Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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MOTOWN 50 Berry Gordy MOTOWN 50; TODAY, TOMORROW, FOREVER CD - Released Dec 1st 2008 Once in a Lifetime - Motown Legends Live The Supremes Exhiibition: Photo Gerry Constable The Supremes Exhiibition: Photo Gerry Constable The Supremes Exhiibition: Photo Gerry Constable The Supremes Exhiibition: Photo Gerry Constable The Supremes Exhiibition: Photo Gerry Constable The Dixie Hummingbirds - Gospel Legends Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrel 1967 Richard 'Popcorn' Wylie; June 6th 1939 - Sep 7th 2008 Norman Whitfield; 12th May 1940 – 16th September  2008.jpg Levi Stubbs;  June 6, 1936 – October 17, 2008 Lionel Richie Touring next year The Magic of Motown Tour The Velvelettes 1966; 'Ain't No Place Like Motown' A Complete Intoduction to Northern Soul; Release Date 17th November 2008 We love you to Sharon x

Well, who would have thought it! After ..well, far too long, Motown Trackin is back and hopefully will bring news and views that excited us all during yonder years of Motown’s history...

I have to say when I was asked by Lee and Claire to return to the magazine (yes, Blues & Soul will always be a magazine to me!) a certain thrill rushed through my soul..


So, where better to start than with the celebration everyone’s talking about – Motown’s 50th anniversary next year. Believe it or not, the fun started in October 2007 when Berry Gordy was honoured by Detroit city. Martha Reeves who, as you know, is a city councillor, presented him with a plaque officially renaming a two and a bit mile stretch (from the Lodge Freeway to Grand River) of the West Grand Boulevard after him - the Berry Gordy Jr Boulevard! It was in fact Martha’s idea to do this, so it was right she made the presentation. Smokey was also present at the ceremony. The day before this, Berry was a guest at the Motown Museum Annual Benefit Fundraising Gala tagged “One Motown, One Family, One Legacy”. It was a pricey affair with tickets between $350 to $1000 a person, and it’s hoped, by this writer, that at future celebrations the entrance fees will be a smidge cheaper! By all accounts it was a fine affair, with guests like Mickey Stevenson, Robert Bateman, Brian and Eddie Holland, Martha and her sister Lois, and the Velvelettes. Oh, Maxine Powell also attended; yes, what a lady she is! One of the evening’s highlights was the reuniting of Smokey with (Miracles) Claudette, Bobby Rogers and Pete Moore. The late Ronnie White was represented by his wife and daughter. Teena Marie was also there as a guest performer. Berry Gordy said - “One of the principles we had at Motown was that success will come, but that’s not enough. You have to be proud of yourself in order to achieve true happiness. And if you do it right, not only will you be successful, you’ll be happy. And at Motown, we’re the happiest people in the world.”

I’m told that loads of stuff is being planned for next year, with Berry overseeing some. At the moment all I know for sure is that a new compilation featuring tracks selected by Motown fans on line will be issued on December 1st Poll Result. Universal have said it plans to release several versions of the compilation across the world, each reflecting the retrospective market’s favourite Motown hits. This will kick start the anniversary cds, all of which will be marketed under the banner Motown 50 Today, Tommorow, Forever And that Tony Denton has announced his 'Once In a Lifetime' - Motown Legends Live Tour. Appearing on the bill are Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, the Commodores, The Miracles, Jr Walker’s All Stars, and Mary Wilson.

The dates are:

23 June – Newcastle, Metro Radio Arena;
24 June – Nottingham, Trent FM Arena;
25 June – London, Wembley Arena;
26 June – Birmingham, NIA;
27 June – Manchester, Evening News Arena;
28 June – Liverpool, Echo Arena.

And, finally, that admittance to Hitsville USA in Detriot will be free on 12th January, the date in 1959 that Berry borrowed $800 from his family to buy 2648 West Grand Boulevard. There are rumours too, albeit strong ones, about a definitive documentary which has been years in the planning by Berry and Suzanne de Passe. This, of course, will be the one to watch out for. More as I know it. And Four Tops Duke told the media recently that some artists have been told to keep 12th January 2009 free in their social calendars, while admitting - “Nobody has said what’s going to happen. They’re just preparing the world for something. Berry is the key. Everyone is watching for the word from him. Whatever it’s going to be, we’re really excited.”

