Clyde McPhatter was born in North Carolina in the early thirties and spent a lot of time growing up in New Jersey and New York City. He formed and sang in a gospel group, the Mount Lebanon Singers. His career as a singer really kicked into gear when he won the Apollo Talent Contest on Amateur Night. He was signed as a member of Billy Ward and the Dominoes in 1950. He sang with the group for three years. During that time they had about a dozen top ten R&B hit records, including several records that reached the top of the chart.
Dissatisfied with the poor pay and credit he was receiving, Clyde told Billy that he was planning to leave the group. Clyde helped select and train his replacement: future star Jackie Wilson.
Atlantic Records signed Clyde and insisted that he form his own group to sing with. He put together the Drifters. The first group of Drifters did not meet Atlantic’s expectations, so Clyde replaced them (mostly with members of his Mount Lebanon Singers). Several records were released as Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, including five top-five R&B records that followed in close succession between 1953 and 1956. He was drafted into the army and later left the group to start a solo career. In perhaps the worst decision of his career, he sold his part ownership of the Drifters for $100 before the group became a monster success in the late fifties and early sixties.
In 1957, Clyde finally released a solo record that found an audience. Without Love not only got as high as #4 on the R&B charts, but it also reached #19 on the Hot 100. While you may not be familiar with Clyde’s version of the song, Tom Jones released a more successful version that hit #5 in the charts in 1970.
Clyde continued to record hit records through 1962, after which demand for his style of music began to fade. He died from complications of alcohol dependency in 1972. He did not live to see himself inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame not once, but twice.