Member of the Robins and the Coasters
1928 – 2011
Carl Gardner, a founding member and lead singer of the Coasters, the R&B vocal group whose memorably amusing hits included “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown” and “Poison Ivy,” has died. Gardner, who had heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease, died Sunday, June 12, 2011 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Texas-born Gardner was lead tenor vocalist for the Los Angeles-based R&B vocal group the Robins before he and fellow Robins member Bobby Nunn teamed with Billy Guy, Leon Hughes and guitarist Adolph Jacobs – to form the Coasters in 1955. With the songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller writing and producing their records for Atco Records, a division of Atlantic, the Coasters scored their first hit single with “Down in Mexico” in 1956, with Gardner doing the lead vocal. The double-sided hit “Young Blood” and “Searchin'” followed – as did “Yakety Yak,” “Charlie Brown,” “Poison Ivy,” “Along Came Jones,” and “Little Egypt” (with Carl opening the song as the ‘barker’ saying, “Step right up folks…”). The Coasters became known as the “Clown Princes of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” for their humorous storytelling songs and their comedic stage performances. The Coasters underwent personnel changes over the years. But when they became the first vocal group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, the inductees were what is considered the “classic lineup” of Gardner, Guy, Will “Dub” Jones and Cornell Gunter. Carl Gardner was 83 years young.