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Tony Williams (singer)

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Tony Williams
Birth nameSamuel Edward Williams
Born(1928-04-05)April 5, 1928
Elizabeth, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 1992(1992-08-14) (aged 64)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Years active1953–1992
LabelsMercury, Reprise, Philips

Tony Williams (born Samuel Edward Williams; April 5, 1928 – August 14, 1992),[1] was an American singer who was the lead vocalist of the Platters[2] from 1953 to 1960.[3]

Life and career

Williams was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the son of Bertha and Edward Williams.[1] He served in the United States Army Air Forces around the end of World War II, rising to the rank of sergeant, and after leaving military service moved to Los Angeles, where he joined his older sister Bertha, who was developing a successful singing career under the name Linda Hayes. He worked in menial jobs such as parking lot attendant, while competing in evening talent shows.[2][4]

Williams came to the attention of Ralph Bass of Federal Records, who linked him with an existing vocal group, the Flamingos, comprising Gaynel Hodge, David Lynch, Alex Hodge, and Herb Reed. When they became aware of another group of the same name, they renamed themselves the Platters and made their first recordings in September 1953, with Williams on lead vocal. Their initial recordings were unsuccessful, but Linda Hayes then introduced Williams to booking agent and aspiring songwriter Buck Ram. He was impressed by Williams' high tenor singing voice, and agreed to manage the group while also hoping to promote Williams as a solo performer.[5][6]

The group continued to record and perform locally, occasionally supporting Linda Hayes, until late 1955 when they were signed by Mercury Records. Their first recording on the label, Buck Ram's song "Only You (And You Alone)", with Williams on lead vocal, became a national hit, and was followed in early 1956 by "The Great Pretender", another Ram song with Williams as lead singer, which became successful on both the R&B and pop charts as well as internationally. Over the next three years, the group had a succession of hits, including "My Prayer", "Twilight Time", and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", all featuring Williams.[6] The songs made the Platters one of the most successful doo-wop groups of the 1950s, and a British reviewer described Williams' voice as "unearthly".[4]

In a dispute over money, Williams left the Platters in 1959 to pursue a solo career, and continued to work with Ram as his manager.[5][7] He recorded an LP, A Girl Is A Girl Is A Girl, but his career faltered after he was arrested on a morals charge, of which he was later cleared. He continued to perform with the Platters intermittently until 1960, but then won a legal action against Ram which allowed him to formally leave the group. He signed as a solo singer for Reprise Records in 1961, recording Tony Williams Sings His Greatest Hits, including re-recordings of some of the Platters' songs, but returned to Philips Records the following year. He released the album The Magic Touch Of Tony in 1962, and the same year overdubbed vocals for a Platters record, Encore Of Broadway Golden Hits. However, by this time music buyers' tastes had changed, and Williams' voice had lost some of its appeal.[6]

He married Helen Williams in 1963. He later performed with his own, unauthorized version of the Platters, known as the International Platters, which also featured his wife. Musical director William Gulino worked with Tony Williams and the Platters off and on from 1978 to 1992.[citation needed]

Williams was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Platters in 1990. He developed diabetes,[8] and died in Manhattan of emphysema, in 1992.[3]

Solo discography

  • Magic Touch of Tony – Philips PHM-200-051 (mono)/Philips PHS-600-051 (stereo) – 1962
  • A Girl Is a Girl Is A Girl – Mercury SR-60138 – 1969 (previously Mercury MG 20454 – 1961)
  • Tony Williams Sings His Greatest Hits – Gold Dust Records Dust 934 (Italy) – 1994
  • The Voice of The Platters – Vintage Music −2014


  1. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues – A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 265. ISBN 978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 5 - Hail, Hail, Rock 'n' Roll: The rock revolution gets underway. [Part 1]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  3. ^ a b "Tony Williams, 64; Platters' Lead Singer". The New York Times. 1992-08-16. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  4. ^ a b Laurence Staig, "Obituary: Tony Williams", The Independent, 18 August 1992. Retrieved 15 September 2021
  5. ^ a b B. Lee Cooper, Review of "Tony Williams—The Signature Voice of The Platters: Volume One, 1955–1961", Audio Review, 22 August 2021. Retrieved 15 September 2021
  6. ^ a b c Marv Goldberg, "The Platters", Retrieved 15 September 2021
  7. ^ Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 14 – Big Rock Candy Mountain: Rock 'n' roll in the late fifties. [Part 4]" (audio). Pop Chronicles. University of North Texas Libraries.
  8. ^ "Tony Williams, Lead Singer Of `The Platters'", Seattle Times, August 15, 1992. Retrieved 15 September 2021
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Tony Williams (singer)
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