Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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Column

SHARON DAVIS' MOTOWN TRACKING

Radio Caroline (1965)
Radio Caroline (1965) The Boat That Rocked Martha Reeves & Sharon Davis Marvin Gaye 1963 Uriel Jones Dusty Springfield @bluesandsoul.com Marvelettes 1966 Marvin Gaye & Tammy Terrel 1967 Marvin Gaye; Then & Now The complete Motown Singles Vol. 11B - 1971 I'm Rick James: The Definitive DVD Miracles & Claudette 1962 Tommy Good Tommy Good Today: Photo Paul Nixon Memories of Motown: Berlin Mickey Stevenson, Martha Reeves and Al Abrams from the Berlin Show Al Abrams & Berry Gordy Billy Johnson, Alan Abrams, Johnny Jones, Berry Gordy Jr, Jackie Wilson & Robert Bateman: 65 Dusty Day

I started this column on Easter Monday listening to Pirate Gold which is an idyllic environment for me as I wallowed in nostalgia and sang along to singles I thought Iâd long forgotten. With this in mind and all the excitement surrounding the 45th anniversary of pirate radio this year, in particular everyoneâs favourite Radio Caroline (yes â I do remember Caroline and quite vividly too!) and the film 'The Boat That Rocked' which is loosely based around that golden era, I asked Martha Reeves if she remembered the significance of those days when music ruled the ocean wave. â(Congratulations to) the golden radio stations on the occasion of their 45th anniversary. We have a continuing party this year as Motown Records add up to 50 years of wonderful music and a fellowship that has lasted and stood the test of time. The pirate stations played our music when other stations were not aware of the Motown sound, and we are eternally grateful for the air-play and support. We owe a ton of gratitude to our off shore dee jays for approval and steadfastness in making our records a hit, stay on the charts and remain on the play lists over the years.â Now an extremely busy and influential councillor for Detroit City Council, Iâm so grateful to Martha for taking time out to join us. See you and the ladies in June!

MARVIN

From Martha, letâs talk about Marvin Gaye, the man she worked with and like all of us, loved him dearly. With the differing deadlines of this website, itâs not always possible to write items to coincide with a particular day, and this is the case here. However, nothing will detract us from marking this year as the 25th anniversary of Marvinâs death on 1 April, the day before his 45th birthday. If he had lived, heâd be a grand 70 years old this year. Anyway, Motown/UMe are remembering his birth and passing by issuing a digital-only album (yeh, that pisses me off too!) titled Marvin Gaye:Then & Now, a 14-track set of rare items highlighted by the previously unreleased Soulie; a 1966 track that was recently discovered by Motownâs New York-based producer, Mickey Gentile; a hot funk 2009 remix of I Want You by John Morales of M+M Productions; Marvinâs two rare late fifties Chess recordings with Harvey and the Moonglows â 'Mama Loocie', and Twelve Months Of The Year, and his early pre-hit Motown titles including Witchcraft and Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide.

For vinyl lovers now, Marvinâs first duet album with Tammi Terrell, the mighty United released during 1967 and featuring the masterpieces Ainât No Mountain High Enough, If I Could Build My Whole World Around You, If This World Were Mine and Your Precious Love in its track listing, is being issued this month. And finally, for now, Marvin will figure prominently in a two-hour documentary being produced by Berry Gordy.

URIEL JONES

Itâs with a heavy heart that I join others to mourn the passing of Funk Brother Uriel Jones at the age of 74. He first fell ill in February but had apparently been showing signs of improvement. However, he was admitted to a Michigan hospital after suffering complications following a heart attack and died on 24 March last. Born in Detroit on 13 June 1934, Uriel spent his formative years at the cityâs Moore School for Boys which catered for âproblem childrenâ. He took up boxing and then mastered the trombone, before he discovered his first drum kit. Within a short time he was playing in clubs in and around Detroit where during 1961 he came to the attention of Berry Gordy, who, as it happens, was forming an in-house band for his record label. These musicians would, of course, become the Funk Brothers. Working with Marvin was Urielâs first big break and his funk propelled drumming can be heard on countless of his tracks. He also worked with The Temptations, where he was a key component of the psychedelic era when the group was the leader with titles like Cloud Nine and I Canât Get Next To You. Uriel can also be heard at a softer, calmer pace on Jimmy Ruffinâs What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted for example. Paul Riser remembered â âUrielâs drum sound was the most open and laid-back, and he was the funkiest of the three guys we had. He had a mixed feel and did a lot of different things well.â The other two drummers, of course, were Benny Benjamin (who died in 1969) and Richard âPistolâ Allen (who died in 2002). Uriel is survived by his wife and three children, and our heartfelt condolences go out to them.

