Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis Motown Tracking (June)

Sharon Davis:
Sharon Davis: Diana Ross The Original Vandellas Stevie Wonder The Saintones: Sing! The Tamala & Motown Singles plus I Am My Brother’s Keeper – Expanded Edition Thelma Houston: Sunshower Sharon Davis: Chinwaggin' Cirque Du Soleil: A tribute to Michael Jackson The Jackson 5: J5 Live At The Forum Martha Reeves Paul Nixon @Motown Tracking on Blues & Soul Dann Simmons @Motown Tracking on Blues & Soul Dusty Springfield

Right, before we start on our monthly journey into Motown-land, there’s a couple of things I must say. Firstly, this will be a “back in the day” no-go area. After last time I was appalled at the number of times I used that retched phrase. And secondly, here’s my brand new and in full working order, personal email address Be great to hear from you again.


OK, let’s talk Diana Ross - and the fab news is, it looks like she’s extending her current US tour, which kicked off in Boston, to include dates over here and in Europe. Reviews have been fantastic, absolutely spot on. To give us an idea of what’s in store, her performance includes her hits and more, with five/six costume changes during the show. She told US journalist Mary Hart how she was able to change so quickly – “..because everything is built right in to the dress. So my costumer takes me out, zips me down and zips me back up and I’m back out. The music continues..and goes right into the next song and I’m back out, so it never really stops.” Among the hits are those associated with The Supremes like Come See About Me, You Can’t Hurry Love, Reflections and so on, and as a solo icon, includes Touch Me In the Morning, Love Hangover, Upside Down, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough and her much-loved Billie Holiday sequence. The tour is, bynthe way, dedicated to Michael Jackson, about whom she talks during the show, and as his image appears on stage she sings Missing You into You Are Not Alone, before a video clip showing her and him together. “The music is timeless, I must say, especially the Motown music.” Diana said, before adding that she lives off the energy created on stage. It’s her calling and what she loves to do. I’m told that once the US tour ends, she heads for Japan before visiting us, then into Europe. But that’s all I know as I write this. Before leaving Diana, an update. In MT12, I mentioned she had appealed against the tax assessment on her unsold 12,562 square foot property along the waterfront in Greenwich, Connecticut. She won her case and has had $24,000 cut from her $168,000 bill.


How about this for a lovely surprise then! Was typing away when a message popped up from original Vandella Rosalind Ashford-Holmes. We chatted for a while – as you do – and she said she’d like to contribute to our What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me section. So, watch this space. As you know, Rosalind and Annette Beard-Helton still perform and occasionally hook up with Martha Reeves for special occasions. Annette contributed to MT 13 and this time her music business husband Dann Simmons joins us. Maybe we’ll get an interview together in near future. If anyone can sort this out Dann – you can!


Here’s a first - and congratulations all round to those who made it possible – Motown on Ace! This prestigious release is the second in Ace’s recently launched Limited Edition series. (The first was by The Royaltones which sold out almost immediately) What is it? The Satintones’ Sing! The Complete Tamla And Motown Singles Plus now on release and limited to 3000 pressings. Titled after The Satintones Sing! album which was never released, this cd has been produced with the full co-operation of Motown’s New York office who gave the compiler Keith Hughes access to their tape vault. So, here we’ve got 13 tracks released by the group (lead singer, Chico Leverett, Robert Bateman, James Ellis and Sonny Sanders) during their existence between 1959 – 1961, plus both sides of an earlier solo single by Chico Leverett, and an awesome 11 previously unreleased items. Obviously, this is a must for Motown fans everywhere, so get buying folks! Another limited edition release comes from Hipo- Select. I don’t understand this. It’s been announced on their website with a ‘Sold Out!’ tag. So what’s the point in advertising it? Just a mention I Am My Brother’s Keeper – Expanded Edition from Jimmy and David Ruffin is about. I think it’s more of a historical release than a commercial one because although the two brothers gelled, worked off each other, the actual material was, on occasion, quite bland. These sessions were Jimmy’s idea, and the result was issued in September 1970 on the Soul label, the same month as Jimmy’s solo The Groove Governor. It was released a year later over here. Despite the brothers’ popularity, I’m afraid, it didn’t set the charts alight. Tracks include He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, Stand By Me, Turn Back The Hands Of Time plus a couple of unreleased beauties – You’re What I Need (Not What I Want) and Stand By me (Brothers Mix/undubbed version). And finally, the fab-best of news – Thelma Houston’s wonderful Sunshower (Expanded Edition) – The Complete Dunhill Recordings, produced by Jimmy Webb, is being released next month. I’ve played both copies of the album ‘til the vinyl’s almost white, while her Mowest singles (yep, the original US releases) remain pistine because they may be worth a few bob one day! That aside, this is the very best album Miss H has recorded (and she agrees with that). So much so that Motown bought the rights to it when the lady joined the company, and re-released it as part of a mid-price series in 1981. “I really enjoyed making (that album)” she once said. “And for me it served a great purpose. It was what I wanted to do at the time. I had spent a few months singing everybody else’s songs in my night club act and I was hungry to create my own identity and, of course, with Jimmy giving me original material that was exactly what I could do. I know it didn’t sell too many copies but most people felt it was before its time.” (By the way, my interviews with Thelma are in Chinwaggin published by Bank House Books: just check out their website they have, incidentally, just published Spider Webb’s Untangled). Oh, and talking of books. Berry Gordy’s prime guitarist, Dennis Coffey, has penned Guitars, Bars And Motown Superstars. Published by The University of Michigan Press, and methinks the easiest way to get this is to purchase it direct from University of Michigan Press or of course from Amazon of course where I think it’s being sold at £17.05. Anyway, where was I? This release, endorsed by Thelma, contains all the original tracks plus half-dozen more, including Save The Country, Crying In The Sunshine and The Good Earth. This is manna from heaven, and if David kindly sends me a copy, I’ll review it with love. It’s unclear whether any of these releases will see an actual UK release.


