An American Legend Comes To Myrtle Beach for MayFest
May 15, 2010
Soul singer Ben. E. King is coming to town on May 15 and I’m pumped. “Spanish Harlem,” “Stand By Me,” There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance For Me,” “I Who Have Nothing,” And that’s just off the top of my head. With his smooth delivery and soulful styling, Ben E. King deserves to be credited as one of the artists who helped pave the way for Motown artists who came on the scene shortly afterward.
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson in the Upstate of North Carolina, King moved to Harlem, N.Y when he was nine years old. During junior high school, he sang with the Four B’s, performing doo wop on local street corners. At 20 he was invited to join the Five Crowns, a doo wop group who often opened for the Drifters. The same year 1958, George Treadwell, who was managing the Drifters then, fired the entire band and hired the Crowns to replace them.
These new Drifters, including Ben Nelson (still using his birth name), began working with producer/songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. King brought them a song he’d been working on, “There Goes My Baby,” which would become his first vocal lead. He also sang lead on “Save the Last Dance for Me,” written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. The tune spent three weeks on the U.S. pop charts as well as a week on the U.S. R&B chart.
Ironically, despite being inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 as Ben E. King and the Drifters, he only recorded ten songs with them, and had left the group by 1960.
After leaving the Drifters, King – now using the name Ben E. King – embarked on his solo career. Remaining with the Drifters’ label, Atlantic Records (Atco), King’s first hit as a solo act was “Spanish Harlem,” (1961). Written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector, the tune featured Spanish guitar and marimbas. It reached No. 15 on the R&B charts and No. 10 on Pop. [Note: in 2004, it would appear as No. 349. on The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list for Rolling Stone magazine.]
His next recording was “Stand By Me,” for which he shares co-composer status with the Leiber & Stoller team. According to Wikipedia, ““Stand by Me” was voted as one of the Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America. “Stand by Me,” “There Goes My Baby” and “Spanish Harlem” were named as three of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll and were all given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, as well as “Save The Last Dance For Me.” His other well known songs were “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” (which was covered by Aretha Franklin in the 1970s), “Amor,” “Seven Letters,” “How Can I Forget,” “On the Horizon,” “Young Boy Blues,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” “First Taste of Love,” “Here Comes the Night,” “Ecstasy,” “That’s When It Hurt,” “Down Home,” “River of Tears,” “Do It in the Name of Love,” and “It’s All Over.””
“What Is Soul?” (1967) pretty much marked the end of King’s time with Atco until 1975 when Atlantic president Ahmet Ertegun urged him to re-sign with the label. The disco tune “Supernatural Thing, Part I” put King back on the charts again. He enjoyed some success collaborating with the Average White Band and later toured with another version of the Drifters.
In 1986, director Rob Reiner featured King’s “Stand By Me” in his movie of the same name and the song once again climbed the charts. The nineties found King recording with Bo Diddly, recording a children’s album and performing at different venues.
In 1997, Ben E. King formed the Stand By Me Foundation, a nonprofit (501)c(3) organization created to award scholarship to financially challenged students pursuing a four-year college degree with an emphasis on music. He still serves as chairman and CEO and his honorary chairs have been pretty impressive: the late Ahmet M. Ertegun, Atlantic Recording Corp; Jerry Leiber, composer and MIke Stoller, composer.
I wanted to share with you an online source that I found as I wrote this piece. It’s a blog … actually it’s two blogs by a guy named Red Kelly from New York. One is called “The A Side,” which is really the “B” side of the blog. It covers “A” sides that aren’t very well-known (and may not even be available on CD). The “A” side of the blog is called “The B Side,” and according to the blogger, “This page is dedicated to the poor, neglected “B” sides of all these 45s I have …” Are you kidding ??I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. I love this guy already. Dude, check him out. Red’s web address is: http://redkelly.blogspot.com.
Sources: starpulse.com (Steve Huey, All Music Guide); Encyclopedia of Rhythm & Blues and Doo Wop Vocal Groups by Mitch Rosalsky.
10 a.m.Beach Music Festival Kick-Off. Food vendors and arts & crafts booths open.
10 a.m. The Embers. from Raleigh, N.C., masters of R&B and soulful rock, this quintet will blow you away – even at ten o’clock in the morning!
11:30 a.m. Jim Quick & Coastline. Fresh from opening at House of Blues for Delbert McClinton, Wilmington’s musical madman and his loony legions deliver funk & soul at its best.
12 noon. The official Boardwalk and Promenade ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Boardwalk between 8th and 9th Ave. North.
12:30 p.m. Buddy “The Cake Boss” Valastro reveals his gigantic flip-flop cake. How perfect is that for Myrtle Beach?
1 – 4 p.m. Character Meet & Greet with The Cake Boss. Adult show fans may love this even more than the kids.
1 p.m. Billy Scott & The Party Prophets. Billy Scott is back! Don’t miss this classic beach band Performing classic hits like “I Got the Fever” and “Rockin’ Good Way.”
2:30 p.m. Maurice Williams & The Zodiacs. Charlotte, N.C.’s Maurice Williams (“Stay,” “Little Darlin’”) is one of the most extraordinarily durable figures in the history of classic R&B.
4 p.m. Mark Roberts & Breeze. From Georgetown, S.C., this dynamic dance band covers rock, funk, motown, country, blues and beach.
5:30 p.m. Cornell Gunter’s Coasters. Called the “clown princes of rock & roll” the Coasters will be performing their most popular hits.
7 p.m. The Catalinas from Charlotte, N.C. performing classic and original beach music like “Summer Time’s Calling Me.”
8:45 p.m. Ben E. King. This man with the amazing baritone voice is probably best known as the hit song “Stand By Me.” His enduring tune was in the U.S. Top 10 in 1961 and again in 1987, and made it to No. 1 in the U.K. in 1987. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see a true American legend in person.