Iâd also like to pass our warmest wishes and condolences to Vandella Rosalind Ashford Holmes, who lost her mum on 2 April last.

DUSTY SPRINGFIELD

In the very last edition of The Dusty Springfield Bulletin â I shall miss the magazine like crazy because itâs been part of my life for how long? Yep, twenty-one years. God love us Paul Howes, how can this be true? Anyway. Iâm digressing. Within the last magazine was a letter from Vicken Couligian from Cheshire â a name familiar to me. So I asked said Paul if I could print a few words from the letter because in a small way it does show the power of print. Here tisâ¦Vicken wrote â âIâve been a bit of a disco fan since the late 70s having been mesmerised by the voice of Donna Summer since I heard her early hits on the radio. Through her music and then in turn discovering Blues & Soul magazine, I developed an interest and a love for Motown in general, and Diana Ross in particular. Having read many articles by Sharon Davis in her regular Motown Tracking column, I noticed several references to a certain singer also with the initials DS! Of course I was aware of Dusty..but was not aware of her soul credentials or knowledge. â What about that then? We aim to please Vicken!

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11B:1971

'The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 11B:1971' picks up where Vol. 11A ended, covering July to December â71, detailing Motownâs transition from (what some people call) the conveyor belt singles in Detroit to the new sounds and signings of Los Angeles. And the set is released here this month. Weâve got the Rare Earth and Mowest labels competing against the established Soul, VIP and Motown subsidiaries, with an influx of new acts to compliment the established artist roster. This six months in the companyâs history offers a pot pourie of music, encompassing diverse genres, marking Motownâs expansion into other markets but which, in all honesty, was relatively unsuccessful, barring a handful of new signings, like Rare Earth for whom the Rare Earth label was formed. Here we also have their label mates like The Messengers, Sunday Funnies, and The Rustix, who hardly set the charts alight but who were, nevertheless, part of the growing musical family. Spanning five discs this era is represented by the hits, B-sides, remixes and canned stuff , and is complimented by a 124 page booklet featuring wonderful in depth information about the releases written by co-producers Harry Weinger, Keith Hughes and Bill Dahl. It really is a joy to read, because Iâm one of these people who likes to know the whys and where fors. And when I worked with Motown, this information just wasnât as available as it is now. So, thanks guys! Anyway, whatever you may think about these packages (and I know theyâre not everyoneâs cup of tea) this release does complete the musical journey of 1971, and offers the opportunity to fill any gaps in our record collections. Actually, this release reminded me that I still have a load of these singles in a box in my garage because during the seventies I was lucky enough to be on Motownâs US mailing list. So, one of these days Iâm gonna wind up my record deck and have a singles session. And no, before you ask, my turntable doesnât have a dog and a horn attached!

MARVELETTES

One of the acts not included on 'The Complete Motown Singles' of course, is the Marvelettes, which is a very bad link to report that Gladys Horton, founder and original group member has retired soâs she can look after her youngest son Sammy. She advised us via an email which also included the following â âBecause of my retirement, there will be no âoriginalâ member of The Marvelettes performing. Nor on tour. So please be careful when you hear or see any type of advertisement claiming that The Marvelettes are performing âliveâ in or near anywhere that you live. "I hate to travel by train, and touring on a bus is just not for me any longer. You, the fans, have always been our great supporters of both the groupâs live performances, as well as our many hits over the past years that the âoriginalâ group has been active. Love comes in two directions, from your hearts to us, and from our hearts to you, and it has always been that way! Thank you so much. We have all gone through the good times as well as the hard times in all of our lives. I want to thank Berry Gordy; Motown Record Corporation; all of the many fans all over the world; all of the many performers that we have graced the concert stage and had the great honour to perform alongside; our many support back-up musicians over the years, and a very special âthank youâ to Billy Wolfe who, since 2002 helped me to get back past record royalties that I never knew were out there.â Ah.

I suppose you could say that by way of honouring Gladysâ retirement (or maybe itâs more of a coincidence) The Marvelettes: Forever â The Complete Motown Albums: Vol 1 is released Stateside on 15 May. This limited edition houses three cds covering their first four studio albums, their one-off live release and a greatest hits compilation, alongside tracks that didnât make it. All have been re-mastered and include their big sellers â 'Please Mr Postman', 'Forever', 'Too Many Fish In The Sea' and so on â plus an insight into their Darnellsâ releases and other sought after rarities. Although I havenât seen the artwork as I write this, Iâm told thereâs loads of visuals including the original album covers and unseen pictures, plus loads of information about the ladies and music. Mmm, sounds like one for me then.

