This Day in 1960: Ben E. King signs with Atco
57 years ago today, Benjamin Earl Nelson signed on the dotted line at Atco Records, officially beginning his tenure on the label under his stage name: Ben E. King.
Not that Ben E. hadn’t been working prior to putting his John Hancock on the paperwork, mind you. In 1958, he’d joined the doo-wop group The Five Crowns, the members of which were, by the grace of George Treadwell, turned into the new members of The Drifters. As a result, Ben E. found himself fronting the group for such classic tunes as “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” and “This Magic Moment.”
Despite his success with The Drifters, Ben E. and his manager, Lover Patterson, battled with Treadwell over Ben E.’s compensation, resulting in Ben E. being involved with the group predominantly in the studio. Tensions increased, and it eventually came to a head in April 1960, with Ben E. leaving The Drifters. Fortunately, he’d already made himself a hot commodity by that point and was able to sign to Atco, which set him on a path that would result in hits like “Spanish Harlem,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” and the immortal “Stand By Me.”
Nice move, Atco. And nice work, Mr. King.