Ray Pollard “The Drifter” (United Artists 916, 1965)

Ray Pollard “The Drifter” (United Artists 916, 1965)

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Welcome Virgo Season. We keep the Soul Birthday parties going in the harvest season with an R&B Giant you may not know. Ray Pollard would have turned 85 years old this August 25th. Getting his start more than 60 years ago, he was one of the most influential voices in the transition from Doo-Wop to Soul Music from the early 50’s through the mid 1960’s.

He possessed a nearly operatic voice that was able to devastate with pinpoint accuracy; a style often imitated moreso in the transition to Soul than R&B. Though hits weren’t numerous for the 10 years he served as Primary lead for The Wanderers, his artistry was well regarded enough to be pulled, at age 35, as a potential Soul Sex Symbol. His outings for United Artists during 1965-66 were the height of Uptown Soul Elegance, but still the hits weren’t forthcoming.

The best regarded in the series of singles is the absolutely devastating story song featured here. Although overwrought tearjerkers were a staple on 1960’s radio, perhaps the subject of vagabond without purpose after the death of their beloved was a bit much for listeners in 1965, especially from a Black Man. There’s areas where Pollard’s primal yell really devastate, and to me it stands as one of the best of the genre. As Pollard himself, in the league of soul singers, ought to be rightfully placed. Happy Birthday Sir.

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