(from the Mary Wilson collection)

Mary’s frocks now. Or to give the correct title 'The Story Of The Supremes from the Mary Wilson Collection.' Fifty outfits were on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Hell’s bells, what a huge place that is too – got hopelessly lost trying to find the restaurant and when I did the queue was out the door and down the street! Anyway, the exhibition combined the image of The Supremes with the rise of Black Power in America from the 1960s onwards. I never recalled them being a political group as such, but, do remember them being photographed with Martin Luther King and other Black leaders at the time. So this vital and often harrowing period in America’s history was reflected in the exhibition, alongside expensive gowns from the television spectaculars 'TCB' and 'GIT,' and the gold, bronze and yellow butterfly gowns worn on the front cover of 1969’s 'Cream Of The Crop.' These stood majestically with the black velvet gowns, encrusted with pearls, rhinestones and gold brocade, worn for Diana Ross’s farewell performance with the trio in 1970. I couldn’t help but think that the sequinned evening gowns must have been rather heavy, and perhaps a little scratchy, to wear. On a couple, you can actually spot where the sequins are missing or have been worn away, either through usage or passage of time. Some look rather time weary, while others are practically pristine. There’s chiffon, beads and feathers; shoes and jewelry. Even a sombre little black number worn by a Primette. Several headless mannequins with limp wrists show off these gowns, and are, in the main, protected by large glass cases which were transferred from the US in eight crates..

“I have kept these dresses in storage for over thirty years, it was my dream that one day I could share them with the world.” Mary Wilson told the press at the opening of the London exhibition. Despite my appalling public transport journey to London, to wander through a part, albeit a small part, of Supremes’ history, was made more memorable by meeting Lynne Pemberton (founder of The Temptations’ fan club); Motown fan and friend, Kevin Melville, and Peter Sherlock about whom we’ll be hearing more, so watch this space. Oh, and thank you Gerry Constable and Trudy Hill for the pictures, some of which can be found lurking around here somewhere. So, from London, this wonderful exhibition transferred to The Grundy Gallery, Blackpool (now until January 2009); the Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham (March – June 2009); the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol (July - August 2009). Further dates are being planned, apparently. Well worth the fiver I can tell you!

Mary also collected the Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of Motown at the MOBO (Music of Black Origin) awards ceremony just recently. She also performed a medley of hits, and enjoyed a little collaboration with the Sugababes. “I do believe the Supremes have really influenced people like the Sugababes and Beyonce’s group. We were the model that they used and that’s a great accolade” Mary said at the ceremony.

Staying with The Supremes for awhile, and more specifically, my pal Lynda Laurence who, in recent months, lost her father Ira Tucker through heart failure, following two heart attacks. You don’t need me to tell you that Ira was lead singer of The Dixie Hummingbirds, whose rather special style of singing was said to have inspired not only Stevie Wonder, but members of The Temptations and Jackie Wilson. The rest is history, as they say. Ira was survived by his wife of sixty-six years, his daughters, Lynda and Sundray, five grandchildren and six great grandchildren. And, as if that wasn’t enough for Lynda to deal with, her home and everything she owned was destroyed by fire. Fellow Supreme Scherrie Payne immediately spearheaded an international appeal to help Lynda; the response was overwhelming, prompting her to respond last month with words like “…I know that all of you gave from your hearts. I have received a veritable shower; yes, a downpour of sympathy, love, encouragement and so many prayers. All of which made this daunting trial a little easier to bear. It is most certainly not over, in fact, I have just begun the long road back to recovery…As the healing process begins, I know that you have played an integral part of it and for this I truly thank you all.”

If my memory serves me well, the first time I met Lynda and Scherrie was with Jean Terrell at Wimbledon Theatre. The ladies were extremely gracious, warm and utterly friendly, and we enjoyed a lovely interview with lots of laughs. But to this day, I have never found out what Jean carried around in those damned plastic shopping bags! Anyway, if you wish to contact Lynda, please do so, as follows – c/o P O Box 5256, North Hollywood, California 91616.

