LONDON (Reuters) - The Coasters lead singer and founding member Carl Gardner has died aged 83, the band’s website announced.
He passed away at a hospice in Florida on Sunday after suffering from congestive heart failure and vascular dementia “for some time.”
The Coasters were a U.S. R&B vocal group with a string of hits in the 1950s that included “Young Blood,” “Searchin,'” “Poison Ivy” and chart topper “Yakety Yak.”
Gardner was lead vocalist for Los Angeles-based The Robins before he and bandmate Bobby Nunn teamed up with Billy Guy, Leon Hughes and guitarist Adolph Jacobs to form the Coasters in 1955.
They joined songwriting duo Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and became known as the “clown princes of rock ‘n’ roll” for their humorous songs and comic onstage antics.
“They were sort of our comedy troupe, and we wrote songs for them and assigned different lines to different singers because they were, like, acting out little plays,” Stoller told the Los Angeles Times.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. In its biography of the group, the institution wrote:
“From 1956 to 1961, the Coasters released a string of classic singles that reflected the life of the American teenager with keen wit and hot, rocking harmonies.”
It added that the band was also popular in England, where the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and others covered their songs.
“Ironically, it was the rise of the British (pop) Invasion that spelled commercial decline for such Fifties icons as the Coasters,” the Hall of Fame added.
Gardner was born in Texas in April 1928 and began singing at an early age. He had a stint in the army as a teenager before heading to Los Angeles in the early 1950s with a dream of making it as a professional musician.
He is survived by his wife Veta, daughter Brenda and two sons, Carl Jr. and Ahilee, as well as seven grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
His funeral will be held in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on June 21.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison