The group began as an all male quartet in 1953, singing doo-wop where ever they could. Members Tony Williams, David Lynch, Herb Reed and Alex Hodge started calling themselves "The Platters" after the name used in those days for records. Their first big break came in 1954 when the group signed with manager Buck Ram (a successful composer/arranger/talent agent), who signed them to Federal Records in 1953.
When a few early recordings didn't live up to expectations, Ram fired Alex Hodge and replaced him with Paul Robi and added a 15 year old girl named Zola Taylor, the latter of Shirley Gunter and the Queens. The band then headed to the studio to record what would become their first regional hit with its seventh single, "Only You."
Mercury Records quickly scooped up the Platters and reissued "Only You", which cracked the top 5 in the U.S. in 1955. It was soon followed by the #1 "The Great Pretender" in 1956. Later in the year the Platters appeared in the rock 'n' roll movies "Rock Around the Clock" and "The Girl Can't Help It." More hits for the group that year were "My Prayer" (#1), "The Magic Touch" (#4) and "You'll Never Know" (#11).
In 1958, the Platters reached #1 with two singles: the classics "Twilight Time" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." The latter was also an Australian chart-topper, and the band was very popular in the UK.
Scandal hit the Platters the following year when the band's male members (who were black) were arrested in Cincinnati and accused of having sexual relations with four female minors (three of whom were white). In the racially-divided atmosphere of the time, it was a career-damaging incident. Though the Platters were acquitted, much of the public was outraged. Following the incident, the band had only one more top-10 single, "Harbor Lights" (1960).
After a few more releases, such as 1961's "If I Didn't Care," lead singer Tony Williams quit to go solo and was replaced by Sonny Turner. Despite this event, the record label continued to issue old singles featuring Williams for the next three years, but none of their efforts could match their earlier success.
The original line-up disbanded during this period, and various members drifted in and out of the group for years. The Platters' biggest later-period hit was 1967's "With This Ring", but after that, the hit records stopped for good.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990 and all of the original members were in attendance except David Lynch, who died of cancer in January, 1981.
Several different acts billing themselves as "The Platters" have toured the oldies circuits for years. Williams and Ram battled in court over the right to use the group's name before their deaths in the '90s.
All of the original Platters are now deceased: David Lynch (January 1981), Paul Robi (February 1989), Buck Ram (January 1991) Tony Williams (August 1992), Zola Taylor (April 2007), and Herb Reed (June 2012).
Audiences of all ages reacted enthusiastically to their performances, whether they were performing for a small group or tens of thousands, as they did during the closing ceremonies of the 1996 Olympics.