MOTOWN RELEASES

Itâs true to say that Motownâs release schedule this year has gone a little astray â ok, a lot astray then â because due last month was a whole rack of albums on vinyl, like Stevieâs amazing Songs In The Key Of Life, Smokeyâs wonderful A Quiet Storm, Rickâs oh so funky Street Songs and the Four Topsâ historic Reach Out. So I checked into www.backtoblackvinyl.com to check this out but was greeted with the instruction that to download any album I needed the code printed on the insert of the vinyl album. Where do I get âem from? Help! Anyway, due for release this month is the Hitsville USA Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971 â Vol 1. This is a four cd set and is, I think, a Hip-O Select release. No loves, Iâm sorry I donât know what happened to the publicised singles releases, but will, I promise, keep you updated when I hear anything. Having mentioned Rick James, I donât know whether you know or not, but his Iâm Rick James - The Definitive DVD is on release now. It features his career highlights , interviews and all eight of his music videos that include the hits like Give It To me Baby' and Super Freak, with a trio of unreleased videos for Throwdown, She Blew My Mind(69 Times) and Hard To Get. And lots more. Some people perhaps remember him for all the wrong reasons â his wild life, a crazy bloke with sex and drug hang-ups â but he was one helluva creator of funk/rock who died too soon. Am reading his autobiography at the moment, so will report back when Iâve finished it. Yes, itâs warts anâ all, so Iâm heavily sedated!

NEWS

Itâs catch up time nowâ¦..Congratulations to The Miracles who were recently honoured with a star on the Hollywood Hall Of Fame. The honourees (is that really a word I wonder?) are the original group members â Smokey and Claudette Robinson, Bobby Rogers, Pete Moore and the late Ronnie White. Guest speakers at the ceremony were Berry Gordy and Stevie Wonder.

My intrepid reporter Kevin Melville tells me that Mickey Stevenson is due to release his Here I Am album on the Fantastic Voyage label. Tracks include Here I Am, Rocky Racoon, Knock On Any Door and Stormy. Mickey of course was one of Motownâs driving forces as a songwriter, producer and talent scout. He began his career as a singer in gospel and doo wop groups and wanted to join Motown as a soloist. Berry Gordy, however, had other ideas, and asked him to be the companyâs first A&R chappie. As such Mickey was invaluable to the formation of the artists and their success. When he left the company for MGM his wife Kim Weston â herself a Motown artist of some considerable, huge, massive, and everything thatâs fabness note â went with him. From there, Mickey formed his own labels People and Mikim before joining up with Ember Records to release a pair of singles and one album. Still very much a part of Motown and musicâs history, the last time Mickey was mentioned here was as part of the world premiere of Memories Of Motown staged in Berlin. Actually, thereâs a poster advertising the show somewhere around here (see above).

DRUMS PLEASE

Under the heading 'Bohannon lifts the lid on a life in the music industry,' in new audio book weâre told that Hamilton Bohannon (composer, producer singer and musician) tells the story of his life in music that includes touring as band leader with Motownâs prime performers, including a two and one half year stint as Stevieâs drummer. He also recalls his life on The Temptationsâ touring bus, his refusal to box with Marvin and the moment when he was caught in a battle with Diana Ross when he inadvertently touched her hair. Thatâs all I know but if youâre interested you can check this out on www.hnarecords.com or emailing phase3@bellsouth.net

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

I goofed last time when writing about Lynda Laurence being Stevieâs support singer. As she quite rightly pointed out, the name of the group that she sang with was The Third Generation and not Wonderlove, who was formed after sheâd left. Ooops, sorry guys! As an add on here, Lynda tells me her three-year-old grandson was contacted by Oprah Winfrey to audition for the forthcoming Americaâs Most Talented Kids. Will let you know more. And, as youâll have noticed from a recent news item, her fellow Supreme Scherrie Payne is working with a fab new group Tour De 4Force whose debut single Godsend is due for release shortly. Do contact Jim Saphin on dimarflo@aol.com or visit www.tourde4force@yahoo.com if youâd like more information.
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AL ABRAMS & TOMMY GOOD

WHAT MOTOWN'S 50th ANNIVERSARY MEANS TO ME...

Aaannndddd nooooowâ¦.imagine the drumroll here. Itâs time for the start of the new What Motownâs 50th Anniversary Means To Me section. Artists and fans alike are planning to contribute to this rolling series, and to kick it all off Iâm delighted to introduce you to Mr Al Abrams and Mr Tommy Good.

