Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis Motown Tracking (JULY)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Syreeta (picture copyrighted) Syreeta & Billy Preston (Image copyrighted) Diana Ross:The Queen Of Motown All That Glittered: My Life With The Supremes Dennis Coffery: Guitars, Bars And Motown Superstars Mark Ribowsky: Signed Sealed and Delivered - The Soulful Journey Of Stevie Wonder Smokey Robinson (image copyrighted) Russ Terrana: Russ Terrana's Motown Tony Turner: Deliver Us From Temptation Ali Ollie Woodson Vicky Wickam Sharon Davis & Joyce Vincent (Fantasy PR) Mr Harvey Fuqua, Raymondo, err-herm, Nancy (man) [sit] Sylvester, Robbie Vincent (@)

Am I the only person who doesn’t rush to the back garden or the beach with a bottle of sun lotion in one hand and a picnic basket in the other to take advantage of the wonderful weather? Living near Eastbourne, I spend quite a bit of time by the sea all year long, and in fact was listening to a quartet called the Brothers of Soul the other Friday as they sang their way through The Temptations and Four Tops’ songbook, with the occasional diversion to The Drifters. They were appearing at the Bandstand on the promenade, which was awash with people out to have fun! Following the show, I sat on the beach with a handful of friends drinking very bad red wine! Hey ho – life in the fast lane eh? Let’s TCB…

Thank you

This month brings to an end our very popular rolling section What Motown’s 50th Anniversary Means To Me. It’s been a great success, I’m told, for both readers and participants. Don’t despair though because for the next month or so, still with the anniversary vein, I’ll be bringing you unique information thanks to my colleague Felix Mensah.


There’s been quite a bit of interest of late about Syreeta singing Love Child. You can hear it on YouTube, and this, in turn, resurrected that old humbug of her joining the Supremes when Diana Ross left. Syreeta and I spoke about this one time, and she confirmed she was never a serious contender for the job. She had her career and was happy with the way her life was panning out. Like other artists at Motown, she recorded demo songs for the A-list acts including Diana Ross and the Supremes. She can also be heard quite clearly on Martha and the Vandellas’ released version of I Can’t Dance To That Music You’re Playing. The song was incomplete because Martha was unhappy about one or two lyrics. So, when she was working out of town, Syreeta was brought in to complete the vocals. (The full story can be found in the Blues & Soul magazine, published next month). Anyway, as has been suggested, was Syreeta’s version of Love Child ever planned as an official single? “No” said Gordon Frewin, who I worked with at Motown during the late seventies/early eighties. As a former long-term Tamla Motown/Motown UK label manager, Gordon has, to this very day, information at his finger tips about recording schedules, releases, track listings, alternate listings and so on – in fact, everything you’d want to know about Motown’s history and beyond. So, who better than him to ask. Syreeta's Love Child is actually the demo for the released version, providing a 'guide vocal' for the artist on the released version to learn the lyrics. That's the prime purpose of 'demo versions' in this context, apart from there being a union requirement to have 'some' artist up there on the mic, when a band track was laid down. There, hope that helps.“

Talking about dear Syreeta, she was extremely gracious to me when we met up, and this friendship carried on until her death in July 2004 when she lost her long battle against cancer. We shared some super times when her duet with Billy Preston, With You I’m Born Again shot to number two in the UK chart in 1980. She also meant a great deal to Berry Gordy, as he wrote in his autobiography To Be Loved – She is not only one of my favourite singers of all time, but favourite people as well…..Versatile, with a rich, interpretative voice, she was one of those artists who really should have made it but didn’t…Yet whenever her voice was on a record, even in the background, it could steal the show. And Syreeta returned the compliment, when she once told me – I learned all the way up, and now have experience in a little bit of the business side because I used to sit in on Mr Gordy’s meetings sometimes and learned how to manoeuvred things. Not to be an executive at Motown but just to know and understand the business side, and that was really thrilling. I was very fortunate that he’d allow me to do that from time to time.

