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Photo contributed by Maxine Porter /The current lineup of The Original Drifters features Joe Turner, Ramone Noble, Andre King and Chuck Cockerham.

The vast legacy of the late Bill Pinkney continues today thanks in part to Bill Pinkney's The Original Drifters, a quartet that will perform two shows Saturday at the Chattanooga Theatre Centre.

A member of five musical halls of fame — Vocal Group, United Group Harmony, Beach Music, Doo Wop and Rock and Roll — Pinkney was awarded a Rhythm & Blues Foundation Pioneer Award and a Gospel Stellar Award. Beyond music, he earned a World War II Presidential Citation with five Bronze Stars and was a Negro League sandlot pitcher.

The Drifters formed in 1953 with Pinkney, Clyde McPhatter, Gerhart Thrasher, Andrew Thrasher, Willie Ferbee and Walter Adams on guitar. Pinkney died at 81 in 2007, but during his lifetime, he dedicated himself to preserving The Drifters' sound.

He was given exclusive rights to the name The Original Drifters in the early '60s and continued to tour.

"His main concern was preserving the name and the tradition of The Drifters," said current member Chuck Cockerham. Nearly four dozen performers, including Ben E. King, have been Drifters in some form or another over the years. Cockerham said he started with the group in 1969 and that each of the other current members — Joe Turner, Ramone Noble and Andre King — shared a stage with Pinkney in the group at one time or another.

If you go

› What: Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters

› When: 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 7

› Where: Chattanooga Theatre Centre, 400 River St.

› Admission: $40

› Phone: 423-267-8534

"The way we sing and perform is not like anything else today with all of the electronics and computers," Cockerham said. "The projection is a lost art."

Band manager Maxine Porter said the group is very proud of its lineage.

"This is not a thrown-together group, and we have fought tirelessly in the courts of law, not the court of public opinion, to keep our name and tradition," she said.

"Younger people remember the later Drifters, but we are very proud that our late leader is the lead singer of the best-selling Drifters song in 'White Christmas.' [Their version of the Irving Berlin classic was released in 1954] It's the version in the movie 'Home Alone,' so it gets played every year."

She said she marvels at the depth of talent the original members had.

"Even before Bill became a renowned singer, he was a ball player with the New York Blue Sox. Bill Pinkney lived so many lives, but all of the guys were talented in so many ways."

Other hits by the group include "There Goes My Baby," "Please Stay," "Money Honey," "Dance With Me,"This Magic Moment," "Under the Boardwalk," "Up on the Roof " and "Stand by Me."

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.

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