A rare 1977 smooth soul album covering 12 of the Bee Gees’ hits, arranged and conducted by John Cameron. Including a stunning cover version of “To Love Somebody” and the wonderful smooth “Charade“.
Bill Fredericks was one of the many featured vocalists with the Drifters. While he never reached the heights of success of the group’s founder member Clyde McPhatter or a later lead vocalist Ben E. King, who both went on to solo careers, Fredericks’s presence enabled the Drifters to survive the late Sixties and find a new audience in Britain in the early Seventies. Most famously, Fredericks’s rich, smooth baritone propelled the soulful, yearning “Like Sister and Brother” into the British Top Ten in 1972.
A1 Baby As You Turn Away 4:10
A2 Run To Me 3:13
A3 Love So Right 3:17
A4 I Started A Joke 3:26
A5 The Way It Was 4:10
A6 Lovers 3:12
A7 Love With You 3:30
B1 Love Me 4:00
B2 Fanny (Be Tender With My Love) 2:55
B3 To Love Somebody 3:14
B4 Charade 3:53
B5 Words 4:10
B6 How Can You Mend A Broken Heart 4:25
By 1967, when Fredericks joined the Drifters, the group had sold over 15 million records as “There Goes My Baby“, “Dance With Me“, “Save the Last Dance For Me” and “Under the Boardwalk” crossed over from the rhythm ‘n’ blues to the pop market. Masterminded by the formidable impresario George Treadwell, who owned the rights to the group’s name and wasn’t averse to sacking the entire line-up if they requested a pay rise, the Drifters had been through a procession of vocalists including Clyde McPhatter, Gerhart Thrasher, Bill Pinkney, Bobby Hendricks, Ben E. King and Rudy Lewis.
Until the mid-Sixties, the Drifters had been a priority act for Atlantic Records who afforded them the best songwriters and producers (including Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller, Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman, Gerry Goffin and Carole King). However, the label’s founder Ahmet Ertegun now spent more time on solo artists and rock acts.
Subsequently, the Drifters were shunted between various arrangers and in the space of four years issued only five singles (“Ain’t It the Truth”, “Still Burning In My Heart”, “Your Best Friend”, “Black Silk” and “Be My Lady”). Fredericks sang lead on a couple of those and decided to stick around, even though the group had been through yet another reshuffle, the baritone Butch Leake and bass vocalist Don Thomas coming in alongside Fredericks and Moore.
When George Treadwell died in 1971, his widow Faye took over the Drifters’ affairs. The following year, reissues of “At the Club” and “Come On Over To My Place” made the British Top Ten and the Drifters relocated to London. Their fortunes enjoyed a further revival when they signed to Bell Records in 1973 and released “Like Sister and Brother“. Fredericks was the featured vocalist on that classic single but was restricted to a harmony role on the easy listening soul of “Kissin’ in the Back Row of the Movies“, “Down on the Beach Tonight” and “Love Games” which charted in the next two years.
In 1975, after a conflict between Fredericks and the Drifters’ management, he went solo but remained in London. “Britain seemed the ideal place for me,” he explained. “I love the country and I was determined to build a new career by playing the cabaret clubs up and down the country. I’ve not regretted the move one little bit.” In the late Seventies, he signed to Polydor Records and issued three singles, “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?“, “Lovers” and a stunning cover version of the Bee Gees’ “To Love Somebody“, and also contributed to the soundtracks of the films Black Joy (1977) and The Stud (1978).
Fredericks still performed with his former colleagues on the odd occasion and released a fine solo version of the Lou Rawls tune “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” on the Unigram label. But mostly he worked the supper-clubs of Scandinavia and Germany, and also appeared at the Dorchester, the Ritz, Blazers, Baileys, Jimmy’s and the Cafe Royal in London. As well as performing Drifters’ hits, he did impersonations, of John Wayne, Sammy Davis Jnr and even Jackie Mason.
In the last few years, Bill Fredericks found a lucrative niche doing voice-overs. His warm, velvety tones were heard on television and film commercials (for Marmite, Radox and various Walt Disney projects) and radio stations. In the course of a 45-year span, the Drifters have had many incarnations and a version of the group is still performing up and down Britain.
Finally get The Drifters‘ “The Very Best of” in our back pages here