The Drifters were originally formed in 1953 as back up singers for Clyde McPhatter by the late George Treadwell. To this day, the group is still owned by the Treadwell Family.

Right from the very beginning there was a constant succession of regular lineup changes that would characterize The Drifters' name. Early line up members included William Anderson, David Baughan, David Baldwin and James Johnson, bass player Bill Pinkney, guitarist Jimmy Oliver, brothers Gerhart and Andrew Thrasher and bass singer Willie Ferbee.

Early recordings included songs such as ‘Lucille,’ ‘Money Honey,’ ‘Such a Night’ and ‘Honey Love.’ The Drifters' career was quickly established and they became one of the most popular acts in the charts and on stage. In 1954, McPhatter parted with the group to pursue a solo career that would make him successful for the rest of the 1950s. He sold off his interest in the group to George Treadwell, making the line up nothing more than salaried members earning as little as $100 a week – a factor that contributed to the constant line up rotation in the group’s history.