[JPL] Platters singer Zola Taylor dies at 69

Jazz Promo Services jazzpromo at earthlink.net
Wed May 2 09:36:59 EDT 2007

Platters singer Zola Taylor dies at 69
By ANDREW GLAZER, Associated Press WriterTue May 1, 4:18 PM ET

Zola Taylor, who broke gender barriers in the 1950s as a member of The
Platters, harmonizing with her male colleagues on hits like "The Great
Pretender," has died, her nephew said Tuesday. She was 69.

Taylor, who later gained attention of a different sort as one of three women
who claimed to be pop idol Frankie Lymon's widow, died Monday, said her
nephew Alfie Robinson. She had been bedridden following several strokes and
died at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside County from complications
of pneumonia, he said.

Founding Platters member Herb Reed said he spotted Taylor, the sister of
Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, rehearsing with a girl group in 1955 and
knew immediately she had the charisma and vocal chops the R&B group needed.

The all-male group had just signed with Mercury after its single "Only You"
topped the charts and its manager thought they needed a female voice to
soften their sound.

"She was a very pretty young lady and what a great, great smile," Reed told
The Associated Press. "And she had this baby voice that everyone liked."

"The Great Pretender" raced to the No. 1 spot on both R & B and pop music
charts in the U.S. and Europe, according to "The Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock
and Soul" by Irwin Stambler.

"It was a great surprise to everyone," Reed said. "We were the first
Afro-American group to have a girl singer. That was the talk of the nation.
All of the sudden, other groups started looking for girls."

But the Platters' success began to fizzle after 1959, when four members were
arrested in Cincinnati. Reed said he had been out of touch with Taylor since
the early 1960s.

Taylor was back in the spotlight in the 1980s when she and two other women
all claimed to be Lymon's widow and fought over his royalties. Lymon, a
juvenile pop sensation in the 1950s with such hits as "Why Do Fools Fall in
Love?," had died of a drug overdose in 1968 at age 25.

The courts eventually sided with one of the other women. The drama was a
focal point in the 1998 Lymon biopic "Why Do Fools Fall in Love." Halle
Berry played Taylor.

Robinson, Taylor's closest known living relative, said his aunt continued
touring with other lesser-known acts until 1996 and wed two other times. Her
last husband died in 1982, he said. She had no children.

More information about the jazzproglist mailing list