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Coasters’ Carl Gardner dies

Was lead singer for doo-wop hitmakers

Carl Gardner, lead singer for the hit-making comedic ’50s vocal act the Coasters, died June 12 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was 83.

Gardner had been suffering from congestive heart failure and vascular dementia.

In 1987, Gardner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when the Coasters became the first vocal group drafted by the Cleveland institution.

The singer split lead duties with Bobby Nunn on such spirited chart hits as “Yakety Yak” (a No. 1 pop entry in 1958), “Along Came Jones,” “Poison Ivy” and “Charlie Brown.”

Gardner and Nunn were originally members of the Robins, an L.A.-based vocal act that recorded for Aladdin, RPM, Modern and RCA. The group struck up a relationship with the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.

The cleffers signed the Robins to their label Spark Records, where they cut “Riot in Cell Block #9” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” which served as the template for the Coasters’ hits.

When Leiber and Stoller secured an independent production deal with Atco Records, they brought Gardner and Nunn to the label as the nucleus of a new act, the Coasters. The writing duo would pen all the act’s major hits, which included four No. 1 R&B chart-toppers characterized by their outsized humor.

The hits dried up for the Coasters in the mid-’60s, though the group recorded for the Turntable and Date imprints through the end of the decade.

The Coasters were a fixture of live oldies shows for decades. Gardner, who owned rights to the group’s name, fronted the act through 2005, when his son Carl Jr. took over lead vocal duties.

He is also survived by his wife.

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