Known as Rita Wright, she recorded a much in-demand Motown classic I Can’t Give Back The Love I Feel For You in 1968, a super slice of Ashford & Simpson magic. Then all seemed quiet on the recording front until she linked up with Stevie Wonder as writer and singer. In 1970 they married, and although it was relatively short-lived, he developed her growing composing/producing talent. Their greatest joint effort was the STevie Wonder Presents…Syreeta in 1974. This was her second studio album and it was just amazing! Particularly two tracks – ’Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers and Come And Get This Stuff. She enjoyed British success as a soloist like Spinnin’ And Spinnin’ in 1974; Your Kiss Is Sweet and Harmour Love the following year, and then with Mr Billy Preston. She later recorded for Ian Levine’s Motorcity Records, and when we last spoke, she planned to write a book about her life with Stevie, among other things. I mentioned it to (him) and he went very quiet. I told him I felt we should do it together. He has to understand how the book is to come about and the things that I’d like the public to know. That wasn’t to be, I’m afraid, because Syreeta died far too young. It was so awful, so sad, and when I listen to Stevie’s Come Back As A Flower I wonder if she has. It’s really strange isn’t it? I never intended to write in this much detail about the lady, but one thing led to another and there you go. Sorry folks!

(Honours Motown)

John Lester told me that The Velvelettes appeared in a Motown show recently, something like our Dancing In the Street. If I’ve got this right, the ladies were guests of a local production, but not only did it include Cal, Bertha, Norma and Milly, but Betty Kelly as well. How funky is that! I’m hoping Mr L will get some visuals together to bring the show alive for us. And maybe some more details! Meanwhile another titbit. Last month Cal was one of the chosen few to meet President Obama. More when I know it. Let’s move on…

Harlem’s Apollo Theatre has its own Walk of Fame. Icons like Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and Ella Fitzgerald are among several who will be honoured with their own rectangular gold plaques outside the theatre, which pioneered aspiring black talent when other venues locked their doors to them. It’s currently celebrating its 75th anniversary, and those names mentioned earlier will shortly be joined by Stevie Wonder, Billie Holliday and Gladys Knight and the Pips. “For me to have a plaque honouring me in front of the Apollo is one of the proudest achievements in my life” Smokey told The Associated Press. I started out (there) and it will always be home to me. He first performed there with The Miracles in 1959 and over the years has returned many times. I always say, if they tear down 125th Street and everything on it, please leave the Apollo standing! Having mentioned Smokey, he headlined a charity ‘do’ just recently for Dana’s Angels Research Trust which funds medical research, education and hospital treatment for Niemann-Pick type C disease and other similar genetic diseases. The charity was founded by Andrea and Phil Marella when two of their children were diagnosed with the disease. During his performance, Smokey spoke about his Motown days, sang his own material and that he wrote for other artists. “..Motown was a great place to grow up” he said. And when asked what he did when he heard his music on the radio, he replied – turn it up! Finally, Smokey’s first two solo albums – Smokey and Pure Smokey are now available as one package, the first in a series. Now, from music to words…..


I feel like a book club at the moment but, I hasten to add, in the nicest possible way. I’ve just finished reading Mark Ribowsky’s Signed. Sealed, and Delivered: The Soulful Journey Of Stevie Wonder (see Reviews) and have just taken delivery of more. The University of Michigan Press sent me Guitars, Bars And Motown Superstars by Motown musician Dennis Coffey, and Blues In Black & White. The Landmark – Ann Arbor Blues Festivals as photographed by Stanley Livingston, with text and a history of the festivals by Michael Erlewine. Then Tony Turner posted me his two books - All That Glittered: My Life With The Supremes and Deliver Us From Temptation: The Tragic And Shocking Story Of The Temptations And Motown. These aren’t new books but, I understand, Tony is looking for a UK publisher. Plus, there’s Ian Phillips’ Diana Ross:The Queen Of Motown book for which I wrote the forward. It contains a complete examination of her work with exclusive colour visuals of her in concert. Although I haven’t as yet seen the completed tome, it’ll be a must for her fans believe me. Ian’s not a Motown historian or a journalist, he’s a fan, and this is what makes his book that more endearing. The collector’s edition is exclusively available from the Bank House Books and will be shipped on publication. And finally, there’s Russ Terrana’s Motown and I can happily give you some blurb about this, taken from the book sleeve – When the great Motown acts had given their all; when the Funk Brothers had stopped playing, The Andantes had stopped singing, the orchestral arrangements and the overdubs were done, and the legendary producers were through producing, the whole thing could be won or lost at the mixing desk. As in so many other ways, Motown was blessed with sound mixing talent. Founder Berry Gordy could drag a hit record out of almost anything by use of his finely tuned ears and what were then non-programmable dials and sliders. But there was one man who emerged as the most trusted and successful board pilot of them all. In the early days, Berry and he would trade mixes in frenzied competitions to best one another. When it came to mounting the Motown 25 television spectacular, there was no one else for the job. When Diana Ross performed to what seemed like the entire population of New York, who else to trust? And when the King of Pop passed, there was only one man who could be relied upon to breathe life into the unreleased master recordings that formed part of his great legacy. You would need only to list the singles and albums Russ Terrana has worked on to get that this quiet, unassuming man is a towering genius. This book is no dry list of achievements. Written by twin brother Ralph, (whose own story is told in his autobiography The Road Through Motown), it’s something of a minor miracle of Terrana style co-operation, in that somebody got a word in edgeways and they stopped laughing long enough to get it done. All books are available now, by the way.


