R&B group The Drifters hit the recording studio today (December 23, 1958) to record what would become one of their best known singles, “This Magic Moment.”
The Drifters history begins in early 1953 after popular lead singer Clyde McPhatter decided to embark on a solo career, leaving Billy Ward and his Dominos behind.
Atlantic Records CEO Ahmet Ertegun was at a Domino’s show in 1953 at New York Club Birdland, when he realized that McPhatter was no longer a part of the group.
He immediately reached out to Clyde McPhatter and eventually signed him to Atlantic Records.
McPhatter put together an early line up of The Drifters which consisted of William Anderson, James Johnson, David Baughn and David Baldwin, the brother of famous author James Baldwin.
Thinking a head perhaps, McPhatter, his manager George Treadwell and their lawyer arranged the new Drifters as a corporation, Drifters Inc., in which they owned shares.
Clyde sang lead on hits like “The Way I Feel,” “Money Honey,” and the holiday classic, “White Christmas,” before leaving to go solo in 1953.
McPhatter sold his half to his manager, George Treadwell after he left the group.
Because of the incorporated status of the group, membership frequently changed and members were paid as little as $100 dollars a week and received no royalties.
In 1955 The Drifters entered what is known as their silver age with various lead singers, including Johnny Moore who sang lead on hits like “Adorable,” and “Ruby Baby,” which was remade by Dion & The Belmonts.
In May of 1958, group manager George Treadwell found himself at an impasse with the latest version of the group during a show at the Apollo Theater.
The new line up consisted of Dock Green on baritone, Charlie Thomas as lead, Ben E. King on baritone and Elsbeary Hobbs singing bass.
During a March 6th 1959 session they cut their first songs under the watchful eyes of Leiber & Stoller. That session produced “There Goes My baby,” “Hey Senorita” and “Oh My Love.”
Contrary to popular lore, “There Goes My Baby” (#2 Pop), was not the first R&B/Rock & Roll song to feature violins, although the song ushered in a distinct new sound, thanks in part to the rhythm, as well as the audio engineering wizardry of Atlantic’s Tom Dowd.
On December 23, 1959, Ben E. King and the group entered into their “golden” age when The Drifters recorded “This Magic Moment,” “Temptation” and “Lonely Winds.”
Of the bunch, “This Magic Moment” was the biggest single, rising to #16 on the Pop charts.
The group continued with hits like “Please Stay,” “Some Kind of Wonderful” lead by Rudy Lewis, while Johnny Moore, can be heard on hits like “Under the Boardwalk,” “Sand in My Shoes” and others.