The world of ’50s doo-wop has lost one of its founding fathers.
Herb Reed, the originator, bass voice and last surviving genuine member of “Only You” and “The Great Pretender” hitmakers The Platters, died in a Boston-area hospice on Monday, reports the Associated Press. He was 83.
Reed’s health had been in decline and he suffered with chronic lung problems, said his manager Fred Balboni.
One of the brightest sounds back when youth was first taking over the airwaves, The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, 37 years after they first banded together in Los Angeles.
1955’s “The Great Pretender,” the first of the group’s No. 1 singles, “was also the first song by an R&B vocal group to top the pop charts, thus announcing the arrival of doo-wop,” reported Rolling Stone.
Their other chart-toppers were ”My Prayer,” ”Twilight Time” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
A Kansas City, Mo., native Reed came up with the group’s name because radio deejays at the time referred to records as platters. The group, which began as a quartet, broke in their act by playing amateur gigs along the California coast while still keeping their day jobs. Besides Reed, the other original members were Joe Jefferson, Cornell Gunther and Alex Hodge.
According to AP, Reed, a Boston area resident since the ’70s, also had homes in Atlanta and Miami. Professionally, he was the only member of the group (whose members changed over the years) to appear on all of their nearly 400 recordings, and he continued touring – doing up to 200 shows a year – until last year.
His survivors are a son, Herbert Jr., and three grandsons.
Crediting his own survival to lesson learned as an impoverished child, Reed never splurged on fancy cars and the other trappings of a hit musician.
“I was poor, and I’m not ashamed to share those stories now, particularly with young people. I was so hungry I couldn’t think. I would skip school because I was so hungry,” he told an interviewer in 2012, reports the Boston Business Journal. “I never thought that it would keep going, and I never wanted to assume we’d keep getting checks.”