Ben E. King was a later member of the Five Crowns, who had recorded for Rainbow, Old Town, Gee and other labels. He was with the group when they recorded “Kiss And Make Up” for R&B records, which did well enough to get them a week long booking at the Apollo Theater with the Drifters, a group signed to Atlantic records with major R&B hits including “Money Honey”, “Honey Love” and “Adorable”. During that engagement, the Drifters’ manager fired the members of that group and hired the Five Crowns to be the new Drifters. The first recording made by the group under their new name was a song co-written by and led by King, “There Goes My Baby”, which reached #1 on the R&B charts and became the Drifters first major pop hit.
King did not tour with the Drifters, but was the lead vocalist on the group’s hits including “Dance With Me”, “This Magic Moment”, “Save the Last Dance For Me” and “I Count The Tears”.
In 1960, King was signed as a solo artist to Atlantic’s sister label, Atco. His first hit was “Spanish Harlem”. It’s follow up, “Stand By Me”, written by King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, was an even bigger hit and has been recognized by the RIAA as one of their Songs Of The Century. His other major 60s pop and R&B crossover hits include “Amor”, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” and “I (Who Have Nothing)”. In 1975, King again topped the R&B charts with “Supernatural Thing – Part 1”, which did almost as well on the pop charts. It’s follow-up “Do It In The Name Of Love”, was likewise a hit on both charts.
In 1986. “Stand by Me” was used as the theme song to the movie Stand By Me, and the song became a top ten hit all over again.
In 1988, King chosen by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the seven, out of more than 60 members of the group, to be inducted as part of the Drifters.