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Eddie Kendricks

"The Early Years"

"You've got a smile so know you could've been a candle...."

Eddie Kendricks, we all have our favorite Temptation, and Eddie Kendricks certainly was mine. The sweetest and silkiest of tenors, quiet and cool, with a voice that made the woman drool. The tall, lean and handsome tenor from Union Springs, Alabama was little more than eighteen when he arrived in Detroit, the town where he would eventually find fame as a member of the Motown supergroup, The Temptations.

Eddie arrived in Detroit along with childhood friends Paul Williams and Kell Osborne. Together they had formed a classic vocal group they called The Primes. Their tunes extended beyond the usual teenage Doo-wop tunes to include sophisticated material such as that of the Mills Brothers (a group originally billed as "Four Boys and a Guitar," since the Mills Brothers were so proficient at recreating trumpets, trombones, and saxophones with only their voices).

Naturally, When Otis Williams first saw The Primes perform he couldn't help but notice the vocal prowess of Kendricks, and the smooth moves of Paul Williams.

The Primes disbanded and all three members separated. When Eddie came back to Detroit from Birmingham to visit Paul, he put in a phone call to Otis and the timing was perfect since Otis just happened to have two spots to fill in his group, The Distants. Paul and Eddie added a whole new dimension to his group's sound, and the merging of the two groups became the Elgins. Now they were ready to audition for Berry Gordy.

The audition went well, and the group was offered a contract right on the spot. It was 1961, but the group wouldn't have their first hit for a few years. Meanwhile, the group worked hard on their singing, their moves, and their look. Eddie always dressed beautifully, he had a knack for being sharp and hip, but classy at the same time, so his job in the group would be wardrobe, and he began putting together the group's stage uniforms.

The group continued recording on a regular basis with either Paul or Eddie leading on all the early songs, but none of the 1962 singles did much, including the unique "Dream Come True", and "Paradise". Both tunes featured Eddie's vocals, and they are appreciated today, but at the time they didn't even make the pop chart.

In early 1964 David Ruffin joined the group and coincidently things began to change. Smokey Robinson told the group he'd booked the studio for them to record a song he'd written with Bobby Rogers, one of the Miracles, while driving on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. That night the five of them met at Eddie's house on Hanover and set out on the familiar walk over to Hitsville. The song, "The Way You Do The Things You Do", was charming and perfect for Eddie's voice. It was like a dream, finally, the song would peak at number 11 on the pop chart, and the group went off on their first full Motortown Review tour. (They had toured previously but only as back up singers.)

Before the year was over, the guys knew that success was not only possible, but probable, and they would get plenty of their share of good times and beautiful women, and Eddie, as it would turn out certainly had the power to attract women.

Around the same time, the uniforms the group had become known for, started getting really wild. Eddie was ahead of his time in picking the clothes, and at first the guys objected to some purple suits he had chosen. Otis thought the suits would make them look like pimps, but in the end they trusted his judgement and he ordered five purple suits with a white button. He was right, when the crowd saw them in those suits, they went absolutely wild.

In 1965, Smokey Robinson, who was writing mostly all of their material, turned his attention away from Eddie momentarily, to hand over "My Girl" to David Ruffin. The song would hit number one and stay there for eight weeks. It was the groups big breakthrough.

Over the next few years, many of the songs would be cut on David, but Eddie would not be left behind either. In 1966, Smokey would hand Eddie the song "Get Ready", but it didn't do as well as the song Norman Whitfield had written with David in mind, which was "Ain't Too Proud To Beg." Norman's song did much better on the charts, and shortly thereafter, Norman Whitfield would begin writing and producing almost exclusively for the group. David would get most of the leads, but Eddie would still have his share.

Up until this time, the guys were tight and always hung out together at one another's houses. Sometimes Melvin would cook up a pot of beans and cornbread. Eddie loved cornbread so much the guys playfully nicknamed him "cornbread".

When David Ruffin was dismissed in 1968, Eddie changed, upset with the attitudes of some of the group members, he formed an alliance with David outside the group. In the late 1960's, times would change and so would Norman's material. Eddie still preferred the harmonious love songs and wanted to do some of his own material separate from the group. The group said no, and Eddie became even more dissatisfied.

At the Copa in 1970, Eddie walked out after the first show, and it was decided, mutually, that it was time for him to leave the group. And so he did, leaving them with one of their alltime biggest hits.