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Herb Reed, the Last of the Original Platters, Passes Away at 83

Herb Reed, the man whose voice appears on every recording ever made by the Platters, has passed away at the age of 83.

According to his manager, Reed died on Monday in a Boston hospice after having a number of health problems including heart disease. He was the last surviving member of the original group.

Reed was one of the original six members of the Platters when they formed in 1953 along with Alex Hodge, Cornell Gunter, David Lynch, Joe Jefferson and Gaynel Hodge. They soon signed to Federal Records but had little success until hooking up with producer Buck Ram. Tony Williams had already replaced Gunter by that time and Ram made further changes, bringing in female voice Zola Taylor and, later, Paul Robi in place of Hodge.

One of the songs they recorded for Federal, Only You, was deemed unreleasable by the label, but they eventually went back in the studio to record it for their new label, Mercury, in 1955. Released in June of that year, the single went to the top of the R&B charts, where it stayed for seven weeks, and made it to 5 on the Pop charts, an unprecedented position for a group that was from the R&B genre.

Only You kicked the groups career into high gear. Before the end of 1956, they would have The Great Pretender (#1 Pop/#1 R&B), (You've Got) The Magic Touch (#4 Pop/#4 R&B), My Prayer (#1 Pop/#1 R&B), You'll Never Know (#11 Pop/#9 R&B) and It Isn't Right (#13 Pop/#10 R&B).

The group was very popular as in concert which built their reputation even farther. In 1958, they started a new string of hits using older standards updated to their style, producing Twilight Time (1958/#1 Pop/#1 R&B), Smoke Get's In Your Eyes (1959/#1 Pop/#3 R&B), Enchanted (1959/#12 Pop/#9 R&B) and Harbor Lights (1960/#8 Pop/#15 R&B).

Things turned sour for the group starting in 1959 after a scandal that caused radio stations to start dropping the Platters records from their playlists. Williams left the group for a solo career (Sonny Turner replaced him) and a lengthy lawsuit between Ram and Mercury kept the singers out of the studio.

Some members that left the group started their own version of the Platters which led to further legal actions, but it was Ram's version, which still included Reed, remained the one that made the charts. The Platters signed with Musicor and, in 1966, the resurged onto the R&B chart with I Love You 1,000 Times (#31 Pop/#6 R&B).

In 1969, Reed became the last of the original members of the group to quit but would eventually return after receiving an "official" license to use the group's name which he held until a 2002 legal case stripped Herb of the rights. He eventually was able to start working under the name again in 2009 when he won a major case in Nevada rewarding him with the rights to the name.

Reed and the Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1998.

Overall, over 110 singers have performed as a Platter in one group or another, but Herb Reed is the only one to be able to claim that he appeared on every record over the years, a history that lasted 59 years.

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