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Saturday, November 25, 2023

Saturday Music Post - Drifting Up, On, Under

Among their big hits in the early 1960s, The Drifters charted three songs with prepositions beginning the titles: "Up on the Roof," "On Broadway," and "Under the Boardwalk." The group itself was extremely unstable, with lead and backup singers coming and going at frequent intervals. Both Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King were Drifters' lead singers before going on to successful solo careers, although neither sang lead on the "prepositional" songs featured in this post. The name for the group was owned by their manager George Treadwell, a former jazz trumpeter and once the husband of Sarah Vaughn. Treadwell cycled over 60 vocalists under The Drifters' name, paying most of them poorly, in a lineage often described as "Treadwell's Drifters." Early members of the group sometimes competed under other names, including "The Original Drifters," led by early member Bill Pinckney, who obtained the rights to the variant name in binding arbitration with Treadwell.

The clips are at The Faculty Lounge.

"Up on the Roof" was written by Gerry Goffin and Carol King and released in 1962 with Rudy Lewis singing lead (Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King having already left). Goffin, the lyricist, said it was his favorite of all their songs. It reached number 4 on the Hot 100.

"On Broadway" was released in 1963, with Rudy Lewis again singing lead. It completed The Drifters' trifecta of Brill Building songwriters, having been written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, with an assist from Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.  The cut featured Phil Spector on guitar, though I don't think he was acknowledged in the line "I can play this here guitar." It reached number 9 on the Hot 100.

"Under the Boardwalk," by Art Resnick and Kenny Young (born Shalom Giskan), was released in 1964 and reached number 4 on the Hot 100. It was originally set to be recorded with Rudy Lewis as the lead singer, but he died the night before the session of a suspected heroin overdose. Rather than reschedule the recording, apparently at the insistence of Treadwell, the group promoted Johnny Moore to lead singer. Moore had joined only a year earlier, but he could really hit the high notes.  I don't know who played guitar, but it wasn't Phil Spector. 

The clips are at The Faculty Lounge.

Posted by Steve Lubet on November 25, 2023 at 05:50 AM | Permalink


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