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The Classic Temptations Memorial Website

The Early Years

The Temptin' Temptations. They could outsing, outdance and outdress every other group in the business. They personalized every song they sung, and every beat of every song would prompt a move, a gesture, or a look. Each member standing over six feet tall, they epitomized tall, dark and handsome. They were the essence of cool in the 60's and the most successful R&B group of all time. Each had his own job to do in the group. Otis let it be known from the start that he was the leader and businessman. They looked to Paul Williams to create those soulful moves and routines, while Eddie Kendricks was responsible for the look, and the stage uniforms. David Ruffin oozed with artistry and talent and Melvin Franklin showered everything and everybody with love. Later, Dennis Edwards, with his soulful, gritty voice and strong stage presence would more than hold his own. This website is dedicated to the six members of the classic Temptations line-up who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Sadly, four of the groups members are no longer with us. It will serve as my memorial to the late great members of Motown's supergroup, Paul Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and Melvin Franklin, as well as a place to show support for remaining members Otis Williams and Dennis Edwards, who continue, although separately, in their efforts to keep the spirit of the original group alive.

"In The Beginning"

In the late 1950's, while still in High School, Otis Williams was putting little groups together, with members inevitably dropping in and out. At one point in 1958, his group was called Otis Williams and the Siberians. The other members included Elbridge "Al" Bryant, James "PeeWee" Crawford, Arthur Walton, and Vernard Plain, their lead singer. Around this time, their part time manager was a man named Bill Williams. During the brief period they were with him they also met another manager named Milton Jenkins. Milton had rehearsal space which they used a few times, and there they heard two other groups. The Primes, a trio of childhood friends from Birmingham, Alabama consisting of Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and Kell Osborne; and their sister group, The Primettes who would eventually evolve into The Supremes. Otis and his group couldn't help but notice The Primes. Their three part harmonies were heavenly and their moves, smooth and sexy, yet at the same time classy, all the work of Primes member Paul Williams. Paul had learned a lot about staging and choreography from an old hoofer named Peg Leg Bates. The groups became friendly with each other but over time lost touch.

"Melvin Franklin Joins The Group"

Sometime in late 1958, or early 1959, the group met up with their new manager, Johnnie Mae Matthews. By this time the group had changed their name to The Distants. In 1959, the group heard a recording of a song called "Need It", recorded by the Voice Masters. The most striking thing about the track was the deep growl of the bass singer, Melvin Franklin. It turned out that Melvin and Otis attended the same school and they began hanging out and singing together, developing a tight relationship that would remain until Melvin's death in 1995.

When The Distants lead singer Vernard decided to quit, Melvin brought in his close friend Richard Street. Just a few days after that, the five group members - Al Bryant, James Crawford, Melvin Franklin, Richard Street, and Otis Williams - recorded the song "Come On", a fast-paced doo-wop style number. The song was a local hit, but didn't take off as they had hoped. A few weeks later, James "Pee Wee" Crawford dropped out, and was replaced by Albert "Mooch" Harrell.

The group spread their name around Detroit however they could, wherever someone would have them. They spent countless nights playing in "juke joints", informal little places where fights were common.

One autumn night in 1960, the group was playing a hop at the Saint Stephen's community center where a lot of local celebrities often attended, including Smokey Robinson's group, The Miracles. This particular night, Berry Gordy, who had already begun to make a name for himself around Detroit, was also there. Before the end of the evening Berry handed Otis a business card.

"The Primes & The Distants Merge"

Not long after, "Mooch" Harrell was let go because of personality conflicts, and the group had also reached the conclusion that, after two years, it was time to leave their manager Johnnie Mae. Among other things that Ms Matthews kept, was the groups name. Around this time, Richard Street began missing rehearsals, so the group was essentially down to a trio (Al, Melvin & Otis) with no name, no manager, and no deal. Otis called Berry Gordy and arranged an appointment and audition for a couple weeks later, and as fate would have it, out of the blue, Eddie Kendricks called. As it turned out, Eddie and Paul had returned to Birmingham when things didn't work out with their manager, Milton Jenkins. Eddie was still living down there but had returned to visit Paul, who had since moved back to Detroit. Eddie replaced "Mooch" and Paul replaced Richard, and the group became The Elgins.

"Audition At Hitsville"

The group arrived at Hitsville, the renovated two-story house where Motown was headquartered. Everyone there was busy doing something and the place was filled with energy and excitement. After auditioning for Mickey Stevenson, Berry Gordy was impressed enough to have Mickey sign them immediately. Berry loved the old raw songs they had like "Oh, Mother Of Mine", which became their first record. A few days before signing, they discovered that another group was calling themselves The Elgins and they would again change names. Standing on the lawn in front of Hitsville, things would never be the same as The Temptations were born. Member Paul Williams saw it as not just a name, but as a concept that they would try to live up to.

