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Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017

smokey robinson and the miraclesNovember 19, 2017 – Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles) was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. A childhood friend of Miracles lead singer Smokey Robinson, the two met at a musical event given by the Detroit Public School system, where Moore spotted Robinson singing as part of the show. The two became friends and formed a singing group, which eventually became the Miracles. Besides his work in the Miracles, Moore helped Miracles member Smokey Robinson write several hit songs, including The Temptations’ “It’s Growing” and “Since I Lost My Baby”, and two of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits, the Top 10 million sellers, “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone”. Continue reading Warren “Pete” Moore 11/2017

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Charles Bradley 9/2017

September 23, 2017 – Charles Bradley was born on November 5, 1948 in Gainesville, Florida
Bradley was raised by his maternal grandmother in Gainesville, Florida until the age of eight when his mother, who had abandoned him at eight months of age, took him to live with her in Brooklyn, New York.

In 1962, his sister took him to the Apollo Theater to see James Brown perform. Bradley was so inspired by the performance that he began to practice mimicking Brown’s style of singing and stage mannerisms at home. Continue reading Charles Bradley 9/2017

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Brenda Jones 4/2017

brenda jones of the jones girlsApril 3, 2017 – Brenda Jones was born on December 7, 1954 in Detroit, Michigan. The daughter of Detroit-based gospel singer Mary Frazier Jones, she was raised in a gospel singing family. The Jones Girls Valorie, Brenda and Shirley spent the better part of the 60s and 70s as sought-after backing vocalists, first regionally and then on a national basis, between Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Philadelphia.

The trio first tried making their own records for the tiny Fortune label in Detroit during the ’60s with no success. They moved to Hot Wax-Invictus, the company formed by Holland-Dozier-Holland, during the latter part of the decade, but sales of those records weren’t much more encouraging.

It was during this period that session work came to dominate their activities — the Jones Girls were in heavy demand to sing on other artists’ singles. Aretha Frankling, Lou Rawls, Betty Everett, Peabo Bryson and dozens of other charting soul acts.  In 1973, they were signed to the Curtom Records subsidiary imprint Gemigo, a label that was originally organized as an outlet for Leroy Hutson’s activities as a producer and arranger. Continue reading Brenda Jones 4/2017

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Marvell Thomas 1/2017

Memphis soul performer Marvell ThomasJanuary 23, 2017 – Marvell Thomas was born in Memphis Tennessee on August 22, 1941. The Thomas family is rooted in music and especially Memphis Soul. Legendary rock and roll pioneer Rufus (Walking the Dog) was his dad. His sisters Carla and Vaneese were much noted, especially Carla (the Queen of Memphis Soul) reached superstardom.

The eldest child of Rufus and Lorene Thomas, Marvell was born in 1941 and grew up in the shadow of Beale Street, where his father performed. “You could call it a second home,” Thomas said in 2011. “It was just three blocks from our house. I was a little kid, 5 years old, running up and down Beale Street all the time, much to my parents’ chagrin when they found out. Of course, I was there a lot legitimately too, when my father was hosting the talent show every Thursday night at the Palace Theatre.” Continue reading Marvell Thomas 1/2017

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Percy Sledge 4/2015

percy_sledgeApril 14, 2015 – Percy Sledge was born in Leighton, Alabama on November 25th 1940. While growing up he would sing in church on Sundays. As a teenager he worked on several farms in the fields before taking a job as an orderly at Colbert County Hospital in Sheffield, Alabama.

Through the mid 1960s, he toured the Southeast with the Esquires Combo on weekends, while working at the hospital during the week. A former patient introduced him to record producer Quin Ivy, who signed Percy to a recording contract.

Sledge’s soulful voice was perfect for the series of soul ballads produced by Ivy and Marlin Greene, which rock critic Dave Marsh called “emotional classics for romantics of all ages”.

