April 30, 2007 – Zola Taylor (The Platters) was born in Los Angeles, California on March 17th 1938. She became the only female member of The Platters from 1954 to 1962, when the group produced most of their popular singles such as “My Prayer”, “Twilight Time”, “Harbor Lights”, “To Each His Own”, “If I Didn’t Care” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.
Zola Taylor was a member of The Platters until 1962, when she was replaced by singer Barbara Randolph. Herb Reed, a founding member of the Platters, said he spotted Ms. Taylor, the sister of Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, rehearsing with an all-female group in 1954. The Platters, then all men, had just signed with the Mercury label after its single “Only You” topped the charts, and its manager thought they needed a woman’s voice to soften their sound. “She had this baby voice that everyone liked,” Mr. Reed said.
Mr. Reed said that Ms. Taylor, a contralto, turned out to be a great fit, charming audiences with both her smile and her vocal harmony. The group’s next hit, “The Great Pretender,” raced to the No. 1 spot on both R&B and pop music charts. Their success also inspired many other African-American groups to add female singers.
The popularity of the Platters began to fizzle after 1959, when four members were arrested in a Cincinnati hotel and accused of using drugs and soliciting prostitutes. Ms. Taylor was back in the spotlight in 1968, when she and two other women who claimed to be Mr. Lymon’s widow became embroiled in a bitter legal battle for his royalties. Mr. Lymon, a teen pop sensation in the 1950s with hits like “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?,” had died of a drug overdose in 1968 at age 25.
Taylor was the second of Frankie Lymon’s three wives. In 1984, on behalf of Emira Lymon, a lawyer and artist’s agent sued to wrest the copyright of Frankie’s hit song “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” away from the current owner. The case became confused when it looked like Lymon had a second and possibly a third widow. Elizabeth Waters claimed to have married Lymon in 1964 in Maryland. However, it turned out she had been married to someone else at the time. As Waters’ claim went to court, Taylor claimed that she had been sexually active with Lymon as early as the “Biggest Rock “n” Roll Show of 1956″ tour. She claimed to have married Lymon in Mexicali, Mexico around 1965, but could not produce a marriage license. The first hearing, held in Philadelphia, was decided in favor of Waters being Lymon’s first wife. Emira Eagle, his third wife, appealed and won a reversal based on her claim that she was Lymon’s first wife.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in its inaugural year of 1998. The Platters were the first rock and roll group to have a Top Ten album in America.
They were also the only act to have three songs included on the American Graffiti soundtrack that sparked an oldies revival in the early to mid-1970s: “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, “The Great Pretender” and “Only You (and You Alone)”. Taylor appeared with The Platters in the first rock’n’roll film, Rock Around the Clock. In 1990, Taylor was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Platters. Zola Taylor died in Riverside, CA at age 69, from pneumonia, following a series of strokes. Zola Taylor was portrayed by Halle Berry in the 1998 film Why Do Fools Fall in Love.
Zola died from pneumonia, following a series of strokes on 30 April 2007 at the age of 69.