Clyde Lensley McPhatter was born in Durham, North Carolina, on November 15, 1932, the son of a Baptist minister George McPhatter and wife Eva. At the age of just five years Clyde began singing in his fathers church. After graduating from high school the family relocated to New York City, where Clyde formed a gospel group known as the Mount Lebanon Singers.
In 1950, after winning the “Amateur Night” award at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Clyde became a member of Billy Ward’s Dominoes, one of the top rhythm and blues groups in the nation. Thanks largely to Clyde’s high-pitched tenor voice that opened the door for Atlantic records invite him to join them and form the Drifters. He is regarded as the main singer to introduce a gospel singing style into mainstream rhythm and blues, influencing Smokey Robinson, Marv Johnson, Ben E. King and others. In 1954, McPhatter was inducted into the Army. After his tour of duty was up, he left The Drifters and launched a solo career with two dozen or more hits, including “Treasure of Love,” “Without Love, There is Nothing,” “Long Lonely Nights,” “Come What May,” “A Lover’s Question,” “Lovey Dovey,” “Ta Ta,” “Lover Please” and “Little Bitty Pretty One” each landing on the Hit Parade.
In 1968, Clyde McPhatter moved to England, returning to the United States two years later and on June 13, 1972 as a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, he died in his sleep at the age of just 39 years from complications of heart, liver, and kidney disease. He was laid to rest at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.
Clyde McPhatter was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009.