lonnie johnson

lonnie johnson

Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters Watcha' Gonna Do

2d ago
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Clyde McPhatter possessed a unique vocal instrument, a lively high tenor that captured the promise and fervor of the teenage Fifties. McPhatter was one of the first singers to cross over from the church to the pop and R&B charts. He was a Baptist minister’s son who was born in North Carolina and spent his teen years up north, in New Jersey and New York. He made the crossing from sacred to secular at age 18, when he was invited to join singer Billy Ward’s vocal group, the Dominoes, after turning heads with his performance of Lonnie Johnson’s “Tomorrow Night” in an amateur show at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre. McPhatter was initially billed as “Clyde Ward,” and it was claimed that he was Billy’s brother. McPhatter’s radiant, gospel-trained tenor exploded onto the R&B scene in the early Fifties on “Do Something for Me,” “Have Mercy Baby,” “The Bells” and other of the Dominoes’ dozen R&B hits. On “Have Mercy Baby,” which topped the R&B charts for ten weeks in 1952, McPhatter worked himself to the brink of tears. By recasting gospel’s fervid emotionality - a style known as “sanctified” singing - in a rhythm & blues setting, he presaged what would come to be known as soul music. Chafing under Ward’s discipline, McPhatter left the Dominoes in 1953 and was quickly offered a recording contract and star billing with his own group by Ahmet Ertegun at Atlantic Records. Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters cut a string of hugely popular R&B hits, including “Such a Night,” “Money Honey” (the biggest R&B hit of 1953), “Honey Love” and a timeless doo-wop version of “White Christmas.”