Monday, October 1, 2007

The Great Clyde McPhatter

(Updated January 20, 2019)
Clyde's biggest pop hits were Lover's Question and Lover Please. He started as a lead singer in The Dominoes in the early 1950s, and then had his own Drifters group in 1954-55 on the Atlantic label. That made him huge. In 1955 after an army stint he went solo and stayed that way up to the 1970s, when he died in 1972.
My interest is his solo work. He was on Atlantic in the late 50s, MGM in 59-60, Mercury 1960-65, and smaller labels after that when his success faded.
His music had a glorious joy to it, and infectious melody and beat. A high tenor, he influenced many other such negro singers like Jackie Wilson and Dee Clark.
There are some good reissue CDs now which I can recommend. For Atlantic, "Deep Sea Ball". For MGM and Mercury there is "Rockin' and Boppin'" on the Ring Of Stars label, available at Continental Records ( At his wikipedia article there is an extensive list of his hits and singles.

Here is a 1962 single picture cover. It was sold recently by Times Square Records of New York and included the news clip of Clyde's death in 1972. Click the image to see it larger.

You won't find all his good stuff by any means, so here are some highlights which may be rare. Press a title to listen.

Atlantic label:
Thirty Days - 1956 - his fourth solo single, a rocker.
Come What May - 1958 - what a joyful rendition. Recorded by Elvis in 1965.
Lovey Dovey - 1959 - the Clovers song, in a definitive uptempo style, later copied by Buddy Knox.
Deep Sea Ball - 1960 - a nonhit single after he had left Atlantic. In fact recorded in 1958 obviously inspired by Rockin Robin, written by Winfield Scott.

Think Me A Kiss - 1960 - medium hit
Whisper Softly
The Glory Of Love
This Is Not Goodbye

Ta Ta (Just Like a Baby) - 1960 hit. Not remembered as much, maybe because the title TaTa means little, so I add the brackets to remind of the words. Written by Clyde and not intended as the hit side, it's a winner.
I'll Love You Til the Cows Come Home -1961 nonhit. A neat R&B composition. Flip of "Tomorrow Is a-Comin", which I think was meant as the A-side.
I Never Knew - 1961 #17 R&B, #56 Pop.
Happiness - The type of song that to me defines Clyde. Flip of "I Never Knew".
Deep In the Heart Of Harlem - 1964 moderate hit.
Happy Good Times - Flip of the Harlem single.
Three Rooms With Running Water - I think the second best song on his "Songs Of the Big City" album of 1964. It would have been a good choice for a single.
Baby Baby - 1964 single, from his album Live At The Apollo. This mono sounds better than the album stereo, where his voice in the middle is overpowered by the instruments on both sides. A rare nonhit single, his second-last on Mercury.


The second incarnation of The Drifters, 1955-59 without Clyde, often tried to use soundalike singers to recapture the McPhatter sound. There was David Baughan in 1954-55. There was Bobby Hendricks in 1958, singing on Drip Drop. In 1959 on the hit "(If You Cry) True Love True Love", everyone must have thought that lead Johnny Lee Williams was Clyde. If you can point out others make a comment. There were also separate individual singers. Listen to the comparisons:

Honey Bee - Drifters with David Baughan. Recorded ~1954 but released in 1961 on the back of Some Kind Of Wonderful.
(If You Cry) True Love True Love - Drifters with Johnny Lee Williams
Drip Drop - Drifters with Bobby Hendricks. #58 pop, uncharted R&B.
Itchy Twitchy Feeling - Bobby Hendricks 1958 solo hit after parting with The Drifters
Just Keep It Up - 1959 solo hit by Dee Clark

Brook Benton's influence
Brook wrote Lover's Question. When Clyde started with Mercury he recorded some more of Brook's compositions. Here are a couple of obscure originals by Brook that you can compare with Clyde's. I have no evidence that Brook released these, maybe he sang them as demonstration discs. Will it surprise you to hear Brook singing Lover's Question?

Lover's Question by Brook
You're For Me by Brook
You're For Me - Clyde's recording as an unsuccessful followup to Ta Ta. The flip was also written by Brook - I Just Want To Love You.

Clyde Otis was usually Brook's co-writer.
Jimmy Oliver had been the guitarist for The Drifters and Clyde for a few years. In 1960 he and Clyde collaborated writing Ta Ta and some other songs for that album.
Belford Hendricks was the arranger for many of these Mercury R&B records including Benton's. He was so good at arranging those strings, and adjusting them for an R&B sound. Check the sliding strings sound in Brook's Kiddio. In fact I've decided to give it to ya rat now, because it cries out for illustration. Blacks went crazy for it in mid-1960. It was US Billboard pop #7, and R&B #1 for nine weeks. Written by Benton and Otis. Check out the duet hits by Brook and Dinah Washington as other excellent examples - Baby You've Got What It Takes, and Rockin Good Way. There, that saves me from writing a separate article.

Kiddio by Brook Benton


This Atlantic Hits LP was released in 1963 after his Lover Please success. One side is his Drifters songs, the other solo.

MGM tried to cash in with a "Greatest Hits" LP too, all their own recordings. I've only ever come across this one copy.

His first album on MGM in 1959 was "Let's Start Over Again", containing only ballads and no hits. (click an image to see it larger)

You'll never find it and it won't be reissued, so here's a link to the complete ALBUM.

The 1963 Mercury Greatest Hits LP contained only Mercury recordings, but some were rerecordings of his 50s hits. Not all of these were hits of course.

Following a Ta Ta album in 1960, Mercury released an album a year including Lover Please in 1962. Golden Blues Hits (1961) was full of GREAT renditions of other hits. The little known Rhythm and Soul LP of 1963 included some unsuccessful singles at the time, and had a harder edge.

Raining In My Heart
Honest I Do

Here's a link to the complete Golden Blues album.

Hey Love

Link to the complete ALBUM

Lover Please LP . . . . . Live At The Apollo

Songs Of The Big City - 1964

Here's a link to sample the ENTIRE ALBUM.

May I Sing For You was a 1962 Wing label LP mostly ballads.

Link to complete ALBUM

After Mercury he recorded a couple years on the Amy label, and that is on a CD titled "A Shot of Rhythm and Blues". Then he spent three years living in England, creating a following in the "northern soul" scene, which was the northeast section of England.
Returning to the US, Decca records produced an album titled "Welcome Home" and two singles, which were not successful. You may never find that so here is some material.

Samples of the singles:
I'll Belong To You
Why Can't We Get Together
Here's a link to hear the other 10 songs of the COMPLETE ALBUM.

To see an image larger click on it.

Clyde's son
Clyde had a son with Ruth Brown out of wedlock ("Ron McPhatter"). He is now known and performing himself as Ronn David. His website is at Check his YouTube channel.