Rudy Lewis was born in Philadelphia on August, 23rd, 1936 and was gifted with a lovely rich voice that was both smooth and silky and died today (May 20th, 1964) at the height of his fame.He began his singing career with the legendary group, the Clara Ward singers, singing Gospel Music.
He joined the Drifters in 1960 after an audition for George Treadwell, who was seeking to replace recently departed group member, Ben E. King, who himself was a replacement for the original lead, Clyde McPhatter, who had replaced Little David Baughn.
During Rudy Lewis’ his short tenure with the Drifters he alternated as a lead singer with Johnny Moore and helped the group enter into its “fourth” golden era since the formation of the group in 1952.
Though he was with the Drifters for a very short spell, Rudy Lewis had a mesmerizingly expressive compelling voice and was featured on some of the smash hit songs by the Drifters.
It’s Rudy Lewis’ voice that’s heard singing on the group’s best known hits like “On Broadway,” “Up on the Roof,” “Please Stay,” “Stranger on the Shore,” “Mexican Divorce,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Sweets for My Sweets” and the classic, “Another Night With the Boys.”
Although Lewis did not receive the recognition as Clyde McPhatter and Ben E. King, he had a superb voice filled with passion and expression and many of his fans appreciated his remarkable talent.
This talented singer could have soared to greater heights had his life not come to a tragic end on May 20th, 1964.
His death is still the subject of controversy.
The night before The Drifters recorded their all-time classic “Under the Boardwalk,” Rudy Lewis was found dead in his hotel room, some say, from a mixture of a drug overdose and asphyxiation.
The next day, The Drifters recorded the somber song “I Don’t Want To Go on Without You,” which was lead by Charlie Thomas, in honor of Rudy Lewis.
He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.