Wild, Raw, and Beautiful

When complications arising from a brain tumor operation took the life of Tammi Terrell on March 16, 1970, THE WORLD OF SOUL MUSIC WAS DEPRIVED OF ONE OF THE BRIGHTEST AND PRETTIEST SOUL CHILDREN. Born Thomasina Montgomery in Philadephia on April 29, 1945. She was the oldest of two children she was borned by Thomas Montgomey who was in politics and the brother of Boxer Bob Montogmery and her mother Jennie Montgomery who was an actress. Her family nicknamed her "Tommie" because she was sort of a tomboy growing up and it was short for "Thomasina". She changed her name to Tammi, because her favorite song was "Tammy" by Debbie Reynolds. Her favorite hobbies were singing and dancing just like her career, but in her spare time she loved talking to her fans, answering all her fan mail, shopping, talking on the phone, and she loved watching old movies and getting ideas from them beautiful actresses from the 30s and 40s she would watch them and put their talent into her persona and talent whether it was singing, makeup, hair, or personality. Tammi from the start knew she was going to be a entertainer/singer. She took dancing lessons, such as tap dance, ballet, and african dancing, she always kept busy and she took singing lessons and piano lessons and won mostly all her talent shows as a kid and teenager. She won her first talent contest at the age of 11 in New Jersey and she went on to play theaters and clubs by the age of 13 including performances alongside with Gary "US" Bonds and Patti Labelle and the BlueBelles. She won many, many contest and talent shows, she was so good she won against people older then are, and back then they had cateogories, the young people with the young people talent group, and the older people be with the older people group, but Tammi was too good for her group, she always won, so they put her against older singers, and she won against them. Now that's good, you can't find singers like that today. Tammi was a beautiful woman on the inside and out, with a nice figure, big brown pretty eyes, long eye lashes and a pretty smile, and pretty smooth light brown skin, the only flaw was that she had teeth problem but Motown fixed that, and she was also very talented, smart, witty, great personality, fun-loving, and a strong person who couldn't be controlled, and she also had a wild side to her that a lot of young people have when they get out in the world, and they want to be free and Tammi was that. Tammmi may have been wild and crazy but she always had class and elegance in everything she did. Everyone at Motown and in the Music Business and friends described her in that way and always had something good to say. Her sister described her as out-going, sassy, never scared to talk to anyone person, her head was always up, as for her sister and best friend Ludie she was shy and not so outgoing and Tammi brought her out of that "shell". She loved to shop and go to clubs, she loved shoes, she had more shoes then clothes. A lot of people speculated about Tammi's private life, a lot of people said she was a promisicous alcholic and that she did drugs. But no one knows if that's true. She was a play-cousin of Lynda Lawrence another singer who wasn't that big but well known, because she was in the Supremes in the 70s for awhile. Tammi was related to a lot of people in show business, but she came out the biggest in her family. At the age of 15 she was first discovered and approached to record and sign a contract by Luther Dixon who signed her to Wand Records in New York. Her first record as Tammy Montgomery was, "If You See Bill"/"It's Mine", came out on Scepter in 1961 followed the next year by "Voice of Experience"/"I Want'cha To Be Sure" on the Wand Label. She made some great songs on the Scepter/Wand Label although she didn't have much chart success she was a hit at clubs and concerts, on a lot of her songs she was backed by The Shirelles on many songs such as "Tear at the end of A Love Affair". The Shirelles also recorded some of the same songs Tammi Terrell did and Tammi did some of there songs, and from there she recorded briefly for the "Try Me Label".The coquttish singer had been discovered by James Brown in UpTown Philadephia at the Tan Playhouse, a uptown club/theater once managed by the late Buddy Nolan one of James Brown's agents, James Brown produced her songs on the "Try Me Label" songs such as "I Cried"/"If You Don't Think", and she also toured with his revue. James