McPhatter then signed to Atlantic Records after forming a group, The Drifters. "Money Honey", "Such a Night", "Honey Love", "White Christmas" and "Whatcha Gonna Do" became huge hits. In 1954, McPhatter was drafted but was assigned in the U.S., allowing him to continue recording. He soon left The Drifters and launched a solo career. His first solo hit occurred just after being discharged - "Love Has Joined Us Together" (with Ruth Brown).
He released several R&B hits in the next few years, but only made one serious dent in the pop charts with the Brook Benton penned song "A Lovers Question", which made it to #6 in 1958. White groups usually covered his best compositions and achieved more widespread mainstream success. In spite of this, McPhatter became one of the most popular black musicians among white listeners. His 1956 recording of "Treasure of Love" saw him enjoy just one week in the UK singles chart.
The lack of any subsequent entry gave him the unenviable tag there of being a one hit wonder McPhatter soon signed to MGM Records, and released several more hits. "I Told Myself a Lie" and "Think Me a Kiss" (1960) became minor pop hits, as was "Ta Ta", his first single for Mercury Records. "I Never Knew" and "Lover Please" (1962) became even bigger pop hits, but his career started suffering due to his alcoholism. Other black artists were following McPhatter's blueprint into pop audiences, including Rudy Lewis, Johnny Moore, Sam Cooke and an all new line-up of The Drifters.
McPhatter's unreliability kept him from maintaining his career in the face of this competition. As the 1960s wore on, McPhatter's career kept falling in spite of a few minor hits. In the early 1970s, McPhatter spent some time living in England, where he still had a significant audience, but this was short-lived. Back again in America, Clyde McPhatter died of a heart attack in 1972, at the age of 39. In 1987, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
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