Born 15 August 1925, Sumter, South Carolina
Though Bill Pinkney likes to advertise himself as "the last surviving original Drifter", he was not present at the very first recording session by the Drifters in June 1953 ("Lucille", "Gone"). However, by the time "Money Honey" was recorded two months later, Pinkney sang second tenor, alongside Clyde McPhatter. When bass singer Willie Ferbie became ill, Pinkney dropped down to bass. He sings on some thirty recordings made by the Drifters between August 1953 and June 1956. That's Bill singing lead on the Drifters' version of "White Christmas", a perennial seller. In September 1956, Bill was fired from the group by George Treadwell (the Drifters' manager), after he had the nerve to ask for a raise for the group. Pinkney, not one to brood, immediately put together a group called The Flyers, which included Bobby Hendricks. They signed to Atlantic's Atco subsidiary for one 45, "My Only Desire". However, after two Drifters received a letter from Uncle Sam in 1957, Pinkney was in and out of the group for performances. He rejoined the Drifters in the studio for the "Drip Drop" session of May 1958, taking Bobby Hendricks with him. "Suddenly There's A Valley" (which sounds as if it could have been recorded ten years earlier) is a duet between Bobby Hendricks and Pinkney. Not long after this session, the entire group was sacked by Treadwell (who had copyrighted the name The Drifters) and replaced by the Five Crowns, with Ben E. King as lead singer. They became the new Drifters. Pinkney, Hendricks and the other ex-Drifters went on as The Original Drifters, though Bobby Hendricks soon left to pursue a solo career (and scored a hit with "Itchy Twitchy Feeling"). The amazing thing is that, 45 years later, Pinkney is still fronting a group called The Original Drifters, in spite of several name changes and countless personnel changes.
Before Pinkney joined the Drifters in 1953, he had been a member of the gospel group The Jerusalem Stars, which also included Brook Benton. Before that, he had sung with the Singing Cousins gospel group from 1946 to 1949. Rock 'n' roll fans will remember Pinkney for his Phillips International single (3524), "After The Hop"/"Sally's Got A Sister". These songs were recorded on February 8, 1958, along with one other unissued track. By then, Sun was an all-white label, Rosco Gordon excepted, so Bill was the first black artist to grace a Sun microphone in quite a while. Label credit went to "Bill Pinky and the Turks". "After The Hop" was co-written by Pinkney and Bill Justis, who is in good form on the sax. Good as the single was, commercially it went nowhere, and there would not be any further Sun sessions.
Website Original Drifters: http://www.originaldrifters.com/ Bill's autobiography (coming very soon): http://www.drifters1.com/
In May 2003 Warner/Atlantic issued "The Definitive Drifters" (2 CD-set, 58 tracks), probably the best Drifters anthology currently on the market, apart from the comprehensive 7-CD set on Sequel.
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