How and why Platters songs stand the test of time

Kap Maceda Aguila - The Philippine Star

“Do you think, in 50 years, people are going to remember Justin Bieber?” says Lawrence “Rooster” Lockard, with a smile, but not without vitriol. That just might be wisdom talking, courtesy of 72 years of mortal existence — 17 of them singing for the World-Famous Platters (WFP).

The capital letters on “World-Famous” is not a typo or an overeager attempt at emphasis. The Platters, which first made waves in the ’50s, is technically gone — with the death of the last surviving founding member Herb Reed just last June.

There are a number of Platters tribute bands capitalizing on what Lockard describes as the “lucrative” name and reputation of the act known for timeless ditties such as Only You (and You Alone), Twilight Time and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.

But Rooster distinguishes his act from the rest. “We’re licensed by the estate which owns the name of the Platters,” he insists. “We have the common law rights to use the name anywhere as long as we say the World-Famous Platters from Branson, Missouri, and we’ve been doing that for 17 years.”

Rooster also maintains that of all the tribute acts, only he and co-WFP member Eddie Stovall Sr. can boast of having sung with original members, namely, Tony Williams and Zola Taylor. He credits the latter for giving him the golden opportunity. “I became a Platter through her,” he admits.

After high school in Arizona, Rooster yearned to have a singing career (he was particularly enamored with doo-wop). He moved to Los Angeles and luck had it that Taylor was his next-door neighbor. “We became real good friends,” he remembers. “It was a blessing in disguise.”

As for the other tribute acts? “They hire young guys to go up there and perform. They don’t care about the quality of the show,” Lockard laments. “It’s illegal, and they’re trying to cut down on that.”

WFP earned its stripes in Branson, Missouri, known as the “Las Vegas of the East,” where the act performs an improbable six shows a week for 10 months of the year. “Only place in America you can do that besides Las Vegas and Atlantic City,” Lockard volunteers. The rest of the time, WFP hits the road for overseas appearances.

Rooster is particularly grateful for the warm reception they have consistently gotten around the world over the years — from Bora Bora to Granada, from Fiji to Marseilles, from Mexico City to Monte Carlo.

“People have come up to me to say that I gave them a rose at a show,” he says with much appreciation, as he relates one of the highlights of WFP’s performances when members pick lucky concertgoers and give them roses.

What are the most requested songs? “Only You, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and The Great Pretender — you gotta do those,” Lockard says.

WFP takes pride in being consistent and true to the Platters experience. “Buck (Ram, former Platters manager) laid the format out, and you have to follow those,” he underscores.

More than the music, Lockard shares that Ram told them it’s about personality as well. “(It’s about) making people want to see you performance-wise… give it to them the way they heard it 50 years ago. You can’t change the format of the music. You have to do it the same way they remember it in high school. You gotta stay true to that… You have to do what they remember you by.”

He recalls a time they did a Christmas show where they took a lot of the Platters songs out of the lineup in favor of yuletide songs. “People got mad, and said they wanted to hear the hits… We went back to that, and we haven’t faltered yet,” Lockard says, grinning.

Now the Platters are in the country again (they were here just last March) for a series of shows for the discriminating Filipino audience that appreciates good music and timeless classics.

Yes, songs that stand the test of time.

(The World Famous Platters Live at Edsa Shangri-La on Aug. 27 and 28 was presented by Steve O’Neal Productions and Edsa Shangri-La Hotel in collaboration with Hard Rock Café, Business Mirror, IBC 13, DWWW FM, Lazer Music, Taye Drums, Istanbul Cymbals, MS Tablet for Men, Star Cruises, and RJ 100.3 FM.)









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