Anthology "The Drifters Legends"


As in all stories, the historical backdrop lends a certain charm and mystic to the subject matter in focus. This certainly is no different in the rise in culture, its people, music and fashion of the times. Harlem New York the 1920s 30s Central and West Harlem was the focus of the "Harlem Renaissance", an outpouring of artistic work without precedent in the American black community. Though Harlem musicians and writers are particularly well remembered, the community has also hosted numerous actors and theater companies, including the New Heritage Repertory Theater, National Black Theater, Lafayette Players, Harlem Suitcase Theater, The Negro Playwrights, American Negro Theater, and the Rose McClendon Players. The Apollo Theater opened on 125th Street on January 26, 1934, in a former burlesque house. The Savoy Ballroom, on Lenox Avenue, was a renowned venue for swing dancing, and was immortalized in a popular song of the era, "Stompin' At The Savoy". In the 1920s and 1930s, between Lenox and Seventh Avenues in central Harlem, over 125 entertainment places operated, including speakeasies, cellars, lounges, cafes, taverns, supper clubs, rib joints, theaters, dance halls, and bars and grills. 133rd Street, known as "Swing Street", became known for its cabarets, speakeasies and jazz scene during the Prohibition era, and was dubbed "Jungle Alley" because of "inter-racial mingling" on the street. Some jazz venues, including most famously the Cotton Club, where Duke Ellington played, and Connie's Inn, were restricted to whites only. Others were integrated, including the Renaissance Ballroom and the Savoy Ballroom. Rock and roll dominated popular music in the latter half of the 1950s. The musical style originated and evolved in the United States during the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to much of the rest of the world. Its immediate origins lay in a mixing together of various black musical genres of the time, including rhythm and blues and gospel music; with country and western and Pop. In 1951, Cleveland, Ohio disc jockey Alan Freed began playing rhythm and blues music for a multi-racial audience, and is credited with first using the phrase "rock and roll" to describe the music. Artists such as Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Big Joe Turner, and Gene Vincent released the initial rhythm and blues-influenced early rock and roll hits. On the other side of the spectrum, R&B-influenced acts like The Crows, The Penguins, The El Dorados and The Turbans all scored major hits, and groups like The Platters, with songs including "The Great Pretender" (1955), and The Coasters with humorous songs like "Yakety Yak" (1958), ranked among the most successful rock and roll acts of the period.                                   This is the enviroment that a young man named Clyde McPhatter entered after migrating to New York City from North Carolina. Clyde Lensey (or Lensley) McPhatter was born in Durham, North 
Carolina on November 15 1932. His family was heavily-rooted in the church, with his father a minister and his mother an organist. When his family moved north to New York's Harlem in the late 40s, Clyde began singing with a gospel group: the Mount Lebanon Singers (from the Mount Lebanon Church on 132 Street). The rest of the group, at the time Clyde joined, consisted of: Charlie White (second tenor), William "Chick" Anderson (tenor), Wilmer "Lover" Baldwin (tenor and guitar), David Baldwin (baritone), and James "Wrinkle" Johnson (bass). (David and Wilmer were brothers of author James Baldwin.) This association along with others that Clyde would encounter through music battles with other groups of the period would set the frame work that would later become The Drifters. It was through such musical encounters that he met Bill Pinkney and the Thrasher Brothers Gerhart and Andrew.    Butch Leake

Limited Edition

There was this sense of feeling that I was to play an important part in the long-term history. Maintaining the legacy by know means is and easy task as there are so many facets that apply that makeup, what one might call the Drifters experience from 1953-present. Part of the problem if that is what it is called are the many takes on that history by historians and people in general who might see things from a narrow point of view. That narrow point of view being one's bias towards other aspects of the ongoing story. Most of us have our likes within the era which appeal to our musical upbringing. Unique, here we are talking about three golden ages of Drifter music. Currently under the brand an attempt is being made to bring in a new age of music. 










After a half century or more The Drifters have produced a cast of more than sixty or more singers through it's ever changing lineup.
From the early 50 unto today the group, for the most part, was visioned as a brand by it's founding members and this concept continues as a method to breath new life into the brand Idea. Though for those who owned and controlled the group this has been a most profitable venture over the years, it hasn't played out that way for most of the membership who filled its ranks. Yet the Drifters for all of it's historical value is a story within a story that exceeds much of what we come to know as a great success story in Black entertainment. Back in the early fifties when the first classical group of Drifters were first put together to compliment the then Legendary Clyde McPhatter. Who then would have known the story that was about to be written. With a catalog that is as impressive as any of the great bands of the era or after, The Drifters have managed to sell over two hundred and fourteen million singles and one hundred and fourteen million albums and as of late in 2012 has gone gold again with one hundred thousand CD's sold through Sony Music.










Limited Edition

On Broadway

A Pictorial History of The Drifters

The Companion Book To Anthology The Drifters Legends

Broadway 7 PIXEL 1.jpg

Now Available!

On Broadway Pictorial History Of The Drifters....
The companion book to Anthology The Drifters Legends with newly restored photos, New color adaptations and much more.  by Butch Leake.

The Drifter War's Battle for Supremacy

The Drifters, what is left for this organization that has spanned more than six decades. A legacy which is quite remarkable in the history of musical entertainment. Claiming more than 60 members through its ranking, 214 million singles and 114 million albums sold worldwide. A legacy that has had it share of drama, laughter, and tragedy. Sometimes looking like a play or book or that film story that we commonly follow. For me, it all began way back in the early 70s finding oneself trying to grasp the reality of opportunity that fell into my lap and dealing with the early stories of the group and the stories that were to unfold in the following years. Though it was impossible for me to know at the time what my station was to be in the continuing saga.  There was this sense of feeling that I was to play an important part in the long-term history.  Here you will find many of the selections from a blog I started some years ago titled The Drifter War's a continuing battle between various factions around The Drifter Trademark.

The Drifter War's "Battle for Supremacy" the complete paperback book

will be available soon! You can now download the 20 page introductory to this tumultuous history by clicking on the link to the right....