Enjoy the classic sounds of the Drifters, Coasters, Platters at Byham Theater
The Drifters, Cornell Gunter’s Coasters and The Platters. Any one of these rock and roll legends is capable of turning back the clock and generating a jukebox full of classic songs, such as “Under the Boardwalk” (The Drifters), “Yakety Yak,” (The Coasters), “The Great Pretender” (The Platters) and so many more.
Bring the trio of ’50s and ’60s hit makers together on one stage for one performance and music lovers will surely have a special nostalgic evening to remember.
Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will present the concert at 7 p.m. April 11 at the Byham Theater, Pittsburgh. It’s the same show that played the Las Vegas Strip for nearly a decade.
With a combined playbook of 94 charted records and 45 top 10 hits, The Drifters, Coasters and Platters all get their time in the spotlight in the show, says Jerome Jackson, the current lead vocalist for The Drifters.
A great time for music
Speaking from his home in Las Vegas, Jackson says the show represents an era that was “a great time for music,” he says. “The songs were very simplistic and attractive and touched people with love and feelings. The best part of it is that it’s entertaining and makes people feel good.”
The concert consists of three acts, with each group performing 30 minutes of their biggest hits, followed by a closing performance together. Like many classic rock concerts, the show draws audiences comprised not only of original fans of ’50s and ’60s sounds — but their children and grandchildren.
“It’s so wonderful to see so many kids at the show,” Jackson says. “We bring them up on stage and they just have fun.” The music lends itself to a family atmosphere, he says, adding with a laugh that “there’s no cursing, and you can understand the words.”
Jackson has been with the doo-wop and R&B/soul vocal group for 29 years, initially singing backup before following in the footsteps of former lead singers Clyde McPhatter, Ben E. King and Rudy Lewis.
Gospel singer start
He auditioned for The Drifters in the late 1980s while he was performing with the soul group Main Ingredient (“Everybody Plays the Fool”). Before then, most of Jackson’s singing was done in church and in high school as a member of the choir.
“I’d been singing a lot of gospel and didn’t really know many current songs since my mother always had gospel music on in the house,” he says. “I remember listening to ‘There Goes My Baby’ in ’59 as a little boy.”
Originally from Richland, Va., Jackson got his start in the music industry when he left home in 1971 with a group called The Creations to pursue a singing career and stayed on the road for most of his 20s.
“I’ve been at it for 40 years now,” he says. “I guess I could consider myself a pro.”
He admits that as he’s “pushing 70 now,” the only thing he doesn’t like about touring is the travel, since “I’m on the West Coast, so I’m the one on the red-eye for early morning flights to the East Coast.”
The best part of the business
He does still enjoy the “best part of the business, which is entertaining and making people feel good” with his music.
And he doesn’t rule out the possibility The Drifters may be back in the studio working on a new album, saying only that “there’s been flares in the air about us recording.”
The other headliners
The Coasters might best be known for their blend of music and comedy that shined with their fun hits such as “Yakety Yak in 1958,” “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy.” The original Coasters were inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, followed by The Drifters in 1988.
The Platters were one of the most popular doo-wop groups of the ’50s, with classic hits including “The Great Pretender,” “Only You,” “Twilight Time” and their rendition of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” Their sound was unique, originally led by the vocals of Tony Williams and Zola Taylor. The original group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.