(second from right) is the last surviving original member of The Platters, an American pop and R&B group that became a mainstay of American pop radio from the 50s to the 70s with hits like “Only You,” and “The Great Pretender.” Turner talks to Jessica Wei about his life and career, as well as his favorite rapper. HK Magazine: How did you start out in music?
Sonny Turner: My mother was a fabulous gospel singer. She took me to church and I sang in the junior choir. I loved music, it was like second nature to me. I kept singing, and all over the world were groups of kids who were getting together and forming vocal groups. I was in a group called The Metrotones out of Cleveland, and we learned our craft from people like
The Four Freshmen, The Mills Brothers, The High-Lows, and so on. We developed a reputation as a fine little vocal group. The group was the same configuration as The Platters—four guys and one girl. We had been singing the music of The Platters, as well. But eventually, two of our members were drafted into the Service, but I was too young, and The Metrotones disbanded.
HK: And The Platters?
ST: I was singing in a nightclub and [producer and songwriter for The Platters] Buck Ram had sent his friend to Cleveland to scout for a lead singer to replace Tony Williams. He happened to come into the club while I was onstage. When I finished my show, this gentlemen approached me and said he’d found the lead singer of the new Platters. Buck Ram had me come and meet them in a live performance in Milwaukee, where
The Platters were appearing in a supperclub. I did an audition for them, and they hired me that night.
HK: Were they very famous at this time?
ST: They were at the top of their fame. Isn’t that wonderful? I think it was divine intervention. We were singing The Platters’ music as The Metrotones, as some little group in Cleveland, and it just so happens, that I ended up singing for the actual Platters. What do you call that?