By: Jamey Boyum
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - The last founding member of the group "The Coasters" has passed away. Carl Gardner lead the group with hits like "Charlie Brown" and "Yakity-Yak." What you may not know about Gardner is that he was born right here in Tyler, Texas. In the early fifties he made his way to Los Angeles and began his five-decade music career.
His sister-in-law still lives here in Smith County.
Carl Gardner was loved by everyone who met him. His wife, Veta Gardner says he never let his fame go to his head.
"He was a gentleman. He had class he had talent and he was just unique. Carl was the nicest man in show business," Veta said.
In 1954 he was with the group "The Robins" until his manager convinced Carl and another member to break away and form "The Coasters".
Their first hit was "Down in Mexico". In 1957 they released the single "Youngblood". The B side of the single was "Searchin'", and they both went to number one for weeks. His sister-in-law Audrey Gardner says although the group never performed in Tyler, Carl would come back for High School Reunions.
"He would always sing at the reunion. He had throat cancer, but he still did a song for us at the reunion. He could still sing," she said.
Veta said Carl always remained humble.
"He just walks around with his baseball cap and jeans, very casual. He was never one of these guys that says oh I'm a big star or anything like that ... even when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the first group, in January 1987. And when people met him on the street they said, man you must be very proud, and he said no big deal. Where's the money?" Veta said.
After a stroke in 2005 he retired from singing saying he wanted his fans remember how he was.
And there's plenty to remember. It would take around twenty-four hours to listen to all of his albums in one sitting.
The Coasters received 16 gold records and released 54 records during their half-century career.