A couple of newsy items about , Michael Jackson now. His video/mini-movie promoting Thriller has been voted by ‘industry experts’ as the top ground-breaking pop promo in music history. The 14 minute video beat off Queen and Peter Gabriel, both acts known and respected for their innovative promo films. And last month a publicity statement was issued the announce that Michael’s Estate (represented, incidentally, by his executors John Branca and John McLain) and Cirque Du Soleil were to develop, produce and promote several Michael Jackson projects. These would feature touring and permanent shows based on his music and songs, and special lifestyle projects. The first of these will be an arena-touring show where fans can experience the excitement of an actual MJ concert. This is expected to run from the autumn 2011, and will, apparently, enjoy an extended run in Las Vegas in conjunction with MGM Mirage. “This will not just be a tribute to Michael’s musical genius” said John Branca. “But a live entertainment experience that uses the most advanced technology to push every creative boundary as Michael always did. Having attended Cirque Du Soleil performances with Michael, I know he was a huge fan.” Michael’s mother, Katherine, added – “Our family is thrilled that ‘Cirque Du Soleil’ will pay tribute to my son in such an important way.” As for the finances here. Michael’s Estate and Cirque Du Soleil will each own fifty percent of the projects, sharing equally the cost of creating, developing, building and producing them. They’ll also enjoy fifty percent of the profits. And as to be expected - no mention was made of bringing the shows over here! Finally, thanks to Leee John, I can bring you this item, now that I’ve translated it! There’s to be a Michael Jackson Memorial Tribute staged at the Olympic Stadium in Rome on 25 June next. Ticket prices range between €66 to €110 each. According to the blurb there’ll be three-dimensional stage sets, interacting with the audience, 4D special effects and all sorts of bibs and bobs. And Leee will be performing with other artists at this very special event. Check out the website for more details but don’t forget to click the ‘translate’ button! And, very finally (eh?) News just in. On 22 June, a limited number of The Jackson 5: J5 Live At The Forum will be released. The shows were recorded in 1970 and the 2-cd set is released on Hipo-Select.



Just as I was going into a website to check out Stevie Wonder dates, a window shot up (my time of the year for this type of thing, don’t you think?!) saying “Do You Want To See Stevie Wonder In Brighton?”. As if!!!!!! But, for you lucky people, here’s the schedule:

24 June – The O2 Dublin
26 and 27 June – Hyde Park
29 June – Manchester Evening News Arena
1 July – Palais Omnisport de Bercy, Paris
2 July – Le Znith Nantes Metropole, Nantes, and Zenith Nantes Metropole, Saint-Herblain, France
4 July – Arnes de Nimes, Nimes, France
5 July – Anfiteatro Arena Verona, Verona, Italy
7 July - Locarno, Switzerland
13 July - Zitadelle Spandau, Berlin
14 July – Stadtpark Freilichtbuhne, Hamberg
16 July – Parken, Copenhagen
18 July – Bergenhus Festning, Bergen.

There’s also another date in London to be sorted out, on or around 30 September Ticketmaster/Stevie Wonder

Stevie might not be visiting us down South but I know someone who is – and that’s Martha Reeves!! On the 6th of June, Martha and the ladies will be performing at The Bath Music Festival. It seems the next UK date is 10 July at The Lounge On The Farm, Canterbury, Kent (“dancing in the wheat”! – I can’t take the credit for that). Then on to The Arches, the hottest place to be in Glasgow on 18 July when Martha will be celebrating her birthday. Other dates are:

21 July - The Assembly, Leamington Spa
22 July – The Opera House, Cork
23 July – The Village, Dublin
24 July – a benefit performance for Oliver’s Army, Orston, Nottingham
14 August – Vintage at Goodwood Music Festival, Sussex (celebrating five decades of British cool and which has been advertised widely on this website. And, yes, we hope to see you all there!)


We’re nearing the end here. However, just a little squeeze in. The Detroit News reported that smoke from a building fire at the vacant Brewster projects billowed into the downtown skyline one evening last month. Thankfully nobody was hurt and the fire was confined to one apartment. Why am I mentioning this? Well, these residential projects were the largest owned by the city of Detroit, and were the childhood home of The Supremes, in particular. Done.



It with great pleasure that I introduce you to Paul Nixon and Dann Simmons with their thoughts on What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me.

