BOSTON (Reuters) - Herb Reed, the last of the founding members of 1950s R&B crooners The Platters, known for hits such as "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "The Great Pretender," has died in Boston age 83.
Reed's publicists said the singer, who in recent years lived in Arlington, Massachusetts, died on Monday after a period of declining health.
The singing group was formed in Los Angeles in 1953 by Reed along with Joe Jefferson, Cornell Gunther, and Alex Hodge. The group went on to have four number-one singles on the U.S. charts between 1955 and 1958.
The Platters continued to record for another decade and tour in various incarnations, and with more than 100 different members, until the present day.
Reed grew up in poverty in Kansas City, Missouri. "I was poor, and I'm not ashamed to share those stories now," Reed said in a recent interview. "I was so hungry I couldn't think."
When he struck out for Los Angeles at age 15, Reed had three dollars in his pocket and just the clothes on his back. Before getting into the music scene he worked at a car wash for $20 a week.
In recent years Reed, the Platters' bass singer, waged a long and ultimately successful battle in federal court to obtain superior rights to the name The Platters.
As the last surviving member of the original group, that made the singer the sole heir to the group's legacy.
"It's not right to have someone steal your name. It's just not right," Reed said in early 2012. "It's theft, and I have to fight it so that no other artist faces this."
The Platters, praised for their smooth, stylized renditions of pop standards, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
"They are fondly remembered as a throwback to a golden era when pop, rhythm and blues and rock and roll flowed together in perfect harmony," the Platters' Hall of Fame citation said.
Reed outlived his siblings and is survived by a son, Herbert Jr, and three grandsons.
(Reporting By Ros Krasny; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)