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Bobby Rogers 3/2013

bobby rogersMarch 3, 2013 – Bobby Rogers (The Miracles) was born on February 19, 1940, on the same day and in the same hospital as his future singing partner Smokey Robinson. While not in the original version of the Miracles that formed in 1955 (then known as the Five Chimes), he joined a year later when another member dropped out.

The group auditioned for Brunswick Records, including label songwriter Barry Gordy, but were rejected. Gordy however soon followed up with them and, in 1958, recorded their first single, Got a Job. The record, released on End, didn’t chart but, at Robinson’s urging, Gordy decided to start his own label, Tamla Records. The Miracles first few singles for Tamla were licensed out to other labels and failed to score. It was in 1960 when the group released Shop Around/Who’s Lovin’ You, that their career took off. The song topped the R&B singles chart for eight weeks and made it to number 2 on the Hot 100.

Two years later, they scored again with You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me (1962/#1 R&B/#8 Pop) that started a long string of hits that would span into the early-70’s, including Mickey’s Monkey, Ooo Baby Baby, The Tracks of My Tears, Going to a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion, Baby Baby Don’t Cry and their only number 1 pop hit, Tears of a Clown.

At the same time, each of the members of the Miracles were also writing songs that were recorded by other members of the Motown roster, including The Way You Do the Things You Do which Rogers and Robinson wrote and was a the first hit for the Temptations.

In 1972, Smokey Robinson left the group and was replaced by Billy Griffin as the lead singer. For many groups, the loss of their most visible member would mean the end, but not the Miracles, who struck out with their new line-up and recasting their sound to the 70’s. In 1974, they hit the R&B top ten with Do It Baby (#4 R&B/#13 Pop) and, a year later, topped the pop charts with Love Machine (Part 1) (1975/#1 Pop/ #5 R&B).

When the group disbanded in the late 1970s, Rogers started an interior design business. But even after their hitmaking days, the Miracles continued to tour and occasionally record with Rogers and Ronnie White as the consistent members. The original lineup reconvened for the Motown 25 television special and, in 1993, a 35th anniversary compilation album once again reignited interest in the group.

In late 2006, Bobby re-united with original Miracles members Smokey Robinson and Pete Moore for the group’s first-ever extended interview on the Motown DVD release, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles: The Definitive Performances.

Rogers continued to perform throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe with members Dave Finley, Tee Turner, and Mark Scott in the current incarnation of The Miracles, which made him, as of 2009, the longest-serving original Miracles member. On March 20, 2009, Bobby was in Hollywood to be honored along with the other surviving original members of the Miracles (Smokey Robinson, Claudette Robinson and Pete Moore) as they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Also on hand were Gloria White, the wife of original Miracles member Ronnie White who is deceased (White is responsible for discovering Motown artist Stevie Wonder), and Bill Griffin was in attendance. He replaced Smokey Robinson when he left the group in the early 1970s.

Rogers’ cousin, Claudette Rogers, was also a member of the Miracles, and later married Smokey Robinson. Bobby Rogers stayed with the group, through every lineup, from 1956 through 2011 when he was forced to leave because of poor health and the Miracles disbanded for good.

Bobby Rogers died on March 3, 2013, at the age of 73, due to complications of diabetes. Nine days later, on March 12, 2013 on their website, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame paid tribute to Bobby with the article, “Remembering Bobby Rogers of The Miracles”.

His final honor had come with the Rock Hall induction in 2012 with fellow member Claudette Rogers-Robinson

Over his 56 years with the Miracles, Bobby has been on all their hit singles including their 1960 single “Shop Around”, which was Motown’s first number one hit on the R&B singles chart, and was also Motown’s first million selling hit single. Other hit singles include “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me”, “My Girl Has Gone”, “I Second That Emotion”, “Mickey’s Monkey”, “Going to a Go-Go”, “Ooo Baby Baby”, “Tracks of My Tears”, “Baby Baby Don’t Cry”, and “Tears of a Clown”. Referred to as Motown’s “soul supergroup”, the Miracles recorded 26 Top 40 hits and 6 top 20 singles.

