Possessing one of the most elegant baritone voices ever, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame alumnus Ben E. King’s imprint on the musical landscape is so indelible that an optimum barometer has been set for countless aspiring performers. From a youngster in Harlem to an embraceable solo artist, Ben E. King’s contributions to the pop music spectrum are incalculable.
Born Benjamin Earl Nelson, in Henderson, North Carolina, young Ben’s family relocated to New York City when he was at the tender age of nine. While attending Jr. High School, he discovered a unique talent: singing harmony in a group with other gifted youngsters. Little did precocious Ben realize that these after school, impromptu doo-wop sessions were mere tune-ups for a dynamic musical career that would exceed his wildest dreams, span decades, and enchant millions of music aficionados the world over. Benny’s precocious young group became known as The Four B’s and earned the reputation of being one of the finest young acts in the area. One evening, while competing against other aspiring acts at the world-renowned Apollo Theater, their sacrifice and success was handsomely rewarded as they walked away with a prized second place finish!
In 1958 Ben reached the big-time as a member of the Five Crowns, a local group that opened shows for well- known groups. In that same year they were privileged to open an Apollo Theater concert for the most popular R&B group in the world, The Drifters. Because of the departure of their popular lead singer, then manager George Treadwell sensed a colossal vacuum and staleness in the group. His solution? Replace the whole Drifters group with members of the graceful Five Crowns! That daring move would open the door for Ben to sing lead for the greatest R&B group at that time and create full exposure for his musical compositions. Their first recording in 1959 was Atlantic Records’ trend-setting smash-hit titled “There Goes My Baby”; that ballad (which Ben co-wrote with Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller) distinguished The Drifters as the first popular group to feature strings (violins) on major musical recordings.