Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

Welcome To B&S




Levi Stubbs
Levi Stubbs Four Tops Four Tops Four Tops Cindy Birdsong Photo thanks to Jim Saphin Cindy Birdsong The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard Peter Benjaminson: The Story Of Motown Mary Wells (1962) Now ex member of F.L.O.S (Former Ladies Of the Supremes) Freddi Poole The Former Ladies of The Supremes including new addition Joyce Vincent. Tour de 4Force Councilor Martha Reeves (This was taken on her first day in office) Motown 25: Yesterday: Today: Forever RIP - SKIP MILLER Gladys Knight: Midnight Train To Love Tour - Photo Jim Hegerty Dave Randle: Author, journalist, musician. Founder of Bank House Books. Francis Nero with Berry Gordy The Dave Godin Column (1975)

I’m a little late this month, so please accept my apologies. I’ve been acting as carer to a pal who underwent a foot operation, so had to exchange Motown for medicine! Anyway, let’s move on...


It doesn’t seem possible does it, but tis nearly a year since Mr Levi Stubbs, the voice of the wonderful Four Tops passed away. In fact, if I remember correctly, his was my first obit for this website. God, and look how many I’ve done since. Really does make me think of my own morality, and when I tell the children in my family, that I’m gonna live forever, they must know I don’t mean it. But it does make me feel good! Levi’s glorious voice can, of course, be heard on so many ground-breaking Motown songs, but I’d like to direct you to a new cd, well, two, actually, that’s been released by Shout Records. Coinciding with Levi’s first anniversary, I was asked to write a few notes by the man behind the project, Mr Clive Richardson who, you’ll remember, contributed recently to my rolling Motown’s 50th section. The cds’ title is Something To Remember: The Four Tops – The Casablance Sessions and is the first comprehensive re-issue of their music on this label, combining the Tonight and One More Mountain albums. This means, two outstanding hit singles are included – When She Was My Girl and Don’t Walk Away. As Clive mentions in his cd notes “The Four Tops and Casablanca Records might seem like an odd liaison” – but hey it worked, and didn’t we just love it! Methinks the most recent Motown release is the Four Tops’ Definitive Collection earlier this year which includes their most significant releases from the hypnotic easy ballads Baby I Need Your Loving and Ask The Lonely; the grittier Without The One You Love (Life’s Not Worthwhile), through to the movers that transformed the group into regular UK hit-makers, like I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch), It’s The Same Old Song, Shake Me, Wake Me and one of my all time pet loves, the dynamic Bernadette. Then there’s the change of style with Still Water (Love) from the marvellous 1970 project Still Waters Run Deep; and the surprising renditions of Walk Away Renee and It’s All In The Game which the guys made their own. No compilation would, of course, be complete without the earth shattering song that went a long way to change the face of Motown’s music – Reach Out, I’ll Be There. I know, I can hear you thinking, it’s the same old, same old. Tis true, but maybe this type of compilation will attract the casual record buyer which in turn might lead to other Motown purchases. The Four Tops stayed together for forty three years I think before Lawrence Payton died in 1997.

Now isn’t this spooky? I’ve just checked my discography (yes, in that book) - and released six months after the Still Waters Run Deep album was The Magnificant Seven, the first joint album from the Tops and the ‘new’ Supremes (as they were called at the time) featuring Jean Terrell, Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson. And I was hoping to break the news that the 2-cd set Magnificent: The Complete Studio Duets is due for release over here. Sorry folks. That’s not the case at present. As you know, the two groups were brought together in the hope that they would create as much excitement and sales as The Temptations with the Diana Ross-led Supremes. It didn’t happen on such a big scale but that’s not to say the project wasn’t worthwhile – because it bloody well was! The joining of Levi and Jean for starters, is a dream come true. Anyway, as mentioned in MT 8 they released three albums but it now appears there was enough tracks for a fourth. These canned and unreleased titles include versions of It’s Your Thing; Gimme Some Lovin’ and Joy To The World. So, am sorry to say that, at time of writing this, you’ll have to buy it on import. No, I haven’t got a copy, but if you’d like to read more about it, with a complete track listing, you could spin by


Before leaving The Supremes, you may remember last time I mentioned Cindy Birdsong’s artwork being auctioned on ebay. Well, I’m delighted to say I won a bid and am the proud owner of an original. If you’re interested in Cindy’s work please email And, author Peter Benjaminson, who penned the recent book The Lost Supreme:The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard, contacted me to say that if anyone wanted to see the US documentary about Flo, they could do so by visiting and clicking on the appropriate page. Some years ago, Peter also wrote The Story Of Motown which was an eye-opening look into the company’s carryings-on/carrying-ons (?!) and he’s now working on a book about Motown’s first lady of song, Miss Mary Wells.