Brown polished her and groomed her and fell in love with her, Tammy's stormy nine months with the show paralleled a fiesty personal relationship with James Brown that exploded before they sold records again, they dated until Tammi's parents took her away from him when they found out they was dating him because Tammi was underage and he was also very abusive, and following her work with Steve Gibson and James Brown, she didn't have much luck and didn't get much work. Her final single as Tammy Montgomery which Bert Berns produced "If I Would Marry You"/"This Time Tommorrow" on "Checker" in 1964. During this time she was in college for two years as a pre-med student, after isolated singles with other labels. In 1965 she started touring with Jerry Butler. Jerry Butler contributed to discovering Tammi Terrell and helping her career take off. Tammi was reinvented as Motown's "Tammi Terrell", after Berry saw her at The Famous Detroit Club "The 20 Grand" doing songs with Jerry Butler, and he loved her voice and offered her a contract, at first Berry wasn't happy with her appearance, he paid to have her get dental work and from then she was ready for "Motown" but there was one problem he didn't like her last name "Montgomery he wanted her to have a catchy name so he convinced her to change it to "Terrell" and dropped the Y of Tammy, and added a I, A lot of people believed she was married to the popular boxer of the time "Ernie Terrell" the brother of Jean Terrell(who later would be the lead singer of The Supremes), she wasn't married to him, she was however dating and engaged to a guy who's name was Ernie, and people got him confused with Ernie Terrell the boxer, but nevertheless Tammi may have knew him, but she changed her name because she wanted a catchy, rememberable name, and Berry Gordy was convinced she wasn't making it with Tammy Montgomery, so he changed it and sure enough she saw some success, she signed to Motown where her solo singles included "Come On and See Me", "I Don't Believe You Love Me", "I Can't Believe You Love Me"(No. 27), "Two Can Have A Party", "Tears At The End Of A Love Affair","I Gotta Find A Way To Get You Back:", "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)(No. 31) The Isley Brothers did that song also and had a hit with it earlier in the 60s, and other great ones,(you probably could find her solo songs on cds out of state or on Ebay.com-a auction website, its songs out there on her, you just have to look) but the solo singles didn't do well on the charts, even though people loved her songs, and were often played at parties and got a lot of airwaves, they didn't do good on the charts, which upsetted her a lot. Tammi was a great performer, she always touched her fans, she always would go out in the audience and dance with them, let them sing with her, she loved her fans, and great performer, she didn't need Motown Charm School for that. She had the voice, but the 60s were going through a change of music, and maybe people weren't "diggin" her sound at that time through those Psychedelic, Hippy, Peace, and Freedom Years but maybe if she would of had recorded these songs in the early 60s when Women Singer and Girl Groups were popular she would of had hits and people would of really liked her sound, but nonetheless she was popular. If she would of lived longer and recorded in the 70s, we all know she would of been big. Tammi's sound and style of music coined the sound "BubbleGum Soul". All these singles including her solo outings "Hold Me Oh My Darling" were included in her LP "Irrestible" which was released in 1969. In the mid-60s. She started touring with The Temptations and while touring she hooked up with David Ruffin and they started dating, At the time the headaches started, Tammi was involved in an unhappy love affair with the lead singer of a famous vocal group The Temptations, and she was convinced that her emotional state was a contributing factor to the headaches. After their quarrels, the headaches would come on. The biggest of there many, many arguements came in 1966, shortly after they had announced their engagement from the stage of a theater where they were appearing together. She says that it was after that announcement that she learned he was already married or had other women. He was very abusive towards her. Many believe he started her headaches and caused her to have a tumor. Tammi loved him and David loved her, they stayed together despite the abuse until Tammi got to