It’s no secret that I’ve always been a firm supporter of Lynda and Scherrie’s group, and this is reflected on the first page of their website. Actually, Lynda’s version of 'If This World Were Mine' is an absolute diamond. Playing it now from 'Motorcity Ballads.' Go girlfriend go!! As you know, the original song belonged to Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell issued as a B-side to another melting classic 'If I Could Build My Whole World Around You.' And this is a nice link to Tammi herself; a beautiful soul singer of considerable – yet grossly underrated – talent, born in Philadelphia in January 1946, and who tragically died in March 1970. As well as enjoying great success as Marvin’s singing partner, Tammi released the blinding solo album 'Irresistible' on Motown. A handful of singles were lifted but nothing set the world spinning except in soul circles of course. Prior to joining Motown, she recorded singles as Tammy Montgomery for the Sceptor, Wand, Try Me and Checker labels. To cut an interesting story short, her sister Ludie told us that at long last Tammi was honoured with her own plaque on Philadelphia’s Walk of Fame on 23 October last. This has been the result of a lengthy campaign by fans, industry folk and prominent people in Philly ever since Tammi was honoured by the Mayor’s Office during 2005. Ludie has, by the way, written My Sister Tommie, a book crammed with an honest and compelling portray of her sister’s personal and professional life, where, believe me, a lot of questions are answered. Many personal family photos are also published for the first time. Bank House Books are the publishers.

It’s been an extremely sad time of late. We lost Richard 'Popcorn' Wylie on 7 September. He was found dead in his Detroit home at the age of sixty-nine years. On 16 September, sixty-seven year old Norman Whitfield died following months of struggling with diabetes. Then, Motown and Michael Jackson’s publicist Bob Jones died on 22 September. He was seventy-three years old. My sincere sympathies of course go to these guys’ family and friends; death at any age is unexpected, tragic and extremely sad. However, it was Levi Stubbs’ death that hit me hardest. I won’t say any more here because it was with a very heavy heart that I penned his obituary. My heartfelt condolences also to Dionne and the Warwick family, following the recent death of Dee Dee, at the age of sixty-three. What a mighty singer she was too; if you’ve a moment do check out 'Foolish Fool' and 'She Didn’t Know (She Kept On Talking).'

Let’s move on, but not wishing to detract anyway from what I’ve just written, Lionel Richie has just announced his new British Tour, next year. I know, I know, he’s not a Motown artist; but he was - and I love ‘im. Thirty-five dates in all starting in Dublin in March, ending during May in Belguim. I’ll print them all next time, because I’m getting dangerously close to running out of space. His new and ninth studio album titled 'Just Go' will be released early 2009.

And finally, I’ll be in the audience at the Brighton Dome on 16th November to see The Magic Of Motown touring show. This is one of several dates that include:

The Grand, Wolverhampton (22 November);
The Broadway, Peterborough (27 November)
Caird Hall Dundee (Sat 29 Nov)
The Sands Centre Carlisle (Fri 5 Dec)
SECC & Clyde Auditorium (The Armadillo) Glasgow (Sat 6 Dec)
The Trent FM Arena, Nottingham (11 December).
Gatehouse Theatre Stafford (Sat 14 Feb)
The Dome Doncaster (Sun 29 Mar)

The show’s producer Michael Taylor gushed that it stars fabulous male harmonies, stunning female vocals and the supremely-talented Magic of Motown band. “The fast-moving production honours the Motown legends that brought the world dancing to its feet The Magic of Motown - Review

Well, that’s it I’m afraid. I really didn’t know what format to use here but thought what the hell, and used the tried and tested formula of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ and kept it in the vein of MTs of old. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the good wishes, and ‘you can do it girl’ that have reached my screen during the last few weeks. It’s good to be back ....…..and with the strains of The Velvelettes singing 'Ain’t No Place Like Motown,' one of the tracks from the forthcoming four CD compilation A Complete Introduction To Northern Soul (which is absolutely awash with Motown treasures) nothing left to say except …love you..

If you enjoyed Sharon's column, or have any Motown stories you would like to share - please feel free to email

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