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David Ruffin

"The Early Years"

There's no doubt that David Ruffin was destined to be a star. No one could beg and plead like David. Soul shaking turmoil was his specialty, as he bled all over the microphone, his voice the cry of a heart that has known too much pain.

His birthname was Davis Eli Ruffin, and he was born in Whynot, Mississippi to the fiery tempered baptist minister Eli Ruffin. Only months after giving birth to her son, Ophelia Ruffin died and Eli remarried to a schoolteacher . David would began singing at a very young age, touring with The Ruffin Family and The Spiritual Trying Four with his father, his sister Rita Mae and older brothers Jimmy and Quincy.

David left home at 13 following his fatherís footsteps to practice the ministry, but was sidetracked, singing in Memphis talent shows where he met a young Elvis Presley and then-gospel singer, Little Richard. He later sang with the gospel group The Dixie Nightingales, out of Memphis, Tennessee, and toured with The Womack Brothers, The Swan Silvertones, The Staple Singers, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. It was with these gospel groups that Ruffin learned his showmanship, dropping to his knees and doing splits, just like the late Jackie Wilson before him, and his showstopping performances within the group would be enough to get him noticed on the secular side.

Living in Detroit now, and following his idol Sam Cooke, David went secular in the late 1950's. Produced by Billy Davis, on the Anna and Checkmate labels in 1960-1962, Ruffin made a few singles that didn't do very much. Billy Davis recalls, "David was like a shy kid, willing to do whatever you asked him to, He could really sing, he always had that ability, and he could also dance very well." Around the same time, he would meet and work with Berry Gordy and would work for Berry's father in his construction business.

Ruffin joined Motown Records when the Anna/Checkmate roster was absorbed into Berry Gordy's growing company. Since nothing much was happening with his solo career, David would be happy to join The Temptations, replacing Elbridge Bryant, in 1964. A lot would change for The Temptations when David came along. They would have some wonderful times because David was lively, and fun to be around. The guys did a lot of walking back then, and David, who was always known for carrying a knife, would throw his knife into trees along the sidewalk, or sometimes just break into doing flips and cartwheels.

Things turned around for The Temptations after David's arrival. Hitless before then, they would have finally have their first hit in the Smokey Robinson penned "The Way You Do The Things You Do", but they wouldn't have a number one hit until Smokey turned his attention to David and handed the group "My Girl", a David Ruffin classic.

As the hits kept coming and fame got bigger and bigger, so did David's ego. He began expecting star treatment and wanted the group's name changed to David Ruffin and The Temptations. He no longer wanted to ride with the other guys in the station wagon, and instead opted for a limo with the logo of his trademark glasses painted on the side.

The situation became unbearable for the group when his incessant all night partying caused him to miss gigs, and changed his personality. It was a difficult decision for the group, after all, David had become the frontrunner, but it was inevitable, he would have to be replaced.


"The Solo Years"