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INTERVIEW: The Drifters’ original Michael Williams speaks about history show Stand By Me and his excitement when asked to audition for band

15:37 14 February 2017

A snapshot of Stand By Me on stage

A snapshot of Stand By Me on stage

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Stand By Me looks back on The Drifters’ history, and trials and tribulations they faced

Last year was the finale for The Drifters after six decades of tours, shows, and fans. But from the band’s end, comes their history, and a show titled Stand By Me, which is told through anecdotes of former band members on screen.

Stand by Me is the phenomenal musical history of a group that helped to define Atlantic Records, inspired early rock and roll and was a forerunner to both the black music movement in 1950’s America and even early Motown, and is making its way to Tunbridge Wells.

Michael Williams, was a long-standing member of the band having performed for 12 years.

He was originally scouted by Tina Tredwell, the band’s management at the time, while working in a nightclub in New York.

He tells KoS: “She asked me to audition, and I couldn’t believe it. It was fantastic, I rushed home to tell my parents as they were mine and their favourite group. When I was asked to join the group there was no question about whether or not I would say yes, it was assumed that I would. I spent a year as an understudy to learn the back catalogue of songs - there are so many - and then I became a permanent line-up member.”

Speaking of the band’s monumental history, and what the best aspects of that are, Mr Williams says he thinks the different characters are what has made the band so great.

He said: “I have been so lucky to talk to some of the characters that have come and gone. And members such as Ben E King, and Clyde McPhatter have helped The Drifters create music that sends people crazy. Though the music is old it’s still fresh too and people of all ages and generations can enjoy it.”

Though the band continued from when it was formed in 1953 to 2016, members came and went often.

Mr Williams explains: “Though Clyde McPhatter formed the band, he only stayed for a year because he got drafted into the military, and this became the norm. The band lost many members to the military. In 1958 the whole line-up was fired because the management didn’t agree with them at the time. That’s the way it’s always been for the band, some people get fired, some choose to leave, some even leave and come back again, but in the end the band has remained because the legacy it left behind is so strong.”

When asked what his favourite Drifters song is, the singer replies that it’s a “really hard question.”

But goes on to elaborate, saying: “It changes quite often. It was Love Games for a long time but I also love Your More Than A Number because I used to sing it a lot as a kid and when I’m on stage singing it, it brings back memories. But I guess if I had to pick, I would say Love Games.”

Mr Williams hopes fans learn a lot from the show, he adds: “We get to talk to a lot fo fans but not many knew the story behind The Drifters or about the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, so I really want them to leave knowing the history.

“The Drifters are one of the biggest groups od all tieme, I want people to go away loving the songs but also loving that they now know the history surrounding them.”

Stand By Me is coming to Tunbridge Wells’ Assembly Hall on March 24.

For tickets or more information visit assemblyhalltheatre.co.uk

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