The Drifters

The Drifters

If you need introducing to the Drifters then you probably should read no further, but for those who know and love classic American Doo – Wap music, you would already have checked your calender dates for either or both of their upcoming shows at the Reef Hotel Casino.

Current vocalist Billy Washington, who has been with the band since he was 14 (he is now almost 70) still can’t lay claim to being an original member such is the grandious scope of this band. Despite an always hectic touring schedule that takes them to all points of the globe, Washington says Cairns remains one of their favourite places to visit.

“We’ve done the casino a couple of times,” he said, “and both times were great. The last show in particular was fantastic so I’m really looking forward to getting back there this Friday and Saturday night.
It is fair to say that music played a large part in the early years of Washington’s upbringing, with the economic and social climate of a boy raised in his part of America leaving little options in life.

“I could not imagine my life being without music,” he mused.
“I grew up listening to Country and Western music because where I lived in Oklahoma was 99% Country and Western so I started singing that early in my life then I went to singing in a church before i fell into this style of Doo – Wap when I was 14 and I have been with it ever since. Without it i don’t think I would have had a life. When i look back on it it was an easy choice. Either sing, or pick cotton, so naturally I chose to sing.”

So many of those songs that he chose to sing way back then are still amongst the songs he sings today, with Drifters classics like ‘Under the Boardwalk’, ‘Sister and Brother’, Kissing in ther Back Room’ and ‘Save the Last Dance For Me’ still a favourite with the crowds.

When asked why he thought these songs still resonated with people more than 50 years after they were written his answer is simple. “Everybody can’t sing,” he explained, “and not everyone has rhythm but we sing songs that people who can’t sing can still relate to. You can go in the shower and sing ‘Under the Boardwalk’ and not worry what you sound like. So in effect we made songs – we didn’t set out to do it, it just happened – that everybody could sing. It’s about every day things and every day people and I think that’s easy for ourfans to relate to.”

As with anything that has been around for a long time, professionalism and simplicity is at the core of the Drifter’s success, and according to Washington it’s the repetitive nature of their shows which is the cornerstone of their on – stage magic.

“In the end all you can do is put on your best suit and your best bow tie and get up there and bring the crowd along with you. We always have the same routine. We get there, we do rehearsal and find out what you can and can’t do on stage and then we just hope the people come along and enjoy themselves as much as we do.”
As the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it.

Kris Peters

The Drifters play at the Reef Casino in Cairns on Friday 20th & Saturday 21st June