DJ to The Drifters and Charlie Thomas of York, Pa.: ‘You guys have a hit record’
Charlie Thomas, a York resident, and his group of 50 years, The Drifters, will performed in April 2009 at Eichelberger Performing Arts Center in Hanover. For details: 637-7086 or www.theeich.org . Background posts: Cameron Mitchell, Craig Sheffer, Dixie Chick born here and Famed doo-wopper from York, Pa. walks down the aisle of heaven and Memories and Nostalgia posts from the start.
“Charlie Thomas is The Drifters,” York Daily Record/Sunday News columnist Mike Argento wrote in 2007.
Others have grabbed that name, but Charlie Thomas’ Drifters is the authentic oldies group. That’s saying a lot. A look at the complex Wikipedia entry for the multi-splintered group make you want to escape from it all up on the roof.
And area residents can see the real thing tonight in Hanover when Charlie and his widely traveled band perform within the borders of York County.
Here’s an excerpt from Mike’s Nov. 9, 2007, piece on Charlie, a York resident:
It began back in 1958 when Charlie and four of his pals were playing at the Apollo in Harlem. They were The Five Crowns out of Harlem and were sharing a bill with The Drifters when things went south for the original Drifters.
The story is the Drifters got into a dispute with the owner of the Apollo and George Treadwell, the group’s manager who owned the rights to The Drifters’ name, fired them. Treadwell turned to The Five Crowns and asked whether they’d like to be The Drifters.
“But The Drifters are right over there,” Charlie remembers telling Treadwell.
No matter. The Drifters were fired, and the new Drifters — Charlie, Ben E. King, Dock Green and Elsbeary Hobbs — were hired.
They went into the studio — not just any studio, but the legendary Atlantic Record studio in New York — and recorded one of King’s songs, “There Goes My Baby.” From there, the group went on a little tour down south.
Charlie remembers they were stranded in Mobile, Ala. “We had no money,” he said. “No way to get home.”
The proprietor of a local club, The Cool Cat, in Mobile, hired them. “She didn’t pay us much money, but she gave us a place to stay,” Charlie recalled.
They were in Mobile for about a month when a local DJ came into the club and asked Charlie, “Are you guys The Drifters?”
Charlie said they were.
The DJ said, “You guys have a hit record.”
“There Goes My Baby” was a No. 1 hit.
They went to the radio station and got Atlantic Records’ producer Jerry Wexler on the phone. Wexler said, “Where’ve you guys been? We’ve been looking for you.”
The rest, as they say, was history. Thomas and The Drifters strung together a long list of hits, working with some legendary songwriters – Burt Bacharach, Carole King, Doc Pomus, Leiber and Stoller. The group was big time.”
Argento made another interesting point.
Charlie Thomas could be the only member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame calling York home.
He was enshrined in 1988 with seven other members of The Drifters.
He resides on York’s City’s Chestnut Street, but his musical accomplishments mean he could be living in New York City – on Broadway.