sick to stay in Detroit. David Ruffin and Tammi Terrell relationship was short, but is one of the most remembered an talked about relationships of Detroit and the history of love affairs in Rock N' Roll. They were the Talk of The Town, but the reason they didn't get along is because David was controlling and use to controlling his women, but David met his match in Tammi, she stood up to him, and did everything he did, if he cheated, she just didn't sit there and watch she cheated, he hit her, she hit him back, even though she wasn't a match for David Ruffin she tried to show she wasn't going to sit there and take that. It just was a lot of anger, and jealousy in the relationship, David was mainly jealous of Tammi's friendship and singing partner Marvin Gaye. Tammi just let the headaches go for awhile, she just thought she was going through the pressure, she had bad headaches, blinding headaches, she didn't take much headache pills which would help her but because she didn't want to become addicted to them, so at first she didn't do nothing about it. Kim Weston said of Tammi "She Was Wild, Raw, and Beautiful". Since her solo work wasn't going to good, Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol hooked her up with Marvin Gaye and together they had a string of hits, Tammi was happy she finally got number one hits. Her songs with him included "Ain't no Mountain High Enough", "Your Precious Love", "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You", "If This World Was Mine", "You're all I Need To Get By", "Keep On Lovin' Me Honey", "Good Lovin' Ain't Easy To Come By", "What You Gave Me", "The Onion Song". Her voice was great with Marvin Gaye and made number #1 records but by her solos didn't, which really made her upset, she loved singing with Marvin Gaye, but she wanted a song to call her own and be a hit, in between singing songs with Marvin she would do solos. A lot of people believed that Motown used Tammi Terrell to enhance Marvin Gaye's career in the 60s, because Tammi could have made it on her own big, so she didn't need Marvin Gaye too make her big, because before Tammi came his songs wasn't doing well on the charts, and around the time Tammi sign to Motown he wasn't doing too well, and they saw a chance to put Marvin Gaye with Tammi Terrell, they knew them two would make a great singing couple, and they did. Marvin Gaye always looked good singing with women, and Tammi and him made a good couple, Tammi was pretty and Marvin was handsome, and from all the women Marvin Gaye singed with like "Mary Wells", "Kim Weston", "Diana Ross", he will always be remembered singing with her, Tammi Terrell made Marvin Gaye a even bigger star, Marvin thanked her always for that. Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell would do so great onstage singing thse beautiful, legendery love songs that people really thought them two were in love, but they both claim they weren't, they was just real good friends and "soulmates", but others have said different, but we will never know, they both took it to their graves. Their close friendship made their significant others jealous and of course rumours started and it caused problems in their relationship, but they always swear it was nothing more. People would always joke and say how could Marvin Gaye not date or be with this woman, no guy could turn her down, all the men at Motown wanted her so how could Marvin not want her, and how could Tammi not do anything with Marvin, he's handsome and charming all the women loved him, they just can't be friends, rumors like that always circulated. But they always said there was nothing more. Valerie Simpson of the famous "Ashford and Simpson" sanged and filled in on some of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell songs because Tammi was to ill to sing on them or perform on stage. The first real clue to Tammi's headaches was provided not by a physician, but by her personal dentist, Dr. Herbert Rose, who noticed as she sat in his chair to have a tooth filled that one entire side of her face was sagging, the doctor called her mother and she was put into another hospital. The tumor diagnosed after she collapsed on stage while performing with Marvin at the Virginia's Hampton-Syndey College in 1967. She went to the doctor for that and they just told her that maybe it was due to too much work and exhaustion. A lot of the times when Tammi was in the hosptital, a lot of female vocalist had to take her place.

