Clyde Lensley McPhatter (November 15, 1932 – June 13, 1972) was an American rhythm and blues, soul and rock and roll singer. He was one of the most widely imitated R&B singers of the 1950s and early 1960s and was a key figure in the shaping of doo-wop and R&B.
McPhatter's high-pitched tenor voice was steeped in the gospel music he sang in much of his early life. He was the lead tenor of the Mount Lebanon Singers, a gospel group he formed as a teenager. He was later the lead tenor of Billy Ward and his Dominoes and was largely responsible for the initial success of the group. After his tenure with the Dominoes, McPhatter formed his own group, the Drifters, and later worked as a solo performer. Only 39 at the time of his death, he had struggled for years with alcoholism and depression and was, according to Jay Warner’s On This Day in Music History, "broke and despondent over a mismanaged career that made him a legend but hardly a success."
McPhatter left a legacy of over 22 years of recording history. He was the first artist to be inducted twice into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, first as a member of the Drifters and later as a solo artist. Subsequent double and triple inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are said to be members of the "Clyde McPhatter Club."
He is also known as Clyde Lensley McPhatter.
McPhatter returned to the U.S. in 1970, making a few appearances in rock-and-roll revival tours, but lived mostly as a recluse. Hopes for a major comeback with a Decca album were crushed on June 13, 1972, when he died in his sleep at the age of 39, of complications of heart, liver, and kidney disease, brought on by alcohol abuse - abuse fueled by a failed career and resentment he harbored towards the fans he felt deserted him. In his interview with journalist Marcia Vance, McPhatter said, "I have no fans." He died at 1165 East 229th Street, Bronx, New York, where he had been living with Bertha M. Reid; they were traveling together as he tried to make a comeback.
McPhatter was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, at the time of his death. He was buried at George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.
Ruth Brown acknowledged in her later years that McPhatter was the actual father of her son Ronald, born in 1954. Ron now tours with his own group named after his father - Clyde McPhatter's Drifters.