… he died on July 4, 2007.
Pinkney who was born in Dalzell, South Carolina, was often said to be the last surviving original member of The DriftersHe was chiefly responsible for its early sounds.
Pinkney grew up singing his favorite music, gospel, in his church choir. Before his career with the Drifters, Pinkney was a pitcher for the Negro Baseball League's New York Blue Sox sandlot team. He also served in the United States Army in World War II.
He earned a Presidential Citation with five Bronze Stars (for battles including Normandy and Bastogne under General Patton). Returning from the war, Pinkney began to sing again in various gospel choirs. It was there that he would meet and join with the men who became the original members Drifters.
Bill Pinkney, brothers Andrew and Gerhart Thrasher, and bass singer Willie Ferbie were approached by Clyde McPhatter, who had just quit as the lead tenor of the popular R&B group, Billy Ward & the Dominoes. McPhatter proposed they create a new group to record for Atlantic Records.
1953- Bill Pinkney, Willie Ferbee, Clyde McPhatter,
Andrew Thrasher, Gerhardt Thrasher
In 1954 the Drifters recorded their version of "White Christmas" by Irving Berlin. That version was featured in the 1990 movie Home Alone. Pinkney can also be heard singing lead on the 1956 recording "I Should Have Done Right" and 1955's "Steamboat.” Pinkney was in and out of the group from 1956 through 1958. He did not participate in the recording of later hits like "Fools Fall in Love" and "Drip Drop," which featured bass Tommy Evans.
After Pinkney's permanent departure, The Drifters recorded hit classics such as "Under the Boardwalk,” "Save the Last Dance for Me,” "There Goes My Baby,” "Up on the Roof,” and "On Broadway,” with a completely new line-up.
In 1958 the manager fired all of the individual Drifters and hired all new singers, The Crowns (formally known as the Five Crowns), signing them under the Drifters' name. Pinkney quickly created a group called the Original Drifters, made up of key members of the first group.
Pinkney's Original Drifters was consistently popular throughout the southeastern U.S. and was a staple of the "beach music" scene. Pinkney received many musical awards, including the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award, and was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, United Group Harmony Association, and the Beach Music Hall of Fame.
Pinkney died from a heart attack in Daytona Beach.
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