Monday, April 22, 2013

Bell/Arista Drifters/The Pivotal point

By the late 60s Atlantic Records had all but ceased to release new recordings on the Drifters and the group of the nostalgic heyday had begun to fade away into the pages of history. The next recording session on 11/8/67, had only three voices - Johnny Moore, Rick Sheppard and Bill Fredricks. December of 1967, Charles Baskerville leaves the lineup and is replaced by baritone Milton Turner who sang with Bill Fredricks in The Packard's. Guitarist Abdul Samad also leaves around this time and is replaced By Butch Mann the former guitarist for Ruby and The Romantics of the (Our Day Will Come) fame. Milton Turner leaves in 1969, and is replaced by another Charles Thomas, who later changes his name to don so as not to confuse it with the original Charlie Thomas. Both Don and Charlie were from the state of Virginia. From this point on The Drifters as a group spiraled downward. Atlantic Records had only been releasing one record a year on the group from 1967 Thur 1971, non making it to the top 100 in the charts. In 1970, the group broke up over internal problems relating to management. Bill Fredricks stayed because of closeness with management who was then Faye Treadwell wife of the late George Treadwell. Johnny, Rick and Don wanted to go it alone, but nothing came out of these plans. Rick left and became a police officer, even though he continued singing with his own review. Johnny rejoined Bill Fredricks and the management. Don Thomas also returned for a short period.
1972 was to be the pivotal point or what you might call the Resurrection with the signing of the Drifters to then Bell Records through Greenway Music headed by writer and producer Roger Greenway. The lineup by this time featured Johnny Moore, Butch Leake, Bill Fredrick's and Grant Kitching's and it was this rendition of The Drifters that would propel the brand to the heights of it's former glory. There are those who try and down play the significance of the this lineup but there is no mistaking that the success of this signing brought the brand back from obscurity. Even now in 2013 the current brand of Drifter groups have yet to duplicate the success of the Bell/Arista years. Recently in 2012 the brand went gold with the release by Sony Music who now is custodian of the Bell/Arista catalog a CD titled The Drifters "Up On The Roof" the very best of... This CD sold 200,000 units but it was largely the Bell/Arista songs which carried this CD to it's gold status. It remains to be seen if the current official lineup of Drifters will duplicate the success? There are still the pros and cons of the Drifter sound and style that has to be met as far as hardcore Drifter fans who grew with the group over the years are concerned. The young generation of fans have know Idea of the significance of truly what made The Drifters what they were over the years and in my opinion current management miss the mark somewhat! maybe it's not needed we shall see. In the back round "The Drifter wars" continue as former members and the proliferation of wannabe drifter acts compete in this now cottage industry on both sides of the Atlantic. The story will continue to be recorded and written here as we move into the next decade of Drifter drama stay tuned......
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