Each month in “The Story Behind,” I’ll explore the history of a well-known Top 40 hit based on interviews I’ve conducted with individuals who performed some of the most familiar pop hits of the 1960s and ’70s. This month, I’ll look at the Platters’ “I Love You 1000 Times.”
The history of rock ‘n’ roll is littered with groups who were around for a long time and who, as a result, had a varied and changing membership over the years. On a few rare occasions, the groups almost completely recreated themselves while they still held a viable chart presence. One of these groups was the Platters.
Unlike some groups, though, the Platters really only had two lead singers when they were active on the charts. In the 1950s, the Platters consisted of Tony Williams, who sang lead, backed by David Lynch, Herb Reed, Alex Robi, and Zola Taylor. This lineup cut a number of early singles, and after Mercury signed them, “Only You” soared to #5 nationally, and their next single, “The Great Pretender,” became their first #1 hit.
With Williams on lead, between 1955 and 1960, the group churned out some of the greatest hits of the early rock-‘n’-roll era, including “My Prayer” (#1, 1956), “Twilight Time” (#1, 1958), “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”(#1, 1958), and many, many more.
Like many acts, the continued success as a group wasn’t enough to keep all of its members happy, and lead singer Tony Williams decided to go out on his own. After Williams left, manager Buck Ram brought in Sonny Turner as the group’s new lead, but as the group tried to weather the departure of other key members over the next few years, the hits stopped coming, and by 1963, their records were no longer even making the charts.
Mercury seemed determined, however, to keep trying to have them do the same type of material that had worked for them in the ’50s, and for a while, it looked like the Platters were destined to become just another oldies act.
But the group wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and Turner had the voice and charisma to make it all work again. “We felt the change coming,” says Sonny Turner. “The Beatles hit, and then they had Motown, and we felt the whole format of the rhythm-and-blues era was changing. The soul mixed with the R&B and pop music — the writers were beginning to combine the sounds. The music scene was shifting.”
This meant that in order to survive, the Platters would have to change, too, and no matter how successful they had been, those ’50s-style hits simply weren’t going to work in the ’60s. With Turner, Lynch, and Reed, along with new members Nate Nelson and Sandra Dawn, the group reinvented itself to adapt to the changing music scene. They left Mercury in 1965 and signed with Musicor, where they hoped to revitalize their careers.
The first song they released in 1966 was the smooth and soulful “I Love You 1000 Times.” “Inez Foxx and Luther Dixon came up with ‘I Love You 1000 Times,’” Turner tells me. “They felt we needed another hit, and they asked Buck to give it me.” The group worked on the song, though initially, not everyone agreed on how the song should be sung.
According to Turner, Luther Dixon told him, “‘Just sing it like you feel it,’ but Buck wanted me to sing it a different way. Luther said, ‘Buck, your thinking is old fashioned, the music’s changing. Sonny has a feel for it; let him sing it the way he feels it.’ So I sang it my way and from the heart. Afterward, Luther told me, ‘That’s it — you nailed it.’ And sure enough — bam! — hit record.”
The single reached #31 on the charts and was the group’s first hit in years. A couple of releases later, 1967’s “With This Ring” was another bona fide hit. “Richard ‘Popcorn’ Wylie came up with ‘With This Ring,’ and this was yet another move toward that new sound,” Turner says.
“On this song, I came into my own. I didn’t have to mimic Tony Williams. We wanted a brassy song and sound, and bam! Another hit record.” Charting at #14, it was their first Top 20 tune since 1960, and suddenly, they were a hot national act once again.
Their very next release was “Washed Ashore.” “We were in Chicago performing at the Lamplighter, and Popcorn said, ‘I got another hit for you,’” Turner says. “He was thinking in terms of summertime and the beach, and we took the song into the studio and we nailed it. I said, ‘Hell yeah! I like this. Another hit.’” And though it didn’t make a huge impact on the charts, stalling at #56, it has been a fan favorite for decades.
But the group’s resurgence was brief, and after a few more minor chart hits, the group once again faded into the background. It wasn’t so much because of the group, however, and Turner thinks it was due more to their management. “Buck Ram had a few hits under his belt, and he thought he was Svengali. I always felt like had Buck stayed out of the way, we might have had four or five more hits, but as it was, that was it.”
Soon, the group splintered again, with Turner himself leaving eventually. He still performs today, however, and says that although the Platters are known for many hits, crowds “expect to hear those songs we did in the mid-’60s as well as the ’50s hits — they love those songs.”
Get the story behind more of the biggest hits of all time:
- The Foundations, “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You”
- The Swingin’ Medallions, “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love”
- Jay and the Techniques, “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie”
- Brenton Wood, “The Oogum Boogum Song”
- Gene McDaniels, “A Hundred Pounds of Clay”
- The Main Ingredient, “Everybody Plays the Fool”
- The Tymes, “So Much In Love”