When Early Clover takes the stage at the Egyptian Theater in a few days as lead singer of Cornell Gunter’s Coasters, he hopes audiences will understand how seriously he takes his role as the group performs songs such as “Blue Moon “,” Three Cool Cats “and even” Yakety Yak. “
âWe do our best to keep the same attitude and fit into the same character that the original singers did with these songs,â Clover said. âIt’s an honor to be able to entertain audiences and perform these songs, thanks to the pioneering work the early Coasters did to make this all possible. And these songs mean so much to the people who grew up listening to them. “
Aside from singing the songs properly, Clover also taps into the original band’s sense of humor as he performs the setlist.
âThe Coasters were called the Clown Princes of Rock ‘n Roll, because they were clowning on stage,â he said. “They got the audience involved a lot in their entertainment, and they made people laugh and made them feel good.”
The best way to honor the original singers is to keep the music pure, clean, and as cheerful as the original recordings, according to Clover.
âThere are a lot of artists who make music by traditional bands who try to put their own touch in the original songs to make it into something new,â he said. “We don’t do that, because that’s how people remember it.”
Clover also wants to pay tribute to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote most of these songs.
âThese two were geniuses,â Clover said. “I’m serious.”
Clover, who joined the Cornell Gunter Coasters in 1988, remembers the first time he heard the group on a small transistor radio.
âI was born and raised on a farm, and I was working on the farm when we heard ‘Charlie Brown’ on our break,â he said. “We all got up and started clowning around with the song, and at that point I had no idea years later that I would be the lead singer of this band.”
That call came after a lifetime of musical pushing and nudging, he said.
âI rode my first string group when I was in eighth grade in college, and by the time I was in tenth grade we had prizes for school,â he said. âAfter that, one of my teachers suggested that I form a group of four musicians to sing in the community. “
That group grew into a seven-piece group that went on to become the backup band for rhythm and blues icon Rufus Thomas, soul musician Joe Simon, soul singer William Bell and others, according to Clover.
âI started writing music, which I had some trouble with, so I asked James Brown to help me put my words together,â he said.
All of these opportunities led Clover to the famous Apollo Theater, where he won top awards for his performances.
These recognitions inspired Ralph Cooper, the original host of these Apollo performances, to encourage Clover to audition for a band seeking a lead vocalist.
âHe didn’t tell me it was the Coasters, and they didn’t tell me who they were until after I got hired,â Clover said with a laugh. âI had to learn nine songs in six days because we had three concerts coming up. I ate, slept, and drank Coasters’ material until I got this.
As the lead vocalist of the Coasters, who were the first band to be inducted into the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, Clover can list experiences that tell him he’s in the right place at the right time.
He was able to sing with original members Billy Guy and Bobby Nunn before their deaths, and he discovered that original member Cornell Gunter, who died in 1990, was his cousin.
âI didn’t learn this until 1997, but it continues to have a huge impact on me, to maintain the legacy of the band,â Clover said.
The singer believes musicians need to understand that the songs they write, play and publish will always become their legacy, good or bad.
“It’s up to writers and musicians to decide what kind of legacy they want to leave behind,” he said. âThe Coasters, as well as the Platters and Drifters, knew what kind of legacy they wanted to leave. They stuck with that vision which is good because their songs are here for a lifetime. “