March 16, 1996 – Joseph Pope (The Tams) was born on November 5th 1933 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The band formed in 1960, and took their name from the Tam o’shanter hats they wore on stage. By 1962, they had a hit single on Arlen Records. “Untie Me”, a Joe South composition, became a Top 20 on the Billboard R&B chart. The follow-up releases largely failed until 1964, when “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)”, reached the Top 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song spent three weeks at number one on the Cash Box R&B chart. Many of their popular hits were written by Ray Whitley.
“Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” was also a modest US hit the same year. The Tams had only one further major US hit (in 1968) when “Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy”, peaked at #26 on the US R&B chart, and subsequently made the UK Top 40 in 1970.
Their 1965 recording “I’ve Been Hurt” was their biggest regional hit (based on sales and airplay) prior to 1980.
The group reached the Number one slot in the UK Singles Chart in September 1971, with the re-issue of “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me”, thanks to its initial support from the then thriving UK Northern soul scene. The song also went to number one in Ireland, making them the first black soul group to top the Irish Charts.
The group didn’t chart again until 1987, when their song “There Ain’t Nothing Like Shaggin'” reached #21 in UK, propelled by a regionally-popular dance known as the Carolina shag, which featured heavily in the subsequent 1989 film, Shag. However, the track was banned by the BBC because the word “shag” means “to have sexual intercourse” in colloquial British English.
Still quite popular in the Southeastern United States, they continue to record new music and perform at well-attended concerts. In 1999, they were featured performers with Jimmy Buffett on his CD, Beach House on the Moon, and also toured with him around the country.
American singer-songwriter Tameka Harris, born in 1975, is the daughter of Dianne Cottle-Pope and Charles Pope.
For decades two separate lineups of the group continued to perform and record. One lineup, called ‘The Original Tams with R. L. Smith’, features original member Robert Lee Smith, and the other lineup was under the leadership of Charles Pope, the brother of co-founder Joe Pope.
Joe died on March 16, 1996 at the age of 62 and Charles Pope died from Alzheimer’s disease on July 11, 2013, at the age of 76.