By mid 1961, Motown's artist roster included Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, The Primettes, now The Supremes, Mary Wells, Popcorn Wylie and The Mohawks, Eddie Holland, Marvin Gaye, The Contours, Singin' Sammy Ward, and Jimmy Ruffin (older brother of David Ruffin). It was a magical time. The rivalries and jealousies that would develop when Motown hit it's peak some years later were still far away.

"Still Hitless"

The group worked hard, and Berry produced most of their sessions, but something still wasn't clicking. None of their 1962 singles did much, although all were good and are much appreciated today. Most leads on these early releases were split between Eddie, with his sweet first tenor and falsetto, ("Paradise") and Paul, with his deeper baritone ("I'll Love You Till I Die"). People at Motown, like Harvey Fuqua (Harvey and The Moonglows), Thomas "Beans" Bowles, and Maurice King gave them lots of input on how to improve their singing and staging, wardrobe, and how to carry themselves in public. Beans handled business and managed things on the road.

In early 1963 they cut their sixth single, "I Want A Love I Can See", with Paul Williams on lead. This was a Smokey Robinson song and production. Smokey, would be one of the two writer-producers who would create the bulk of the groups greatest hits through the 60's and 70's. The other would beNorman Whitfield.

Back on the road, and still without a hit, group memberAl Bryant was becoming a problem. Drinking and drug use became an issue. The other four members began thinking about possible replacements in the event it would come to that. At the time, David Ruffin lived only about one block behind Otis, and would often sit in Otis' kitchen and sing along with his brother Jimmy. Both were fantastic singers. One night, while the group was winding up a show, David came out of the audience and leapt onto the stage. The minute Ruffin got up and did his soon to be legendary throwing the microphone into the air, catching it, and doing full splits, that was it! The audience went wild! Backstage, problems arose between Al and Paul, culminating in Al breaking a beer bottle on Paul's face, sending him to the hospital for stitches. After that, the situation only got worse and the Fox Theaters' annual Christmas show in 1963 was Al's last performance with The Temptations.

"Enter David Ruffin"

The decision to bring David Ruffin into the group seemed to be a good one. Meet The Temptations, their debut album, came out in March but barely snuck into the Top 100 albums on the charts. Then, in April of 1964, "The Way You Do The Things You Do", a Kendricks lead tune, began running up both charts with a bullet and finally peaked at #11 on the pop chart. Things picked up considerably for the group in 1964. They were either out of town touring, or at Hitsville working on their act, or recording. So far, all their hits featured Eddie Kendricks. Their first full Motortown Revue in l964 took them to South Carolina. The year closed on a high note not only for the Tempts, but for everyone at Motown.

On December 21, 1964, The group recorded "My Girl", with David Ruffin singing lead for the first time on a single. By March 6, l965 the song hit #1 and stayed there for some eight weeks. It played on radios everywhere. This song opened the door for the group, and slowly but surely things got bigger and better. Around that same time, Motown hired Cholly Atkins who had already choreographed a routine for The Tempts to use on "The Way You Do The Things You Do". What set Cholly apart from other choreographers was that he built everything around the singing. His dozens of tiny, nearly imperceptible movements, subtle turns and shifts, would land you in the precise spot at the exact second, when followed correctly. Born from the hours and hours of practice was the infamous Temptation Walk.

Their following two singles, "It's Growing" and "Since I Lost My Baby" featured David on lead. Although Norman Whitfield was producing a song here and there, the group was still primarily Smokey Robinson's act, and Smokey wrote with David or Eddie in mind, other than "Don't Look Back", which featured the vocals of Paul Williams. Their second album, The Temptations Sing Smokey, was released in March of 1965, and their third album The Temptin' Temptations, in November of the same year. A lot happened for the group in 1965, including their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Back in Detroit, the recording studios at Hitsville, were running twenty-four hours a day. Competition was high amongst producers and songwriters. The Tempts were still Smokey's group, and in early 1966 they recorded his song "Get Ready" featuring Eddie Kendricks. At the same time, Norman had managed to cut his "Ain't To Proud To Beg", featuring David Ruffin. The difference between the two songs was huge, the latter with David Ruffin's singing was anguished and desparate. Recorded in a key higher than David was used to, it was strenuous and David gave it his all, but it was "Get Ready" that was chosen for release at the weekly quality control meeting. (In order to ensure quality, Berry had set up this system where producers would submit their final mixes to Friday morning evaluation meetings that were the lifeblood of the Motown operation.)

When "Get Ready" only peaked at number twenty-nine, Norman's "Ain't To Proud To Beg", was released, which went to number thirteen. More importantly, Whitfield's intricate arrangements would take the group in a whole new direction without losing the heart of their sound. Continue....
Some Early Photos

More Early Photos

Some Early Performance Photos

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A very special thanks to Acoorsgrl for inspiring me to create this website.

Many of the photos used in these pages were borrowed from The Temptations Forever Website.

Maintained Regularly - 6/22/00