Three concerts, three standing ovations for the World Famous Platters

- Danee Samonte -

MANILA, Philippines - I was introduced to the World Famous Platters back in 2010 by Chuck Crews, musical director/member of The Cascades. Eddie Stovall Sr., the lead singer-cum-manager of the World Famous Platters, sent me a video of its show and I was impressed.

I wanted to book them immediately but the group never got available to come to Manila until recently when it had a week-long break from its regular run in Branson Missourri where it performs twice daily all-year long. After booking the group, I personally had a little apprehension because I found out none of the current members are original. The original members of The Platters have gone to rock ‘n roll heaven, save for Herb Reed. The Asian market, most especially Pinoys, is a stickler for originals and more difficult to please than its western counterparts.

Close friends pointed out though that most groups that have survived decades of performing have gone through the same process of personnel changes and evolution including ’60s groups like the Lettermen, Gary Lewis and The Playboys, The Beach Boys, The Zombies, Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, The Cascades, etc. Even The Beatles replaced its original drummer Pete Best with Ringo Starr. Oftentimes, the replacement of members has better results. Although none of the members of the World Famous Platters have performed with the original Platters as a group, its leader Eddie actually toured and performed with original Platters’ lead singer and frontman Tony Williams when he went solo performing the Platters classics. 

The World Famous Platters allotted me less than a week to do all three concerts in Asia because the group’s regular performance season in Branson Missourri was due to start first week of April.

Fortunately, the group was so cohesive and did not require tedious rehearsals or prolonged sound checks prior to doing the first concert, which was on the day it arrived in the Philippines. The initial concert was at the Aliw Theater. At 3 p.m. of the concert date, they had a short sound check-cum-stage blocking and sang a few lines of Only You. I had goosebumps and there was a wide grin on my face. The group sounded superb and harmonized well. I knew right away the concert was going to be great. By 7 p.m., the crowd composed mostly of adults with a sprinkling of young teeners queued outside the Aliw Theater. The scalpers were doing brisk business selling tickets. I proudly boasted to BIR commissioner Kim Henares who arrived at 8 p.m. that she would really enjoy the trip to yesterday. The concert started at 8:30 p.m. with an almost full theater. The Rockin 60s opened the show with a myriad of ’60s classics that got the crowd into the nostalgic mood. It sang hits of Timi Yuro, Ricky Nelson, Connie Francis, etc. without missing a beat. The crowd loved the band so much that there was thunderous applause and clamor for more at the end of the set.

After a short break, wherein an acoustic guitar signed by the artists was raffled off, the World Famous Platters opened with Only You and from that point on, the hits never were sung in succession — Twilight Time, Remember When, I’m Sorry, The Magic Touch, Ebb Tide, My Prayer, With This Ring, etc. were performed with matching choreography. There was also a sprinkling of R&B songs from Motown and Memphis. From the side of my eye, I saw Mike and Baby Enriquez beside lawyer Romy Macalintal singing along with gusto. When the concert ended with The Great Pretender, the crowd roared and gave the group a standing ovation. 

Next day, it was an early wake-up call for the World Famous Platters for the flight to Singapore. Although our flight to Singapore left the gate on time, the airport congestion made us sit in the tarmac for over an hour just to get a take-off slot. I was thankful no press conferences or TV interviews were scheduled in Singapore or it would have been a disaster. The Singapore show was at the posh Sands Marina Bay Theater. Good tickets to the show have been sold out weeks prior to the concert save for a few on the third level of the theater. The crowd that watched was dominantly Singaporean with a sprinkling of Malaysians, Americans, Europeans, Australians and Pinoys. Among the Pinoys who watched were PCSO chairman Margie Juico with husband Popoy who were visiting their Singapore-based daughter, my son Silvester who lives in Singapore with wife Aimmee and a huge group of Pinoy expats. Unlike the crowd at the Aliw Theater, the Singapore crowd stood up and danced when Vernon Taylor of the World Famous Platters invited them to do so to the song Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. There was a sea of dancing couples reminiscent of a senior prom. The crowd was very generous with applause and gave two standing ovations. One when female vocalist Yolanda Fletcher stretched her pipes to the 5th Dimensions classic One Less Bell To Answer and at the finale. Backstage, the group felt so elated with the crowd response and giggled like teenagers. They wanted to stay longer at the meet and greet but I warned them we had an early flight back to Manila the next morning. 

   Up at 6 a.m. on Palm Sunday, we checked out of our lovely rooms at Swiss Hotel and rushed to the airport. Our flight back to Manila on Philippine Airlines although full was a pleasure because the crew members were friendly and very attentive. The arrival was unpleasant though as the plane was parked at the end of the tarmac and we had to wait for 20 minutes to go down the stairs in the scorching sun before we could be bussed to the terminal. The wait for the baggage to appear was even longer. I’m so glad the group was patient and took the delays in stride. As soon as we arrived at the official residence in the Midas Hotel and venue of the last show, the group dropped their luggage and did the sound check and stage blocking. The Midas Hotel show produced by connoisseur Javier Parra was well-attended. It was the show where the bling-blings, Hermes and Chanel bags and elegantly draped ladies went on parade. VIPs who watched included Vice President Jejomar Binay with wife Dr. Elenita and grandchildren in tow. VP Jojo gamely danced to Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. As in the other two shows, the crowd gave a standing ovation. At the end of the show, there were two photo ops — one for the group and the other for VP Jojo who spent over an hour patiently posing and shaking hands. 

   The World Famous Platters got up at 4:30 a.m. the next day and left for the airport for a 23-hour flight to Branson. The Pinoys fell in love with the performances of Eddie Stovall Sr., Eddie Stovall Jr., Yolanda Fletcher, Lawrence “Rooster” Lockard and Vernon Taylor and so did the World Famous Platters.

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