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Richard Street 2/2013

richard streetFebruary 27, 2013 – Richard Street (The Temptations) was born on October 5, 1942 in Detroit, Michigan.

Born and raised  in Motown, he was the first member of the Temptations to actually be a native of the city which served as Motown’s namesake and hometown; all of the previous members were born and at least partially raised in the southern United States. He was a member of The Temptations from 1971 to 1993.

Street was the lead singer of an early Temptations predecessor, Otis Williams & the Distants, and took the spotlight on their local hit “Come On”. The Distants also included future Temptations Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Elbridge “Al” Bryant, who left The Distants and their record deal with Johnnie Mae Matthews’ Northern Records to form The Elgins (later The Temptations) with Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. After their departure, Matthews had Street briefly lead a new Distants group in the early 1960s.

During the mid-1960s, Street performed with a Motown act called The Monitors, who had a hit in 1965 titled “Say You” which the Temptations included on one of their albums, and a minor hit with 1966’s “Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)”.

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Levi Stubbs 10/2008

Levi_Stubbs October 19, 2008 – Levi Stubbs was born Levi Stubbles on June 6th 1936. He became lead vocalist with The Four Tops and began his professional singing career with friends Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton to form the Four Aims in 1954. Two years later, the group changed their name to the Four Tops.

The Four Tops were among a number of groups, including The Miracles, The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, and The Supremes, who established the Motown Sound around the world during the 1960s. They were notable for having Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, whereas most male/mixed vocal groups of the time were fronted by a tenor.

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Isaac Hayes 8/2008

Soul Superstar Isaac HayesAugust 10, 2008 – Isaac Hayes Jr.  was born on August 20, 1942 in Covington, Tennessee. The child of a sharecropper family, he grew up working on farms in Shelby County, Tennessee, and in Tipton County. At age five Hayes began singing at his local church; he later taught himself to play the piano, the Hammond organ, the flute, and the saxophone.

Hayes dropped out of high school, but his former teachers at Manassas High School in Memphis encouraged him to complete his diploma, which he finally did at age 21. After graduating from high school, Hayes was offered several music scholarships from colleges and universities. He turned down all of them to provide for his immediate family, working at a meat-packing plant in Memphis by day and playing nightclubs and juke joints several evenings a week in Memphis and nearby northern Mississippi. His first professional gigs, in the late 1950s, were as a singer at Curry’s Club in North Memphis, backed by Ben Branch’s houseband.

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Zola Taylor 4/2007

Zola TaylorApril 30, 2007 – Zola Taylor (The Platters) was born in Los Angeles, California on March 17th 1938. She became the only female member of The Platters from 1954 to 1962, when the group produced most of their popular singles such as “My Prayer”, “Twilight Time”, “Harbor Lights”, “To Each His Own”, “If I Didn’t Care” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.

Zola Taylor was a member of The Platters until 1962, when she was replaced by singer Barbara Randolph.

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James Brown 12/2006

James BrownDecember 25, 2006 – James Brown Jr. Nearly stillborn, then revived by an aunt in a country shack in the piney woods outside Barnwell, South Carolina, on May 3, 1933, Brown became somebody who was determined to be Somebody. James Brown rose from extreme poverty to become the ‘The Godfather of Soul‘.

His parents were 16-year-old Susie (1917–2003) and 22-year-old Joseph “Joe” Gardner Brown (1911–1993), extremely poor, living in a small wooden shack.

