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Last Platters member Herb Reed dead at 83

Jaclyn is an Idaho native who currently lives in Milwaukee. Having worked in radio, TV and as a newspaper reporter, she is an avid pop culture and news junkie. She also has a passion for photography and cooking (but is still learning to ...

Helped break the race barrier in music

Herb Reed, a member of the 1950's group The Platters, still toured with the group up until last year.

The Platters

Herb Reed, the last surviving member of the group The Platters, has died.

The Platters are considered one of the first groups to have broken through the color barrier in the 1950s. They are best known for their songs “Only You," “The Great Pretender," and a version of “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

Reed, who was living outside Boston died Monday at the age of 83. He was involved with the group until last year, where he would still tour and play as many as 200 concerts a year.

According to the New York Times, Reed was the only member who remained through the years and sang on all of the group’s original 400 recordings.

Just last year, Reed finally won the preferential rights to the name The Platters. He estimated he spent over $1 million in the battle to control his name. He had been fighting against other groups using the name for over 50 years, but officially waged the war in the 1990s.

The New York Times reports Reed did an interview in 2010 where he spoke about the problems he had touring in the 1950s, especially in the south.

“In those days, when you had all these gigs, and the TV and the movies, honestly, it didn’t mean anything,” he said. “There was still so much prejudice everywhere. How could you enjoy it? You couldn’t go anywhere but your intimate circle. What you did is, you had your own world that you lived in, with friends and food, you had your own nightclubs. So you could survive.”

Their records were regularly sent color-coded to radio stations, denoting that they were “race records.” Many times radio stations would ban them based on this.

The Platters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Reed moved to Boston only after the group had the majority of their success. The New York Times said his cause of death was lung cancer. He died Monday in a Boston hospice.

Photo courtesy Impact Records
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