And, finally, shortly before going to press – or should that be, website – came the news that Freddi Poole has left The Former Ladies of The Supremes. Her replacement is Joyce Vincent, who’s probably best known to mainstream music lovers as a member of Tony Orlando and Dawn. Well, for soul fans, you’ll know Joyce very nearly became a Supreme as the replacement for Mary Wilson before Motown decided not to continue with the group. The line-up would have been, Scherrie Payne, Susaye Greene and Joyce. However, you can hear Joyce on Scherrie and Susaye’s duet album Partners in 1979, and, of course, more recently, as a member of Tour De 4Force. She’s also worked with the Former Ladies of the Supremes before, replacing Freddi for a 2007 tour of Japan, and the following year for a UK trip. So, hello Joyce, and welcome! Also meant to mention before this, but in August, the Former Ladies released Good Intentions, a song written by Lynda’s daughter-in-law Alicia Lawrence, and produced by Trevor, Lynda’s son. This is exclusive to iTunes. The ladies are working on a new cd which’ll feature new recordings and include former group member, Sundray Tucker. This is now a Supremes free zone until the end of the column –ha ha!


It appears that Martha Reeves’ tenure on Detroit’s city council will end after one term in January next year. The US media hasn’t been too kind to her of late for various reasons, but as she’s become more in demand following her involvement in the 50th anniversary, she’s going to concentrate solely on her music. Martha said she was cool about the decision and was happy that people came out and voted – “I hope they will back the people that they supported.” Meanwhile, her original Vandellas – Rosalind Ashford-Holmes and Annette Beard-Helton - with lead singer Tonya Hood, are performing as a trio. They’re advertising themselves as The Original Vandellas and you can read more in


I keep hearing rumours that the 1983 Motown 25: Yesterday: Today: Forever gala show staged at Los Angeles’ Pasadena Civic Centre on 25 March is now available on dvd. Certainly this anniversary’s celebrations were quite remarkable with soooo many company acts being involved. Hell’s bells, the occasion reunited Diana Ross with Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson (sorry folks!) which was a remarkable sight for us all to see, even though the act wasn’t brilliant – and I’ll say no more. And returned Michael Jackson to his brothers for a s**t-hot performance, before solo Michael thrilled us all with [BBillie Jean. So, all I’ll say here is, if you know anything about this dvd, please tell me and I can pass it on. Or better still, please send me a copy!

(RIP 1946-2009)

I’m sorry to report the death of Skip Miller at the age of 62 years. He joined Motown during 1971 and became company president in ’87, overseeing it during a major reorganisation in which it attempted to regain its leadership in black music. This didn’t happen, and Berry Gordy sold ]Motown a year later, give or take. When he was president of Lion Tracks, Skip Miller managed Lionel Richie’s solo career for six years, before forming a talent management company in 2004. Smokey Robinson said of his death last month – “He was an integral part of our Motown family. He was my brother, and I loved him very much. What a loss.”


Did you see Miss Gladys Knight on tv recently, promoting her UK trek with Tito Jackson? Wasn’t she just something? Just love her to pieces; her voice is as smooth as silk and as pure as spring water, but it’s the way she’s so soulfully cool. Nothing appears to faze her; just remarkable, just fantastic. This tour is, she said, her farewell one called Midnight Train To Love, and kicked off in Manchester, taking in dates in Liverpool, Cardiff and London.

And last but not least, our rolling section...

What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me

I’m delighted to introduce Dave Randle and Francis Nero. So here goes -
"To me Motown is living proof that creative artists can do more to change the world than any amount of legislation and warmongering. Berry Gordy’s vision was all-embracing, his songwriters, musicians and artists united in its service across arbitrary barriers of race, creed, colour and class. No wonder it spoke to me as a teenager – and no wonder it continues to speak to the world: ‘Happiness is just an illusion filled with sadness and confusion’, ‘Since you’ve been gone I find it hard to carry on’. Motown music does carry on – relentlessly, joyously down the decades – never missing a beat.” Dave Randle, Author, journalist, musician. Founder of Bank House Books

”Motown's 50th Anniversary is a landmark in the history of music! It marks an era where the Motown Sound was imitated but never duplicated. The music of Motown served as a catalyst to blend all races together in harmony. When people listened to Motown music, there were no issues, except who was one's favorite artist or what would be the dance craze of the night. The Motown Sound will always be remembered in the hearts of people all over the world, as the lullaby that calmed the turbulent 60s and the lyrics that told true stories, and forced the listener to take that walk down memory lane. Having been a part of history in the making, I salute Berry Gordy and his uncomparable Motown Sound”. Frances Nero 1st Female Artist – Motown’s Soul Label – 1966: No1 Female Artist - Motorcity Records - UK – 1992: FRAN Productions - Writer, Producer, Directress, Actress

And lastly...


Before closing for another month, it’s the 6th anniversary of Dave Godin’s passing this month. This dear and much-loved man did so much for our music. He not only coined the phrase Northern Soul but he operated the first Motown fan club, opened one of the first shops in London to specialise in US black music, and opened his own record label. Prior to his death Dave was responsible for the Deep Soul Treasures series for Ace Records. He introduced me to John Abbey – the first Blues & Soul editor – and I was offered a job writing Motown Tracking. The rest is history, and he’s still with me all the way.

And, last but by no means least, I hope to have a chinwag with Thelma Houston this week in a bit of up-front promotion for the November Divas Of Motown shows in London.

Til next time, love you


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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