Carl Gardner, the undisputed leader of the Coasters from their beginnings until the mid-2000's, has passed away. Reports stay that he died of congestive heart failure at a Port St. Lucie, FL Hospice Home were he had been living with Alzheimer's. He was 83.
The Coasters' official website posted:
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Carl Gardner, Sr., 83, founder and lead singer of the Coasters, died Sunday June 12, 2011 in Port St. Lucie, Florida after a long illness. Carl had been ill with congestive heart failureCarl, Jr. added on the page:
and vascular dementia for some time. Please remember his wife Veta, son Mickey (Carl Jr.), and his family in your prayers.
My Father passed away Sunday, June 12th. Sharing my most deepest feelings of the love that my father and I shared -- especially when we were on stage together.Sam Moore, of Sam and Dave, also issued a statement, saying "Carl Gardner was one of the great lead voices of the rock and roll era."
Gardner received his music education while hanging around various Los Angeles clubs in the early-50, taking in jazz, pop and, eventually, R&B. In 1953, he was introduced to the R&B group The Robins with whom he started to substitute as lead singer, moving up to a full recording member the next year. The group took off in 1955 with Smokey Joe's Cafe, written by frequent group collaborators Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, reaching number 10 on the R&B charts.
The success of the song got Lieber and Stoller a contract with Atlantic Records and, not knowing how they fit in with the new arrangements, the Robins broke up; however, Gardner and bass Bobby Nunn formed a new group, The Coasters, with baritone Billy Guy, tenor Leon Hughes and guitarist Adolph Jacobs. The new group continued to work with Lieber and Stoller and were soon signed with Atlantic.
The group scored right out of the box with Down in Mexico (1956/#8) and followed up with four number 1 R&B records over the next three years (Searchin' (1957/#1), Youngblood (1957/#1), Yakety Yak (1958/#1), Poison Ivy (1959/#1)). Yakety Yak also topped the pop charts and it's followup, Charlie Brown with to number 2 in both Pop and R&B.
Numerous personnel changes occurred over the years with the one common member being Gardner who never left the group for the rest of his life (there were multiple versions of the group touring but Gardner held the legal claim to the name). When Lieber and Stoller left Atlantic, the group followed them over to Columbia's Date subsidiary but only found lower chart success with their final charting hit being a 1971 version of Love Potion No. 9.
Gardner retired from the group in 2005, staying around as a consultant in helping his son, Carl, Jr. as the new lead vocalist for the "official" version of the group.
In 1987, Garner and the Coasters became the first vocal group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and, twelve years later, they also became members of the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.