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Former Drifters singer to perform at fundraiser Saturday

Drifting back to the SCV

Posted: September 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 28, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Bobby Hendricks holds memorabilia at his Sand Canyon home on Friday.

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It was dubbed “doo-wop,” and Santa Clarita Valley resident Bobby Hendricks was among those to pioneer the a capella sound as it hit mainstream music popularity in the 1950s.

From his Sand Canyon home, Hendricks recalled singing lead tenor for the Original Drifters from 1957 to 1958, harmonizing for 15 years with Bill Pinkney’s The Drifters in the 1960s and traveling the world as a solo act since 1977.

“They wanted to make a good sound without instruments,” his wife of 40 years, Ruth Hendricks, said of the harmonizing sound The Drifters helped popularize.

The Hendricks raised a family in the Santa Clarita Valley and later moved to Florida. But now they’ve moved back, and Bobby Hendricks plans to join other local musicians on Saturday at Box City, the annual Family Promise of Santa Clarita event to raise money for local homeless families.

“It was some way that I could help people and get someone to actually pay attention to how people are living,” Hendricks said. “I wanted to contribute something, and it was an opportunity to get on stage and make people happy.”

In recent years, Hendricks has performed to raise money and awareness for veterans and other groups.

“People need something to look forward to. Music makes a lot of people happy just to hear some sounds that make them feel special,” Hendricks said. “And it doesn’t really cost you anything.”

Fans have been looking forward to his smart, slick vocals since 1957.

At 17 years old, Hendricks was crooning out the smooth sounds of rock, rhythm and blues before the world came to know those harmonies as doo-wop. He watched his a capella group of church boys move from an Ohio corner to the lights and crowds of a packed Apollo Theater lineup.

Hendricks was singing rock ’n’ roll and blues with The Five Crowns in Columbus, Ohio, when his dreams came true: He joined The Drifters in 1957.

The rest was history as he recorded The Drifters’ smash hit “Drip Drop” and solo hit “Itchy Twitchy Feeling.” He shared the stage with The Coasters, The Diamonds, Buddy Holly and some of the best artists of the age because collaboration was more than just expected.

“We were all friends. People back then were glad to help each other out,” Hendricks said. “You had to be creative.”

“The Dick Clark Show,” “American Bandstand” and Alan Freed, one of the first DJs to play black music, invited Hendricks and his groups to spread the sounds of doo-wop as black music took center stage.

Music called Hendricks to England, Ireland, China and Japan as fans of every nationality embraced the sound.

“There were about 10,000 people standing outside the airport,” Hendricks said of his arrival for a Japanese show in 1960. “It was fun. I got around. I do get around.”

Hendricks and his wife still travel, bringing the power of music and history with them.

“He likes bringing joy to people. They just crowd him. They want pictures and photos because it’s part of history,” Ruth Hendricks said.

“There’s such a resurgence of the oldies because it’s something they understand,” Ruth Hendricks said. “That’s something that will never die.”

“We’ve been blessed all our lives,” Bobby Hendricks said. “I will sing to my last breath because if that’s the case, then I have done something to make somebody happy.”

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