The Drifters Greatest Hits, on the London record label 1960, value £50

THE Drifters were founded in 1953 as a backing group for singer Clyde McPhatter, writes MICHAEL BROOKS.

After a few minor hits, McPhatter was drafted into the US Army. Because of their rising popularity, the remaining group members demanded a higher share of royalties and proceeds from record sales and concert appearances. Their manager George Treadwell responded by sacking them all and replacing them with a doo-wop group, The Five Crowns, fronted by singer Benny Nelson (later to become Ben E King). Treadwell and his wife Faye took a percentage of all the royalties. Some of the new Drifters accused the Treadwells of taking too much, left the band and formed their own versions using the same name. This led to a court action brought by Treadwell, who won control of The Drifters name. Consequently, the line-up changed considerably over the years as singers left and new ones were brought in.

The Drifters shot to prominence in 1959 with what is now acknowledged as the first pop song to be recorded with a string orchestra, There Goes My Baby, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Having sole copyright of the name, the Treadwell family used it like a franchise. It led to unscrupulous promoters sending various sets of fake Drifters on the road; in the 1980s and 1990s there were reports of at least half a dozen.

In the early 1970s, The Drifters were offered a new recording contract, this time fronted by Johnny Moore, who was one of the original Drifters, having joined in 1954, a year after their formation.

They had a succession of hit songs mostly with Moore as lead singer; the majority were written by English duo Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway. Songwriter Tony Macaulay also contributed a few songs. All top-notch songwriters.

In 1988, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. Because there had been so many Drifters, the hosts declared they would award only recognised members. These included Clyde McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Gerhart Thrasher, Rudy Lewis, Ben E King and Johnny Moore. Of all these great singers, it was probably Moore who endeared himself to British audiences until his untimely death in 1998. There is still a Drifters band touring the UK, known as The Official Drifters, managed by the Treadwell’s daughter Tina. A recent compilation of former members of the Drifters totalled 66.