Tammi was an honor student at Philadelphia's Germantown High School in the early 60s. Shortly after graduation, she enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where her high marks in high school brought her a full scholarhip grant. The decision to attend the univeristy was a compromise between Howard University, where she wanted to go, and Johnson C. Smith University, which her father wanted her to attend. ammi's college career came to an abrupt halt during her sophmore year when she dropped out to embark on a singing career under the personal management of Philadelphia promoter Babe Chivian. During her illness Tammi said she wish she wouldn't have wasted so much time and she wish she wouldn't had done some when she had her health, she wanted to do a lot of things but she couldn't due to her health, one of those things she wanted to do was go back to college and get her college degree but that didn't happen, being sick taught her that you can be young and get sick. Right after her first operation she was so anxious to get back to work that she accepted a club engagement despite the warning of her doctor that she wasn't ready. She weighed less then 100 pounds and she looked as pale as a ghost. Just before she began to sing she heard a woman at a front row table tell her friends that she knew this wasn't Tammi Terrell on stage because she had heard that Tammi died in the hospital. That really shook her up! Her illness and long confinement had made Tammi all the more grateful to be alive. Tammi Terrell, bound for Detroit and her first recording date in nearly two years, was, in fact, returning to show business from near death. Only two months earlier she had been released from Philadelphia Graduate Hospital after surviving six brain operations performed over a span of 18 months. The fact that she had lived at all was a miracle of sorts. Now she was on her way to Detroit for an attempt at pulling off a second miracle: proving she still had the voice and talent which had made her a Motown recording star and one of the nation's most popular singers before a near-fatal illness interrupted her career at its peak. Her long illness had exacted a terrible tool both physically and mentally. When she was released from the hospital after her final operation, Tammi weighed only 93 pounds- a loss of nearly 40 pounds from her once curvacious figure. Even more discouraging was the effect of the disorder- a brain tumor- upon her muscular coordination. She was unable to lift one arm more than a few inches and dragged one foot as she walked. She had difficulty remembering things, particularly song lyrics. Yet, despite these handicaps and the skeptics' doubts, Tammi tentatively returned to show business. Through all that Tammi kept her faith in God and she kept strong, she didn't want people crying over her and feeling sorry for her, and she didn't want to submit to people's "I TOLD YOU SO'S" OR "I KNEW SHE'LL GET IT SOONER OR LATER". Tammi came back and forth to Detroit throughout 1969, she didn't stay long because people from Motown would send her home because she was too ill, even though she would argue with them that she was fine, they saw she wasn't. She did some shows in Detroit, but a lot of them are best left forgotten, a lot of people would attend her shows just to see if she really did look sick, but one show Tammi did left everyone in the audience with tears in their eyes, she sung a song "Stand By Me"(which was a numeber 1 hit and recorded by Ben E. King), she sung the song and she put her heart and soul into it, because she really did at the time need someone to stand by her, she wasn't in the best singing voice, but she sung from the heart and that's the best singing anyone can do, she was singing as if to say, I'm not gone yet, I'm still got something more to give. Through the illness she always kept her fun-loving attitude and kept a smile on her face but inside she really was hurting. Tammi Terrell wanted to be an actress once her singing career got up, she adored Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne. Because Tammi died young, sometimes people look at her as a tragic figure, but she lived a full life, she had more adventure, troubles, good times and bad then a 40 or 50 year old woman, if she would of lived longer we all know she would of been a Diana Ross, or another Lena Horne, she would be a icon a legend, no ifs or buts about that, she had it. Tammi passed away on March 16, 1970 she buried at Mount Lawn Cementary in Philadephia and her parents are buried there close by her also. Until her death Tammi Tammi undergo 8 brain operations, and all of them were paid by Berry Gordy Jr. Tammi is survived by her sister Ludie Montgomey and numerous cousins, and nephews. When Tammi died, a piece of him died and he was never the same again, he loved Tammi a lot and he was so devastated by her death he didn't record for awhile and he learned that because your young that doesn't mean you can't die,he also attended her funeral and whenever he would go on stage and have concerts and tours, he would hold the microphone out to the audiences and say "Give a hand for Tammi, Go On She Can Hear You".

A Little Story

That can't be Tammi Terrll. She's Dead! The half-whispered remark, made by one of two teenage girls occupying a seat near the front of a Detroit-bound jet-liner, was loud enough to be heard by the pretty young woman in dark glasses who had boarded the plane at Philadelphia and taken a seat directly ahead of them.. "She's too thin," insisted the chubby, freckled girl to her companion. "And besides, I read somewhere that Tammi died in the hospital." Then she challenged, "If you're so sure it's her, why don't you ask her?" The second girl rose hesitantly from her seat and timidly touched the young woman on the shoulder. "Excuse me, lady," she said. "Are You Tammi Terrell?" The attractive young woman removed her dark glasses and turned around with a smile. "You look a lot like her," the girl continued, "but..." "But you had heard that Tammi Terrell was dead. Is that what you were about to say?" Tammi said". Embarrassed by the question, the girl offered no reply. "Well, if Tammi Terrell is dead, you girls are looking at a ghost," Tammi laughed. The remark actually came nearer to the truth than either of the teenagers realized.