Bill Pickney, 1925-2007

On Wednesday, Bill Pickney died. He was the last surviving member of a group many know -- the Drifters. He was also a decorated WWII verteran and former Negro League Pitcher. They had big hits with "Under the Boardwalk", "Up on the Roof", "This Magic Moment," and others. Pickney didn't actually sing on any of their big hits; he had been fired from the group by then for asking for more money, another victim of a studio system that exploited black talent. But I paused when I heard he had died and was a little saddened, primarily because of my father.

Dad is a big fan of The Drifters and other similar groups of the time period, which many call Beach Music. I am not sure if the Drifters really fit into that category. They're R&B, really, and were much bigger than the regional bands that constitute that sub-genre. But you can shag to them, which is all that really matters, I suppose.

The Drifters and groups like that are an indelible part of my youth. We'd be working around the house on Saturday, or grilling out after church on Sunday, and dad would put on a record or turn the radio to a beach music station, where they would play The Drifters and other bands all afternoon. Those are good memories, even though on into high school I (like every teenager, almost) sneered a bit at the quaint music of my father. But, like any good adult, I've reconciled with all that, and enjoy the Drifters, Tams, Platters, and other groups of my father's youth.

Bill Pickney, RIP.


  1. I hear ya - my mom laughs at me for now asking to borrow those very same beach music CD's that I used to beg her notto play in the car. But, I think it makes her happy to know that 'Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy,' and 'Carolina Girls' among others, have found their way on to my iPod. :)

  2. I've had "This Magic Moment" in my head all day!

  3. I remember Dad taking me to see these bands while I would take him to see mine. The sharing of music taste and the respect for both really are found memories that I have. My 25th birthday present from Dad was to go see the Beach Music Hall OF Fame inductions, where many great talents played including Little Richard. The Drifters will always hold a place in my heart (thanks largely to Mrs. Grice) beach music will continue to live on.

  4. I seen Mr Pickney tonight on PBS 12 Dec 07. I think I may have heard on a local oldies station of the untimely death of Mr Pickney, but I donot remember as good as I use too.A true talent sorry to see him leave us, he will be missed by me and many others. God Bless You Bill

  5. My husband and I are, and always have been, great fans of the Drifters. We have somehow passed our love of the music from our era on to our children and grandchildren. Three generations of us watched Bill perform for the last time on the PBS Special, even our 1-year old grandson sat through the entire show as if spellbound. He really loved "White Christmas", and even tried to sing alon.

  6. isn't Ray Pickney the one that was rarely with the group but filled in from time to time and could play any instrument, still alive?


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