Strange, the people we meet in life. Sometimes we know them, yet don’t know them. It’s only later we realize, we’ve met someone special. This tale has a touch of the ironic. In 1986 my mother informed me, the small mall where she worked, would bring in a famous band; The Drifters. This version called itself, The Original Drifters. Many bands have claimed to be The Drifters, over the years. I doubted any living original Drifter still performed. The Drifters go back to the earliest years of Rock and Roll. To meet an original member, would be to meet a recording artist, who helped launch Rock and Roll.




    The Drifters I saw called themselves The Original Drifters featuring Bill Pinkney. Bill Pinkney appeared old enough to be a member of the original band, founded by the late Clyde McPhatter. Clyde was drafted into the U.S. Army and sold the ownership rights to The Drifters, to their manager.


    I met Bill Pinkney, after the concert, got his autograph, then thanked him for coming and thanked him for their great music. He was a kind, gracious, humble star; a thankful man.


    I regret, I made no attempt to speak to or seek autographs from other band members. I am sure they were use to such slights. Half the age of Bill Pinkney, in some cases, they obviously toiled anonymously, in the music business. Playing with Bill Pinkney was, for them, a major accomplishment. I should have acknowledged that.





    Our lives moved on; years passed. Then, I bought a computer and went online. I looked up The Drifters, learning their history, both good and bad. I discovered why Bill Pinkney called his band, The Original Drifters. Clyde McPhatter, as mentioned, without thought, sold The Drifters name, to the band’s manager, upon going into the Army. The Drifters were hired employees of Clyde McPhatter. That was how many bands worked in those days; a leftover from the Big Band era. When he sold the band name to their manager, the manager became the owner. He could hire and fire members, as employees. The Drifters name belonged to him and the members were paid employees, not equal partners in The Drifters.


    Despite the loss of Clyde McPhatter to the U.S. Army, his hand-picked band, with a replacement vocalist, went on to score a number of hits, in the early years of Rock. The future looked bright. Bill Pinkney, and other members, asked for a pay raise. They were not highly compensated, nor were they asking for a large increase in pay. They were reasonable men, looking at the facts of their situation. The band was earning enough to be paid more. The manager fired those asking for a raise, replacing them with members of another band. Suddenly Bill Pinkney, and other band mates, had no job, no band, and no income.





    More, as the years passed, they weren’t on some of The Drifters biggest hits. They were responsible for building the band into a significant success, but never got to share in the full fruits of their labor. When I met Bill Pinkney, doubting he was an original member of The Drifters, I didn’t realize, I was meeting one of the pioneers of Rock Music. My ignorance haunts me. However, I feel a sense of honor for having met one of the pioneers or Rock Music and found him such a wonderful gentleman. I am not sure how many charting songs Bill Pinkney was on with The Drifters. However, I believe he took the lead on their version of White Christmas, which may be more beautiful than Bing Crosby’s version, if that is possible.





    Bill Pinkney was a true historian; one who kept alive the earliest years of The Drifters. They performed the later hits, as well, as I recall. In a sense, Bill Pinkney did his best to preserve all that was good, about The Drifters. He was a man wronged, yet a man determined to succeed, rather than nurse a grudge, for life. Bill Pinkney was about the music. I value meeting Bill Pinkney and The Original Drifters, as he aptly named his band. When he died in 2011, I felt the loss of a great man; one of Rock’s true legends. I am sorry it took so many years to find out just who this man was, I met that day.


    If you tune into JST KLSX internet radio, you will be able to hear, plus request, The Drifters hits from their earliest years to their last chart song.  If you wish to read more music posts, search online for The Music Muse Interview, my official music blog.  I'll be back with more in the future!  Thanks for reading.