Barbara McNair

Brenda Holloway had one genuine rival in the Motown glamour stakes. The delectable Barbara McNair from Racine, Wisconsin, even went into the annals as the first Motown artiste to pose for Playboy, in October 1968. In truth, McNair wasn't in Holloway's class as an outright soul singer, but that wasn't why Berry Gordy signed her up(...)

Berry Gordy Jr

Berry Gordy's family, like thousands of others, had moved from the southern states of the USA to Detroit, whose automobile industry in the years between World War I and World War II was a massive honeypot to Americans keen for a good wage and the promise of a better life. After World War II, among(...)

Brenda Holloway

Perhaps the most beautiful woman to step in front of a microphone at the studio, there was never a greater, more unfulfilled talent at Motown than Brenda Holloway. Her idol was Mary Wells, but she developed a style that was all her own. She could be tender and seductive, or hot and steamy, but, on(...)

Chris Clark

Motown boss Berry Gordy Jnr signed Chris to his label after she walked into his office in 1963 and performed an impromptu version of the Etta James song, All I Could Do Was Cry. This resulted in her landing a receptionist’s job at the company for two years before finally recording her first single in 1965, Do(...)

Chuck Jackson

Chuck Jackson racked up a string of uptown New York soul monsters on Scepter's subsidiary label Wand in the early 60s, but by 1967, the vastly experienced Jackson, who'd started out with the legendary doo-wop group, The Del-Vikings, in the late 50s, and also cut memorable duets with Maxine Brown and Doris Troy, was casting(...)

Contours, The

David Ruffin

David Ruffin, who Marvin Gaye characterised as "one of the true artists of Motown", was among the most conspicuously gifted singers in all of soul music. My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me), his first solo hit after departing The Temptations, should have been like a coronation. But as with the song's doomed(...)

Edwin Starr

Charles Edwin Hatcher was born in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1942. He and his cousins, soul singers Roger and Willie Hatcher, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where they were raised. In 1957, he formed a doo-wop group called The Future Tones and began his singing career as Edwin Starr. Based in Detroit, Michigan in the 1960s, he recorded(...)

Elgins, The

The Elgins were a quartet - three males (two of whom had originally signed to Motown as part of The Downbeats) and female lead vocalist, Saundra Mallett. Backed by The Vandellas before they hooked up with Martha Reeves, Mallet had recorded Camel Walk b/w It's Gonna Be Hard Times way back in 1962. The new line-up's debut single Darling(...)

Four Tops, The

The Four Tops got together at high school in 1954 and had been playing the Detroit club circuit since the mid-fifties, originally as The Four Aims. The group recorded their first single, Could It Be You? on Chess Records, and since there was already a group called The Ames Brothers, The Four Tops were born. Under their new(...)

Jackson 5, The/The Jacksons

Given the built-in obsolescence of pop stars, it is remarkable that the singer who made the biggest impact in 1970 should have still made world headlines almost a quarter of a century later. But Michael Jackson, the 11-year-old frontman of the Jackson 5, was no ordinary pop star. During that first year with Motown Records(...)

Jimmy Ruffin

Jimmy Ruffin was born in Collinsville, Mississippi in May 1936. He sang with his family's gospel group, led by his minister father, before moving to Detroit to work for Ford. In 1961 he cut Don't Feel Sorry For Me for Motown subsidiary, Miracle, and went on tour with the Motown Revue, before serving in the US Army(...)

Kim Weston

Kim Weston was born Agatha Natalie Weston on 30 December 1939, in Detroit, Michigan, and started singing in the church at the age of four. Later, while singing with a gospel group, she was signed by Motown Records in 1961, scoring a minor hit a year later with Love Me All the Way - actually the B-side to her(...)

Martha & The Vandellas

Martha Reeves, Rosalind Ashford and Annette Sterling started singing together at their Detroit high school as The Del-Phis. In 1962 Martha was working as a secretary for A&R man Mickey Stevenson at Tamla Motown when she was asked to fill in for a sick Mary Wells at a recording session. Martha and her friends began to work regularly(...)

Marv Johnson

When Berry Gordy first started his Motor Town touring spectaculars (the precursors of the celebrated Motown revues) Marv Johnson was a headliner on an equal footing with the likes of Mary Wells and The Marvelettes. His early songs for Gordy, many actually released on United Artists since demand outstripped the junior record mogul's pressing and(...)

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