Little did I think back in the mid sixties, when I first became hooked on the intro the Isley’s This Old Heart Of Mine that over forty years later I would be fulfilling a dream and actually putting together an anthology of their work for Motown - the very label that I had just started a fifty year love affair with. Looking back, I’m not sure that at the tender age of 13 that I realised what Motown, or back then, Tamla Motown actually meant – it was only when later I had collected 45s by The Supremes, Mary Wells, The Temptations and the Four Tops, that I realised they were all on the same black and silver label, and by then I was hooked. Starting work and actually having cash in my hands (oh for the days of actual pay packets) I was able to graduate to the realms of the long player, and I remember quite vividly blowing a substantial portion of that first week’s money on two long playing collections - The Supremes A Go Go and of course the This Old Heart Of Mine long player that I had long since cosseted. Many years later, and my cupboards are now full of LPs (the singles I’m afraid have long since gone due to lack of space to be replaced by the wonderful US series The Complete Motown Singles) cds, books, memorabilia and photos.

The love of Motown has brought with it a large circle of friends and acquaintances linked by their love of all things Motown, and, I through good fortune, have been able to be part of the label’s history heading up projects such as Cellarful Of Motown. T he series is now approaching its fourth volume which, along with various other projects I have been involved with, has unearthed scores of unreleased Motown tracks and brought hundreds of other previously released songs to cd for the very first time”. Paul Nixon

“When Berry Gordy first used those words Yesterday, Today, Forever to describe his life’s work I am sure that he never realised how prophetic he truly was. What Motown's 50th means to me…Motown and I have a lot in common! It produced great music and I love to listen to great music; it established unity and harmony and I love those qualities; it showcased beautiful women and I love beautiful women; and it's celebrating a 50th anniversary, and I turn fifty this year. Yes, Motown music has been a part of me for my entire life. All my significant accomplishments in life occurred with a Motown melody in my heart and soul. The music and artists served as a guide in my life and has truly brought me much peace, pleasure, and hope, especially during some of the very turbulent and difficult times in my childhood and adolescence.

“As a small boy, I used to sit in front of the tv watching the Motown groups perform on Shindig, Hullaballoo and The Andy Williams Show. Motown music and artists gave me hope and inspiration that one day I could become someone special and achieve my goals. It was a vehicle God used to speak to me. I have often said the first angels I ever saw were wearing sequin gowns. I especially loved the girl groups! My mother recalls that at six years of age I would gaze at the tv screen and tell her that I would someday marry a woman that looked just like one of the Motown ladies. Little did we know that one day it would indeed become a reality, when forty-one years later, the beautiful Annette Helton of the Vandellas and I married on the warm, sandy beaches of Hilton Head Island.

Many of the Motown artists have become close friends and family. Words can never express my feelings of love and gratitude to these wonderful people in my life. To be a member of the Motown family, and be married to one of the most beautiful, sweet, and talented women of Hitsville USA, is a blessing and an honor. As we celebrate Motown's 50th, I celebrate my life. I celebrate love, friendships, accomplishment, perseverance, faith, family and God. Only He could have arranged this destiny for me. Only He could have taken these awesome individuals at Motown and employed them to shape and affect the lives of millions of us around the world. Happy Anniversary Motown!“ Dann Simmons

Thank you guys!

And lastly – MT Notes:

Very sad to learn of the death of Bob Mercer. He was the EMI executive who signed names like Queen, Kate Bush and The Sex Pistols. Bob also instigated the extremely successful series Now That’s What I Call Music!. He was a great guy to work with. And, I’ll always be grateful to him because he introduced me to Gloria Jones and Marc Bolan! Bob died from lung cancer on 5 May in Los Angeles, and our condolences to his wife Margie and their son Jackson, who works for the Concord Music group in Los Angeles…..At the annual Dusty Day held at the Finnegan’s Wake pub in Ealing during April, a total of £6,820 was raised for the Royal Marsden. Fabulous news and I’m just sorry I couldn’t make it this year. Many thanks of course must go to Dusty’s secretary, Pat Rhodes for donating her friend’s personal items for auction – a bitter/sweet feeling I’m sure. And to all the other contributors for selflessly providing items for auction to raise much needed funds. None of this, however, would be possible without Simon Bell, who organizes this event. He has a dedicated team who help him with all aspects of ensuring the day is a success. Anyway, congratulations to Simon now for another venture because he’s hosting his own internet radio show which airs at midnight on Tuesdays. To join him and his exquisite taste in music use the link POP MUNDIAL RADIO 1. He’s a soul man so am sure he’ll be playing some Motown – and Dusty of course…...for an informative Diana Ross website, do visit And last but not least, by any means - more exclusive news. Al Abrams, Motown’s first employee will be publishing Hype ‘n’ Soul, the behind-scenes story of the company. The book, which will include reproductions of press releases and a collection of visuals from Al’s personal archives, will be published by Neil Rushton’s Soulvation. A full news item will appear later on.

I’m outa here. Til next time, keep the faith.

Love you
Sharon Davis xx


Please feel free to contact Sharon at her brand new email address with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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