Marcia Parks, executive producer of Tour de4force’s Quiet Moon cd sent me this email about Ali Ollie Woodson’ funeral and I’d like to share some of it with you. As you know, Ali contributed to the group’s cd even though he was in great pain, and that kinda makes the whole work all the more special don’t you think? Marcia wrote – God Bless Ron Tyson of the Temptations for showing how much class he has. Ron flew all the way to Los Angeles and came to the church just to say goodbye to his friend before the service started, and then, immediately, left to go right back to the airport to catch another flight back to the mid-west where The Temptations had a show that night. Ali would have moved heaven and earth to do the same for Ron and any of the other Temptations. Ali was laid to rest on Saturday, June 5th and the whole day was just a wonderful celebration of the life of a wonderful man. The Detroit/Motown family turned out in force for one of their own... The Miracles' Claudette Robinson, Janie Bradford, Iris and Karla Gordy, Brenda Holloway, Reggie Dozier, the children and widow of late Temptations' original members David Ruffin, Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin - David Ruffin, Jr., Paul Williams, Jr., and Kimberly Franklin, respectively, and, of course our own Scherrie Payne along with her sister, Freda and Joyce and Pam Vincent. There was also a strong Chicago contingent there, too, that included myself and Lorrin "Smokey" Bates, who co-produced the two songs I recorded with Ali for the group’s cd. Brenda Lee Eager and Windy Barnes, who also guested on the cd were among the Chicagoans in the house. There were moving and heartfelt testimonies and proclamations from religious icons like Bishop Kenneth Ulmer and Bishop Noel Jones (who was Ali's pastor at the City Of Refuge Church where the services were held), political dignitaries like California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, superstars like Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Howard Hewitt, and a soul-stirring musical tribute by his good friend Aretha Franklin. She couldn't be there in person but flew her sister-in-law Earlene all the way from Detroit to deliver a video tribute featuring an amazing performance of I'll Fly Away that had everyone in tears. As Aretha spoke about her friend - Ollie Wood from Hollywood - her voice soared to the heavens in the background, sending chills through everyone in the church. It was truly one of the most amazing performances I have ever heard Aretha sing! The re-pass at the Universal Sheraton Hotel was a continuation of the joy we’d experienced during the funeral services, and was a gathering fit for a king. Ali’s music was played as people dined but when Treat Her Like A Lady played everyone erupted into cheers and rose to their feet to dance and sing along. It was a truly joyful home-going for a man who deserved it and so much more.

What does Motown's 50th Anniversary mean to me?

Last in the series....

And now, the last in the What Does Motown’s 50th Anniversary Mean To You? series. And I’m thrilled to bits to bring you Vicki Wickham and Joyce Vincent.

