The Platters were one of the top vocal groups of the Fifties, delivering smooth, stylized renditions of pop standards. Like the Ink Spots a decade earlier, they were the most popular black group of their time, achieving success in a crooning, middle-of-the-road style that put a soulful coat of uptown polish on pop-oriented, harmony-rich material. Their lengthy string of hits began in 1955 with "Only You" and continued till the end of the decade, including four singles that reached #1: "The Great Pretender," "My Prayer," "Twilight Time" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." The secret of the Platters' success had to do with their choice of material: adult ballads and standards that predated the rock and roll era, which were delivered with crisp, impeccable harmonies framed by string-laden arrangements. Much of the credit is due to Buck Ram, the group's producer, manager and guiding light, who had worked with acts like the Ink Spots in the Forties.
The group got its start in Los Angeles in 1952 and made its first recordings a year later for the Federal label before moving to Mercury, where they remained until the mid-Sixties. An initially shifting lineup stabilized around five members: Tony Williams, David Lynch, Herb Reed, Paul Robi and Zola Taylor. During the latter half of the Fifties, the Platters were a global sensation, touring the world as "international ambassadors of musical goodwill" (per their record label) and appearing in a number of rock and roll-themed movies, including Rock Around the Clock and The Girl Can't Help It. Though the Platters thereafter experienced several personnel changes, beginning with the 1960 departure of lead vocalist Williams for a solo career, they continued to enjoy sporadic chart success in the Sixties with such songs as "With This Ring." Even after their high profile waned on the national scene, the Platters remained popular along the Southeast coast, where they rank among the foremost exemplars of the "beach music" sound. Elsewhere, they're fondly remembered as a throwback to a golden era when pop, rhythm & blues and rock and roll flowed together in perfect harmony.