b. Clyde Lensley McPhatter, 15th November 1932, Hayti, Durham, North Carolina, U.S.A.
d. 13th June 1972, 1165 East 229th Street, Bronx, New York, U.S.A.
Clyde McPhatter was an American Doo Wop and R&B singer.
He was the lead tenor for The Mount Lebanon Singers, a gospel group he formed as a teenager.
Clyde was also the lead tenor for Billy Ward and His Dominoes.
He formed the group the Drifters, before disputes with the groups management led to him choosing a solo career.
He was 39 at the time of his death, having struggled for years with alcoholism and depression.
Clyde was born in Hayti, Durham, North Carolina, in 1932.
He was the son of the Rev. George McPhatter and wife Beulah.
At the age of five, he sang in his father's church gospel choir along with his three brothers and three sisters.
He later became a soloist for the choir.
In 1945, the family relocated to Teaneck, New Jersey where Clyde attended Chelsior High School.
He worked part-time in a grocery store, and became the manager after graduating high school.
The family then moved to New York City.
the mount lebanon singers in 1949. l to r: william anderson, wilmer baldwin, james johnson, david baldwin, charlie white and clyde mcphatter
It was here where Clyde formed the gospel group The Mount Lebanon Singers (members: Clyde McPhatter, Charlie White, William Anderson, Wilmer Baldwin, David Baldwin and James Johnson).
In 1950, he won the Amateur Night at Harlem's Apollo Theater, and was later recruited by Billy Ward & the Dominoes.
Clyde’s vocal delivery was held in high regard, making him a huge influence in the emergence of Doo-Wop/R&B.
He recorded several sides with the Dominoes, including ‘Have Mercy Baby’ b/w 'Deep Sea Blues', ‘Don't Leave Me This Way' b/w 'These Foolish Things’, and ‘ The Bells’ b/w 'Pedal Pushin' Papa'.
clyde (centre top) with the drifters in 1953
He left the group in 1953, and decided to go solo, however, on learning of Clyde’s departure from the group, Ahmet Ertegun offered the singer a deal at Atlantic Records, after which Clyde put together the Drifters.
Under the name of Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, the group began recording in 1953, releasing such hits as ‘Money Honey’ b/w 'The Way I Feel', ‘Such a Night’ b/w 'Lucille', ‘Honey Love b/w 'Warm Your Heart'’, ‘White Christmas’ b/w 'The Bells Of St. Mary's' and ‘Whatcha Gonna Do b/w 'Gone'’.
In 1954, Clyde was inducted into the Army, and upon leaving the military, and following disputes with the Drifters manager, George Treadwell, Clyde decided to go solo.
His first solo hit was a duet with Ruth Brown, entitled ‘Love Has Joined Us Together' b/w 'I Gotta Have You’ in 1955.
clyde mcphatter and the drifters - 1956 / clyde mcphatter and billy ward and the dominoes - 1958 / love ballads - 1958 / let's start over again - 1959
Clyde released several R&B recordings in the following months, including ‘Seven Days’ b/w 'I'm Not Worthy' (1956), ‘Treasure of Love' b/w 'When You're Sincere’ (1960), ‘Just to Hold my Hand’ b/w 'No Matter What' (1957), and ‘A Lover's Question’ b/w 'I Can't Stand Up Long' (1958).
After leaving Atlantic Records, Clyde signed with MGM Records.
ta ta! - 1960 / rhythm and soul - 1962 / lover please - 1962 / may i sing for you? - 1962
Further singles followed including ‘I Told Myself a Lie’ b/w '(I'm Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over' (1959) and ‘Think Me A Kiss’ b/w b/w ''When The Right Time Comes Along' (in 1960) and his first single for Mercury Records entitled ‘Ta Ta’ b/w 'I Ain't Givin' Up Nothin' (If I Can't Get Somethin' From You)' (1960).
Clyde released further singles, including ‘I Never Knew’ b/w 'Happiness' (1961) and his final Top Ten hit ‘Lover Please’ b/w 'Let's Forget About The Past', in 1962.
As the musical styles had began to change, so had Clyde’s career.
He became depressed, and used alcohol as solution in order to cope.
In 1968, he relocated to England, and employed a backing band called ICE.
songs of the big city - 1964 / welcome home - 1970
Two years later he returned to the States.
He became, to all intents and purposes, a recluse.
Clyde died in his sleep at the age of 39 from complications of heart, liver, and kidney disease, brought on by alcohol abuse.
He was quoted as believing he ‘had no fans’.
Clyde died at 1165 East 229th Street, Bronx, New York, where he was living with Bertha M. Reid.
In 1987, Clyde was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Clyde McPhatter And The Drifters (Atlantic Records 1958)
Love Ballads (Atlantic Records 1958)
Clyde (Atlantic Records 1959)
Let's Start Over Again (MGM Records 1959)
Ta Ta (Mercury Records 1960)
Golden Blues Hits (Mercury Records 1962)
Lover Please (Mercury Records 1962)
May I Sing For You? (Wing Records 1962)
Rhythm And Soul (Mercury Records 1963)
Songs Of The Big City (Mercury Records 1964)
Live At The Apollo (Mercury Records 1964)
Welcome Home (Decca Records 1970)
The Essential Collection (Spectrum Records 2004)