Motown: London, England. Dave Godin formed The Tamla Motown Appreciation Society and opened a record shop at Cambridge Circus selling American black music. Dusty Springfield and I were friends and we’d buy dozens of records there every Saturday. Dusty performed with Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and Marvin Gaye at the Murray The K Show at The Brooklyn Fox in New York in 1964. I was doing Ready, Steady, Go!, the ITV music programme on a Friday, and playing a lot of Motown music and Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston came on in 1964. Then in April 1965 The Sound of Motown, a Ready, Steady, Go! tv special was broadcast in prime time. Hosted by Dusty it showcased the Motown Review for the first time on television. The Supremes, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder (probably ‘Little’ then as he was 13!) Martha and the Vandellas, and Earl Van Dyke. I am proud that I was there at the very beginning with Dusty and Dave. As Nick and Val say – Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing. - Vicki Wickham

Being from Detroit, I am so proud of Motown, even though I was not one of their artists it has always been a part of me and my life. Every time I am asked where I am from and I respond Detroit, people always say ‘Motown’ that makes me so proud of my hometown. Motown has had a lasting legacy and now singing alongside Lynda Laurence and Scherrie Payne, Formerly of the Supremes, we are continuing to present the world with the wonderful music of Motown and The Supremes! Motown music will last forever. “ - Joyce Vincent


And there’s just enough room to mention these few items – don’t forget to catch Martha and the Vandellas at the 10th Croydon Summer Festival on 31 July …..A Jackson 5 exhibition has opened at Detroit’s Motown Museum, marking the first anniversary of Michael’s death. It celebrates his life and the group’s contribution to the Motown story. Closes in October….Get well soon to Randy Jackson who was hospitalised after suffering chest pains recently. It was thought he had a mild heart attack. Earlier, Randy with the rest of his family, attended the hearing for Dr Conrad Murray, the doctor accused of playing a part in Michael’s death. According to press reports, the judge ruled that Dr Murray could keep his medical licence during the trial, while Randy told waiting reporters that he believed Dr Murray should be charged with first-degree murder.... Also, get well soon to Mr Harvey Fuqua, member of The Moonglows, mentor to Marvin Gaye and composer/producer/manager to Sylvester. And it was during this latter period of his life that I got to meet and work with him. Have to say, loved Harvey from the moment I met him... Finally, can’t resist mentioning this – A Complete Introduction To Chess, a 4-cd box set released at the end of this month. It’s simply awesome. The package contains one hundred tracks – I don’t jest here! – all sequenced, with a huge booklet with extensive notes, photos and track by track guide by Lois Wilson….oh, and if you want to contact me as some of the mentioned guys here have, my email address is -

[Editor] Since finishing this months edition of Motown Tracking, we learned the very sad news that Mr Harvey Fuqua had passed away - Upon hearing this news, Sharon expressed a wish to write a few words about the man she worked closely with and came to know well over the years. A hugely talented and warm individual who will be greatly missed...

Mr Harvey Fuqua

It really is another sad and awful day for us. Mr Harvey Fuqua – the gentle giant of a man, quietly spoken and politely inquisitive – has died. OK, so he was eighty years old but it’s still not fair. What can I say about him? Let’s start with, he rose to fame through The Moonglows, through his own labels Harvey and Tri-Phi, which later became part of the Motown family. Likewise Harvey himself and his apprentice - a young Marvin Gaye. Harvey beavered away in the background at Motown as a successful writer and composer before leaving in the early seventies. He switched to RCA Records with a production deal before working with Sylvester, the late- seventies biggest disco artist. And that’s when I met them both for the first time. I was PR at Fantasy Records and Sylvester’s You Make Me Feel Mighty Real was on release. We needed him in the country to promote the single and Harvey came too. He just made everything calm and collected, easy and do-able. His history in the music business was often discussed, but he was painfully modest most of the time. However, one of the most memorable times was spent in the studio with him and Sylvester as they experimented from one driving, dance beat to another, with hints of gospel in between. They were wonderful times. Time passed and Harvey returned to work with Marvin, who by now, had left Motown and signed with CBS Records. I met Harvey in a London nightclub down Piccadilly-way, and – among other things - he told me about Marvin’s naughty single and very naughty promotional video. Yep, it was the Sexual Healing project, and the later Midnight Love elpee, and Harvey had had a hand in both. The single was later transformed into ‘nice’ when “Sexual” was put within brackets, while the video was heavily edited! No, it’s not fair! Here’s a thought though. Harvey will be in good company because both Marvin and Sylvester will be waiting. Gold bless you all!

‘Til next time, keep the faith
Sharon Davis


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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