suit going on over the legitimate right to the name of gThe Plattersh.

Sonny Turner, who was scheduled to tour Japan at the end of that year was also a break off from the original Platters. Also, Monroe Powell, who was the lead tenor in the e70s, now has another group. Who were gThe Plattersh that we heard at BLUE NOTE? Were they a group totally unrelated to the original group? Or was someone related to the original group in one way or another?

In April 1999, the San Francisco Circuit Court ruled that Herb Reed had the copyright to the name gThe Plattersh. In August 2000, the US Patent and Trademark Office posted that the name gThe Plattersh as registered to Herb Reed.

But, on February 5th, 2001, the New York District Court in Brooklyn ruled that Herb Reed could call his group gHerb Reed and The Plattersh, but not gThe Plattersh. He accepted this ruling, but he immediately appealed to a higher court that other groups may not use the name gThe Plattersh in various forms.

Even if the other groups are break offs, it does not seem to be an easy matter to arrive at the conclusion that others who are connected with the original Platters in one way or another should be deprived of the use of the name. I suppose it is going to take some more years before any conclusion can be made.

Herb Reed sang as the leader of The Platters from the beginning until 1968, but had not sung since then for a long time. After all the twists and turns, he is now singing modestly in Massachusetts. The old man in the middle is Herb Reed. Ifd like to say that this is the legitimate Platters, but as of 2004, the data I have is as follows.

Herb Reed and The Platters*
Sonny Turner with The Platters*
The Platters Featuring The Legendary Monroe Powell*
Jones & Mathews Tribute To The Platters
An All-Star Platters Revue
The Buck Ram Platters*
The World Famous Platters

The Platters
Bernard Purdie Salutes The Platters
The Magic Platters (France)
The Amazing Platters
Zola Taylor's Platters*
The Legendary Platters
The Golden Platter
The Magic Platters (Deutchland)
Sounds of The Platters (United Kingdom)
Joe Coleman's Platters
Platters Eighty One
Jesse Furgeson's Platters

These are the groups active now. The group with the asterisk includes original members or members who sang once with the original group.

Buck Ram was the songwriter/manager of the Platters and wrote their hit songs in the e50s. He himself is not a singer, so does not sing. Buck Ram organized his own version of The Platters and campaigned for a recording contract with Mercury Records, but they refused saying they didnft want any Platters without Tony Williams. I agree with this.

Everyone felt Tony Williamsf lead was the most attractive. He was followed by Sony Turner, then Monroe Powell, but some of the original members did not like the new lead vocals, so they left the group and started their own in search of a lead singer like Tony Williams.

Paul Robi continued The Platters for approximately 20 years with Elmer Hopper as the lead. Paul Robi died in 1989.

It is 30 years since Reed, Robi and Ram started a three-cornered battle over the Platters name. During this time, the verdict went to Ram, then back to Robi, and in the meanwhile, both of them have died. Nearly 20 groups scattered around the world are calling themselves gThe Plattersh. This dispute is yet to see the end. The Plattersf name is all that attractive.

Therefs a similar tale about the legitimacy of the trademark gNorenh curtain of a famous gSobah (Japanese noodle) restaurant in Azabu-Jyuban Nagasaka.

Tony Williams himself said that the only singer who is good enough to sing his hit songs is Elmer Hopper.

The very same Elmer Hopper one day sent Shakushigakudo Master an email asking about something he wanted to know. He asked about news on some Japanese musicians. He didnft know that Hidehiko Matsumoto had died. He had toured Japan often during the e70s and e80s. He now tours as the Mills Brothers with son John II of the youngest of the original Mills brothers, Donald.

In October 2005, John Mills II and Elmer Hopper toured Japan as the Mills Brothers. I hadnft thought that they would be able to make a tour here, so we all were very happy to be able to meet in person. What a strange coincidence. I had been corresponding with John II since 2003 and with Elmer since 2004 via the internet.