The lone female member of the immortal Platters, Zola Taylor contributed lead and backing vocals to some of the most influential and enduring recordings in R&B history, lending glamour and romance to her colleagues' rich harmonies. Born in Los Angeles on March 17, 1943, Taylor began her recording career as a solo act, cutting "Make Love to Me" for the RPM label in 1954. That same year, she joined the girl group Shirley Gunter & the Queens, recording with them a series of singles for the Flair label. In the interim, producer Buck Ram assembled the first incarnation of the Platters, seeking to create a vocal group with more elegance and sophistication than the average R&B act. After tinkering with the lineup in search of the perfect harmonic combination, he eventually settled on lead Tony Williams, second tenor David Lynch, baritone Paul Robi, and bass Herb Reed, finally adding contralto Taylor in 1955 to complete their lush, ethereal sound. She also wrote and assumed lead vocal duties on the uptempo "Bark, Battle and Ball," the B-side to the Platters' epochal Mercury Records debut "Only You," the first in a series of classics including "The Great Pretender," "My Prayer," "Twilight Time," and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes."
While Williams' buttery leads were the Platters' marquee attraction, Taylor was an integral element of their success. Dubbed "the Dish," her physical allure was no doubt a major reason the group was a Hollywood fixture, appearing in a series of films including Rock Around the Clock and Frank Tashlin's classic The Girl Can't Help It. She also was the featured lead on B-sides including "He's Mine," "Indiff'rent," and "My Old Flame," and sang a duet with Lynch on a 1957 cover of the doo wop perennial "Goodnight, Sweetheart." However, in 1959 the four male members of the Platters were arrested in a narcotics sting, and although the case was tossed out, many radio stations boycotted their records. Soon afterward Williams went solo, and with replacement Sonny Turner the group's commercial fortunes continued to dim. Taylor left the Platters in 1964, later reuniting with Lynch and Robi as the Original Platters. According to Taylor, she married former teen heartthrob Frankie Lymon in 1965, three years prior to his fatal heroin overdose. Years later, she unsuccessfully battled two other women also purporting to be Lymon's widows for ownership of his songwriting catalog. (The case was later adapted into the 1998 feature film Why Do Fools Fall in Love?, with Halle Berry in the role of Taylor.) For a number of years, she also toured under the banner of Zola Taylor's Platters, one of myriad unofficial Platters acts traveling the globe, until illness ultimately forced her into retirement in 1996. Taylor died in Los Angeles on April 30, 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi