The Platters founder and singer Herb Reed died Monday at the age of 83, his managers announced.
Reed, the last surviving original member of the 1950s group, died in a Boston-area hospice after a period of declining health, publicists and managers at Balboni Communications Group announced.
As a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Reed is known for singing bass on such hits as “The Great Pretender,” “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Only You.”
His management team said that in the past year, Reed proclaimed that his greatest accomplishment was in 2011 winning a trademark lawsuit in Las Vegas over rights to the Platters name.
The ruling came after a series of lawsuits were filed over many years by various artists claiming to have rights to the name.
“Herbert Reed, having first used the mark ‘The Platters’ in commerce in 1953, and having continuously used the mark in commerce since then, has superior rights to the mark to all others,” said an order signed by U.S. District Judge James Mahan in May 2011.
The decision made Reed “sole heir to the group’s tremendous legacy,” Reed’s management team said in a statement Tuesday about his death.
“You know a lot of people tell me to just hang it up, but I just cannot do that,” Reed told a biographer early this year. “It’s not right to have someone steal your name. It’s just not right. We were cheated back then, but that’s how things were done then. It’s doubly wrong to face it again today. It’s theft, and I have to fight so that no other artist faces this.”
When Reed learned of the judge’s decision last year, he was elated, said Reed manager Frederick J. Balboni Jr.
“He teared up and told me this was the most important thing he had done. He joked that he was going to have the judge’s decision framed and hung up along the gold and platinum records that line the walls of his home,” Balboni Jr. said in Tuesday’s statement.
Two suits are still active in Las Vegas involving Reed’s company Herb Reed Enterprises LLC and alleged Platters copycat groups. Many of the lawsuits were filed in Nevada because over the years, various Platters groups performed in Las Vegas casinos.
Disputes over ownership of the name and trademark erupted after Platters members and managers left the group over the years and started their own Platters spinoff groups, and some assigned their rights to the Platters name to third parties.
There’s another Las Vegas connection to Reed: “The Great Pretender” lyrics were written in a washroom of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas by Buck Ram, who became the Platters’ manager in 1954.