Bill Pinkney, the only surviving member of the beach music group The Drifters, died Wednesday in a Daytona Beach hotel room.
Pinkney, 81, was in Daytona to perform at the city’s Fourth of July Red, White & Boom event with The Original Drifters, a group he formed in the late 1950s after leaving The Drifters.
Hilton Hotel security personnel found Pinkey inside his room, said Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood. Someone alerted hotel security after seeing a prone Pinkney through a window.
“The drapes to his window were open and when you looked ... you could see a person laying there,” Chitwood said.
It was unclear Wednesday how Pinkney died.
“My medic said that family members said he had a history of heart problems,” said Lt. John King, a spokesman for the Daytona Beach Fire Department.
Emergency medics were called to Pinkney’s hotel room just before 6:30 p.m. King said that, according to relatives, Pinkney had left his family an hour before and “went to lay down.” He was supposed to meet up later with his secretary in the hotel lobby.
When medics arrived at Pinkney’s hotel room, he wasn’t breathing.
“They weren’t able to revive him, though attempts were made,” said King, who grew up listening to the The Drifters and had one of the group’s CDs in his car on Wednesday.
Born in 1925 in Dalzell, S.C., Pinkney would later become part of The Drifters, a group known for such hits at “Under the Boardwalk” and “Save the Last Dance for Me,” according to a report by the Columbia, S.C., television station WLTX. After he left the band in 1958 over a dispute about money, Pinkney formed The Original Drifters.
“You know how they call James Brown the hardest working man in show business? I believe that was Bill Pinkney,” said J.R. Berry, a news anchor at WLTX, who had known Pinkney for years.
Berry called Pinkney a legend who was not only a well-known singer but also a World War II veteran with four bronze stars, as well as a former pitcher for the Negro Baseball League.
“He was very patriotic, too,” Berry said. “I think it was kind of fitting that he went on this day.”
Williams Funeral Home in Sumter, S.C., is handling arrangements.
// Notes from the Road
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