This Day in 1988: The Drifters are Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Friday, January 20, 2017
This Day in 1988: The Drifters are Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

29 years ago today, The Drifters were officially inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

When it comes to the Hall of Fame inducting a group, there are certain rules that must be followed in terms of which line-up of the group – and the members therein – are going to officially be inducted. In the case of The Drifters, they went a slightly different route, picking and choosing from the various eras of the group: the lucky individuals to be selected were Clyde McPhatter, Bill Pinkney, Gerhart Thrasher, Johnny Moore, Ben E. King, Charlie Thomas, and Rudy Lewis.

The Drifters were inducted by Billy Joel, who spoke of how he grew up in a Long Island housing development called Levittown and – like so many other kids of his era – spent time as a member of a gang.

“This was when a roof was just the top of a house, a boardwalk was just a long stretch of wood, Broadway was this street in New York City where old people with blue hair went to see plays, and the last dance was something you never hung around for,” said Joel. “The Drifters changed all this for my gang. Before President Kennedy was shot, before the British invasion, before the counterculture, before all hell broke loose, the Drifters offered my gang an alternative life style. They gave us the word, and the word was this: don't just stay in the house and stare at the ceiling, go up on the roof and stare at the stars.’ And even Levittown looked good from up there.”

During the inevitable all-star jam portion of the evening’s proceedings, it’s awe-inspiring to see the collection of characters who are ultimately serving as Ben E. King’s backing band as he sings “Stand By Me” to the collected masses. At various points in the proceedings, you can easily spot Joel, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Al Jardine, Little Steven, Dave Edmunds, Al Green, Julian Lennon, and Elton John.

Alas, King has yet to earn his own spot in the Rock Hall as a solo artist, but at least he and The Drifters have gotten their due.