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Ben E King & The Drifters – I Who Have Nothing

The Drifters are a long-lived American soul / doo wop/R&B vocal group whose popularity peaked in the period 1953 to 1962, though several splinter Drifters continue to perform today.

The tale of The Drifters is a somewhat torturous convoluted one indeed!

The name “The Drifters” has been brought back from the dead more times than Lazarus, and there have been countless, often concurrent, incarnations of various “Drifters”!

They were originally formed by ace vocalist Clyde McPhatter (of Billy Ward & the Dominoes fame) in 1953.

The group attained a reasonable level of success but all changed in May 1954 when McPhatter received his draft letter.

Having joined up, and while initially stationed in Buffalo, New York, McPhatter was able to continue for a time, with “What’cha Gonna Do” being Clyde’s last recording, with the group.

Later, Clyde would pursue a very successful solo career charting 16 R&B and 21 Pop records.

Rolling Stone magazine states that The Drifters were one of the least stable of the vocal groups due to being low-paid hired musicians of The Drifters’ management.

While part of the group, McPhatter had demanded a large share of the group’s profits, which he had been denied in the Dominoes, but, upon his departure, did not ensure that this would continue for his successor.

He sold his share of the group to George Treadwell, manager, former jazz trumpeter, and husband of singer Sarah Vaughan. As a result, the Drifters cycled through many members, none of whom made much money. McPhatter later expressed regret at this action, recognizing that it doomed his fellow musicians to unprofitability.

Treadwell owned the rights to the name “Drifters”, and still had a year’s worth of bookings for the Apollo when he fired the group in May 1958.

In the summer of 1958, he approached Lover Patterson, the manager of The Five Crowns featuring lead singer Ben E. Nelson, better known by his later stage name of Ben E. King. The new line-up consisted of King (lead tenor), Charlie Thomas (tenor), Doc Green (baritone), and Elsbeary Hobbs (bass). J

The group went out on the road to tour for almost a year. Since this new group had no connection to the prior Drifters, they often played to hostile audiences.

This new lineup, widely considered the “true” golden age of the group, released several singles with King on lead that became chart hits;

  • “There Goes My Baby” was the first commercial rock-and-roll recording to include a string orchestra, a Top 10 hit, and number 193 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • “Dance With Me” followed.
  • Later came “This Magic Moment” (number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960).
  • “Save the Last Dance for Me” reached # 1 on the U.S. pop charts and #2 in the UK.
  • This was followed by “I Count The Tears.”

This version of The Drifters was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 as Ben E. King and the Drifters.

The writeup indicates an award primarily as a tribute to Ben E. King with a nod to his time in The Drifters, with only one of five paragraphs exclusively devoted to The Drifters, though Charlie Thomas was also cited by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame’s induction of the original Drifters, which technically was only through 1958).

The Treadwell Drifters website states that there have been 60 vocalists in the history of the Treadwell Drifters line!

Several splinter groups by former Drifters members add to the count. Nevertheless, there are two main iterations of The Drifters which are of chief note;

  • The first classic Drifters formed by Clyde McPhatter was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as The Drifters or The Original Drifters.
  • The second Drifters formed by Treadwell featuring Ben E. King was separately inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as Ben E. King and The Drifters.

The Vocal Group Hall of Fame has inducted both ‘The Original Drifters’ (1998) and ‘Ben E. King and The Drifters'(2000).

In 1988, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted The Drifters. In their induction, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rather eclectically selected four members from the classic Drifters, two from the second Drifters, and one from the post-King Treadwell Drifters!! They named members Clyde McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Gerhardt Thrasher, Johnny Moore, Ben E. King, Charlie Thomas, and Rudy Lewis. Charlie Thomas and Bill Pinkney accepted the award at the induction ceremony.

According to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, “Through turmoil and changes the (original) Drifters managed to set musical trends and give the public 13 chart hits, most of which are legendary recordings today”

In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked The Drifters #81 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.




I, I who have nothing,
I, I who have no one,
Adore you and want you so.
I’m just a no one with nothing to give you but, oh…
I love you.

He, he buys you diamonds,
Bright, sparkling diamonds.
But, believe me, dear, when I say,
That he can give you the world
but he’ll never love the way…
I love you.

He can take you any place he wants,
Fancy clubs and restaurants.
But I can only watch you with,
My nose pressed up against the window pane.

I, I who have nothing,
I, I who have no one,
Must watch you go dancing by,
Wrapped in the arms of somebody else
when, darling, it’s I…
Who love you.

– Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller

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January 26, 2009 Posted by | Ben E. King, Edvard Munch, Music_Soul, The Drifters, _ART, _MUSIC, _POETRY, _VIDEO | Leave a comment