Lasting Legacy

Along with the iconic music, perhaps the significance of The Drifters is the different members who drifted in and out of the group, all adding to the “family” and leaving a lasting legacy.

Lead tenor Clyde McPhatter first assembled the group in 1953 from some members of his church group. However this configuration did not work out so McPhatter recruited a second lineup, which included Bill Pinkney, Andrew Thrasher, Gerhart Thrasher, Willie Ferbee and Walter Adams. This grouping found immediate success with their first single, “Money Honey,” reaching No. 1 on the R&B charts.

By the end of 1953, the lineup had already changed again, but the hits kept coming. “What’cha Gonna Do,” released in 1955 but recorded in 1954, was McPhatter’s last recording with The Drifters before he was drafted into the military.

McPhatter sold The Drifters name to manager George Treadwell, which created unrest in the group and eventually all of the originals left.

Pinkney decided to create his own group trademarked The Original Drifters, which included himself, the Thrashers and David Baughan. They toured from the 1960s through 2000s with several members coming and going as well. One member who found his way into The Original Drifters was Pinkney’s godson, Brian McIntosh.

“Bill was actually my godfather so there is some family-type lineage there,” McIntosh said. “I was never really given any honorary swearing in, I was just always around and then he started saying, ‘be here, be there,’ and after a while I was just in the group.”

Growing up around Pinkney, The Drifters music was engrained in McIntosh from a young age.

“The music is a part of my life story,” he said. “I was a kid and I didn’t know Bill as a superstar, I knew Bill as Mr. Pinkney. I didn’t know who the Drifters were, I knew Bill personally. So the personal relationship, of course, enhanced the love for the music. Being a part of Bill’s group for so long taught me a lot, so the music itself is a part of my life. I was coming around at the age of 16, 17, so I was still a kid. So outside of it being beautiful melodies and great lyrics, it’s literally a part of our lives. I grew up in this environment, with this music around me. It’s my life story, so it means the world to me.”

While performing with Pinkney’s Original Drifters, McIntosh had the opportunity to work with several great voices of the time, including Ben E. King.

“We played the race track up in Pennsylvania with Ben E. King,” McIntosh said. “It was our second or third time doing a show with him, and he starts singing and I was stunned for about half a second and then I came in with my part. To me, that was a magic moment, because this guy felt confident enough in me to give me a chance and stand on the stage with him, which was an honor. That meant the world to me.”

Pinkney passed away in 2007 and around 2014 McIntosh decided to create his own group honoring The Drifters legacy, with some other past members who had played with Pinkney.

“Bill passed away and with management changes and on a legal front there were some things that separated this set of gentlemen from the name itself, but we still hold that same prestige and that same honor because most of us worked with Bill,” McIntosh said. “We all had our own affiliations that helped make us Drifters. Being a Drifter is a family. That’s what we are and we’re a part of that story and we’re carrying their legacy with as much pride as possible.”

The Drifters Revue with McIntosh on lead vocals will be coming back to the Riverside Resort Feb. 16-19, playing the hits from every decade since The Drifters inception.

“They can expect coverage over the whole Drifters catalogue,” McIntosh said. “We try to cover each decade and each lead singer, from Rudy Lewis to Johnny Moore, to Clyde to Bill Pinkney to Gerhart Thrasher. We try to cover each lead singer and try to present the most popular songs.”

He said the crowd favorite remains “Under the Boardwalk,” but his personal favorite to sing is “Some Kind of Wonderful.”

“It hits right in the groove, it’s real laid back and you can really sing it,” McIntosh said. “Drifters had emotional songs. They conveyed emotions and expressed the ups and downs of relationships and life. ‘Wonderful’ to me, is like the whole feeling of what the group is, encapsulated in one song. It’s my favorite, I love it. I will sing that song all day long.”

The Drifters Revue will be bringing all of the good vibes for a fun weekend in Laughlin.

“We are really excited about coming out to Laughlin,” McIntosh said. “We’ve been there twice and each time it was a blast. So we invite everybody to come out and let’s have a good time. It’s time to lighten up a little bit.”