On Wednesday, Bill Pickney died. He was the last surviving member of a group many know -- the Drifters. He was also a decorated WWII verteran and former Negro League Pitcher. They had big hits with "Under the Boardwalk", "Up on the Roof", "This Magic Moment," and others. Pickney didn't actually sing on any of their big hits; he had been fired from the group by then for asking for more money, another victim of a studio system that exploited black talent. But I paused when I heard he had died and was a little saddened, primarily because of my father.
Dad is a big fan of The Drifters and other similar groups of the time period, which many call Beach Music. I am not sure if the Drifters really fit into that category. They're R&B, really, and were much bigger than the regional bands that constitute that sub-genre. But you can shag to them, which is all that really matters, I suppose.
The Drifters and groups like that are an indelible part of my youth. We'd be working around the house on Saturday, or grilling out after church on Sunday, and dad would put on a record or turn the radio to a beach music station, where they would play The Drifters and other bands all afternoon. Those are good memories, even though on into high school I (like every teenager, almost) sneered a bit at the quaint music of my father. But, like any good adult, I've reconciled with all that, and enjoy the Drifters, Tams, Platters, and other groups of my father's youth.
Bill Pickney, RIP.