"Let's face facts. If I had taken Berry Gordy aside at any time in the early 1960s and told him that in 2009 people would be celebrating Motown's 50th anniversary by writing books about the company, that our songs would be modern classics still being played on the radio and being bought in stores, and that our artists would be performing around the globe, you can well imagine his reaction.

"Al," he would have said, You really need to take some time off and go home and rest."

But then imagine if I had grabbed his hand and said, "But Berry, when all that will be happening there will be a black man in the White House."

He probably would have called for an ambulance.

But both events happened in January 2009. And as they say in the Bible, one begat the other.

Let me explain.

Once our PR efforts made it possible for Diana Ross and the Supremes to appear on the cover of a TV Guide magazine -- a publication people kept in their living rooms for an entire week -- we opened the door to acceptance of African-American artists by white Americans. First on their magazine covers, then on their tv sets, then in movies and in night clubs like the Copacabana, and ultimately -- as their president.

Why? Because the music of Motown was neither black nor white. It was truly as we said, The Sound of Young America.

Motown made it possible.

That is our legacy.â

(At the age of 18, Al Abrams was hired by Berry Gordy in May 1959 as the first employee of what would become Motown Records. He began as Promotion Director and subsequently served as Motown's Director of Public Relations during the glory years of 1964-66. His play, Memories of Motown, made its debut in Berlin in January. Alâs book Selling My Soul, The Complete Motown Press Releases 1964 â 1966 is due for publication soon).

âMotown is 50 years old. the music still stands alone. I always thought it would stand the test of time, and it has (and) it still is wonderful to hear. I feel great for having been a part of Motown, I felt that I was a small part of something great. Even though I felt I could have been managed a lot better. I couldnât believe it when I heard that Universal was going to release an anthology of my songs that I recorded at Motown. I hadnât heard those songs in 42 years. I bugged Paul (Nixon) to make sure it was me singing them. I am so grateful for the recognition that I have received, It has helped heal the feelings I had about how I was treated at Motown. I know now some of those tunes could have been hits. I remember being asked to sing at a weekender in Northampton, I said âyesâ, there was no way that I would miss performing for the wonderful people in the UK that had kept my songs alive for all these years. I had to learn these songs for myself, and to sing them in the same key I had sung them in when I was in my early twenties.. I was the first artist to record Just Ask The Lonely and (sang) that song in Northampton for the first time ever. I did it and it felt great. Itâs hard for me to explain how exciting it was for me to get to sing lead on Honey Lane, with the Temptations singing background. I have many fantastic memories, such as sitting in with Marvin Gaye. Talking and singing with Stevie Wonder. Going to Berryâs house to learn Bad Bad Baby. Having Berry and Diana Ross come to clubs that I was performing at. Having Smoky Robinson write three songs for me to record. Many fabulous memories.

I believe for the most part that Image, and dressing and looking the part, have replaced loving the music and working very hard to learn your craft. It seems that we expect less from our singers now. Maybe things come too easy and fast. I might add, not in all cases, but generally speaking. I also believe that when Motown left for California around 1970 the music changed and was never the same. It was still good, but not that Detroit soul sound, that we all love and know is special."

Itâs always a pleasure to talk and sing about Motown. (In the sleeve notes of Tommy Good:The Motown Collection Paul Nixon noted that Tommy and his band The Tabs were and still are to an extent one of the Motown labelâs biggest and best kept secrets. Despite producing the classic Northern Soul favourite Baby I Miss You, he never achieved the success of many of his label mates. Paul then chats to Tommy about his career and so on. Do check this release out, itâll do your soul the world of good â no pun intended.)

and last...

but not least in any sense of the word, I joined two hundred or more fans at the annual Dusty Day held at Finneganâs Wake in Ealing, W5. As well as mingling, the organiser Simon Bell asked me to join fellow authors Jeanette Lynes and Annie Randall in a question and answer session about our books. This was great fun, once Iâd found my feet! One of the dayâs musical celebrations was for Motownâs 50th where Simon, Madeline Bell, Mac Kissoon and Katy Setterfield sang a selection of the companyâs finest. I also met loads of Motown fans as well and spent time chatting about the music and signing books until my hand ached. Thank you, thank you, for making me feel so at home, and if you newcomers to bluesandsoul.com are now reading this, a big welcoming hug. What kept you??!!!

Love you
Sharon Davis x

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Please feel free to contact SHARON DAVIS at B&S with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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