NEW YORK — Tony Williams, the original lead singer of The Platters whose renditions of "Only You" and "The Great Pretender" propelled the R & B group to stardom in the 1950s, died Friday. He was 64.
Williams died in his sleep at home, according to his wife, Helen. She said he had diabetes but had no other known health problems.
A native of Elizabeth, N.J., Williams was working as a parking lot attendant in Los Angeles in 1953 when he was recruited by songwriter Buck Ram to front an R & B group, according to the book "Million Selling Records."
The Platters--Williams, David Lynch, Herbert Reed, Paul Robi and Zola Taylor--recorded "Only You" in 1955.
Helen Williams, 59, said she was a model from New York when she met her future husband in Las Vegas in 1957. She soon replaced Taylor in the group and married Williams in 1963.
From 1955 until Williams left the group in 1960, The Platters had four No. 1 hits and 16 gold records, including "My Prayer," "Harbor Lights," "Twilight Time," "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes," and their biggest seller, "The Great Pretender."
The group continued to perform without Williams, while he pursued a solo career.
Besides his wife, Williams is survived by a son, four sisters and a brother.