They later relocated to Augusta, Georgia, when Brown was four or five. Brown’s family first settled at one of his aunts’ brothels and later moved into a house shared with another aunt. Brown’s mother later left the family after a contentious marriage and moved to New York. Brown spent long stretches of time on his own, hanging out in the streets and hustling to get by. Still he managed to stay in school until sixth grade. Continue reading James Brown 12/2006

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Lynden David Hall 2/2006

Lynden David HallFebruary 14, 2006 – Lynden David Hall was born May 7 1974. Brought up in Earlsfield, south London, as a 16-year-old Hall went, in its inaugural year, to the BRIT School for Performing Arts in Croydon, a music-industry college known for turning out such entertainers as Katie Melua. He was one of its more credible graduates. A couple of years after leaving, he was signed to Cooltempo Records by the veteran producer and DJ Trevor Nelson, who heard in the 21-year-old singer echoes of Al Green and D’Angelo – with a London accent and attitude. A precocious songwriter and performer, he had already nailed down a spiritual, intuitive style devoid of macho cliché.

For a time in the late 1990s, Lynden David Hall was British soul music’s boy most likely to.

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Wilson Pickett 1/2006

Wilson-Pickett-2January 19, 2006 – Wilson Pickett was born March 18th 1941 in Prattville, Alabama and sang in Baptist church choirs in his young years. He was the fourth of 11 children and called his mother “the baddest woman in my book,” telling historian Gerri Hirshey: “I get scared of her now. She used to hit me with anything, skillets, stove wood — (one time I ran away) and cried for a week. Stayed in the woods, me and my little dog.” Pickett eventually left to live with his father in Detroit in 1955.

Pickett’s forceful, passionate style of singing was developed in the church and on the streets of Detroit under the influence of recording stars such as Little Richard, whom he referred to as “the architect of rock and roll”.

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Tyrone Davis 2/2005

Tyrone DavisFebruary 10, 2005 – Tyrone Davis was born Tyrone Fettson on May 4th 1928 near Greenville, Mississippi. He moved with his father to Saginaw, Michigan, before moving to Chicago in 1959.

His early records for small record labels in the city, billed as “Tyrone the Wonder Boy”, failed to register until successful Chicago record producer Carl Davis signed him in 1968 to a new label, Dakar Records that he was starting as part of a distribution deal with Atlantic. He suggested that he change his name and he borrowed Carl’s last name Tyrone Davis.

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Doris Troy 2/2004

DORIS TROYFebruary 16, 2004 – Doris Troy was born Doris Elaine Higginsen on January 6, 1937 in the Bronx, New York. She was the daughter of a Barbadian Pentecostal minister but later took her grandmother’s name and grew up as Doris Payne. Her stage name came from Helen of Troy. Her parents disapproved of “subversive” forms of music like rhythm & blues, so she cut her teeth singing in her father’s choir. She was working as an usherette at the Apollo where she was discovered by James Brown. Troy worked with Solomon Burke, The Drifters, Cissy Houston, and Dionne Warwick, before she co-wrote and recorded “Just One Look”, which hit #10 in the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.

“Just One Look” was the only charting US hit for Troy. The song was recorded in 10 minutes on October 1962, with producer Buddy Lucas, as a demo for Atlantic Records. However, after Atlantic Records heard the demo, they decided not to re-record it, but release it as is.

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Sam Cooke 12/1964

sam-cookeDecember 11, 1964 – Sam Cooke was born on January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale Mississippi. He was the son of Reverend Charles Cook, Sr., (a Baptist minister) and Annie May Cook was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. The family moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1933. He had four brothers and three sisters – Willie, Charles Jr., L.C., David, Mary, Hattie and Agnes. Sam graduated from Wendell Phillips High School in 1948, where he distinguished himself as an “A” student as well as being voted “most likely to succeed.” During his formative years, Sam, together with his brothers Charles Jr., L.C. and sisters Mary and Hattie, performed as a gospel group “The Singing Children.” At the age of 15, Sam became lead singer of the famous “teenage” gospel group the “Highway QC’s” until he was 19 when he was hand-picked by Roy (S.R.) Crain, manager of the “Soul Stirrers,” to replace the legendary R.H. Harris as lead singer. Continue reading Sam Cooke 12/1964