He died on June 13,1972 from a heart attack.
McPhatter was born in Durham, NC, on November 15, 1932. The McPhatters moved to New York City in late 1950. He came one of the most widely imitated R&B singer of the 1950s and 1960s, making him a key figure in the shaping of Doo-wop and R&B.
McPhatter was lead tenor for a gospel group he formed as a teenager called The Mount Lebanon Singers, before joining Billy Ward and His Dominoes whom Ward recruited after McPhatter won "Amateur Night" at the Apollo Theater. Clyde later became one of the founders of The Drifters before going solo, leaving a legacy of over 22 years of recording history.
The Dominoes signed with King Records in 1950 and recorded the chart-topping, "Sixty Minute Man" with McPhatter singing the lead vocals. That song was the biggest R&B hit of 1951 and the first by a Black group to cross over from the R&B to the pop charts.
McPhatter stayed with the group for three years singing such hits as"Have Mercy Baby," "The Bells," "I'd Be Satisfied." However, Ward had his name as top billing and collected all of the profits while McPhatter wasn't earning enough to live on from the small amount of money that Ward paid him. Finally, in early 1953, McPhatter decided to quit.
Atlantic Records approached him with an offer to record his own group, eventually named, the Drifters. As the leader of the Drifters that McPhatter racked up a number of hits beginning with "Money Honey," which became the biggest R&B hit of 1954, "Such a Night," "Honey Love," "White Christmas," and "What'cha Gonna Do." McPhatter had already made a decision to leave the Drifters as he saw himself moving toward a solo career. His voice was so dominant that it took five years for the Drifters to recover after he left.
In 1955, McPhatter recorded a duet for Atlantic Records with Ruth Brown on "Love Has Joined Us Together," which made number 8 on the R&B charts, and in August of that year he recorded "Seven Days," which became a number 2 R&B hit in 1956. In 1956 he scored with "Treasure of Love," which was his first solo chart-topper on the R&B and the pop charts. "Just to Hold My Hand" made the Top 10 on the R&B charts and "Long Lonely Nights" made the pop Top 30 in 1957.
|Clyde with Billy Ward and His Dominoes|
In 1956, Atlantic released his singles as Clyde McPhatter & the Drifters. McPhatter saw his biggest hit on Atlantic in 1958 with "A Lover's Question," which was a top 10 smash on the pop charts and a #1 seller on the R&B listings. He had three more chart singles in 1959, none of which broke the Top 10.
He left Atlantic that year after one last hit, "Lovey Dovey" and had some minor hits in "I Told Myself a Lie" and "Think Me a Kiss" in 1960. He moved to Mercury Records and his career picked up again with the Top 10 single, "Ta Ta," which was followed by the smash Top 10 pop single in 1962 with "Lover Please." It seemed that McPhatter was back on top. However, behind the scenes, McPhatter was dealing with alcoholism and unreliability and his career started to spiral down.
Over the next few years, he recorded for several smaller labels but was unable to get a hit or keep his performing career going. Eventually, Clyde moved to England in the early '60s and found work in British clubs for a few years until the same personal problems began to haunt him.
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He returned to the U.S. in the early '70s, and signed with Decca Records. He recorded the album, Welcome Home, which was his final attempt at a comeback. McPhatter who suffered professionally and personally from alcoholism, depression, and personal problems died from a fatal heart attack in New York in 1972.