Last Saturday evening, Judy and I drove down to Galveston to see the Coasters, the Platters, and the Drifters perform at the 1894 Opera House. Or, to be more accurate, we went to see groups called "Cornell Gunter's Coasters," "The Platters," and "Beary Hobbs' Drifters" perform.
Cornell Gunter sang with the original Coasters, but he didn't join the group until after they'd had their first big two-sided hit with "Searchin'" and "Young Blood." He died in 1990. So the group we saw has only a tenuous connection with the "real" Coasters.
Ellsbeary Hobbs sang bass with The Drifters off and on for nearly 40 years, but he's not, as he's sometimes called, "the original bass voice of the Drifters." Sure, he's the guy singing those famous opening bass notes on "There Goes My Baby," but there were other Drifters' bass singers before that, and an even more famous bass voice to members of my generation was Bill Pinkney, who sang the bass lead on their great version of "White Christmas." Pinkney was around with his own version of The Drifters a few years ago and may still be.
The Platters group we saw gets to keep the name without qualification because of some kind of licensing agreement. I believe there are many groups performing around the world as "The Platters," maybe as many as 20. So, considering all that, what about the show itself?
Cornell Gunter's Coasters was the opening act, and since the original group was known as "The Clown Princes of Rock and Roll," this bunch tried to keep up the tradition. I knew we were in trouble when their second number was "The Twist." I wanted to hear "Along Came Jones," not some Chubby Checker re-hash. They did truncated versions of "Searchin'" and "Young Blood," a gimmicked up version of "Charlie Brown," and a few other things. Not bad, but not what I was hoping for.
The Platters were up next. The lead did some very dramatic readings of the numbers on which Tony Williams sang lead for the originals. He was better than I'd expected. The group threw in some Motown and other non-Platters material, too.
The Beary Hobbs Drifters did nothing recorded before "There Goes My Baby" and for the most part sounded almost very little like the original group. Everyone in the group took over the lead for at least one song, and one lead was overly fond of his falsetto. Still, the whole set was entertaining and energetic.
The three groups joined together for a rousing close of "Twist and Shout" that had all us Q-Tips up and shouting. I doubt that there was anybody in the audience under 50. That's an exaggeration, but not by much.
These three groups perform together regularly in Las Vegas, probably doing an extended version of this same show. It's slick, it's fun, but if you want to hear the real oldies, you'll have to buy a CD.