Formed in Detroit in 1958, The Contours were signed to the newly formed Gordy label on the recommendation of Jackie Wilson.
Their single Whole Lotta Woman (1961) was unsuccessful but the dance number Do You Love Me? reached the Top Ten the following year.
Written by Berry Gordy himself, its novelty lyrics were sprinkled with the names of current dance crazes – the twist, the shake, the mashed potato – and the record built to an exciting crescendo through its call-and-response vocal patterns.
In Britain, where early Motown records were released on the small Oriole label – and where The Contours toured in 1964 – Do You Love Me? attracted the attention of musicians rather than record-buyers.
The song was recorded in 1963 by Liverpool group Faron’s Flamingos but the two hit versions came from Brian Poole and the Tremeloes (#1 in 1963) and the Dave Clark Five, whose version was an American hit in 1964.
Gordy tried the dance-song formula with subsequent records like Shake Sherry (1963) and Can You Jerk Like Me (1964) which were R&B hits but only minor successes in the pop charts.
More interesting was the Contours’ recording of the Smokey Robinson song First I Look At The Purse, with its coy line, “What does every man look at first?”. The song was covered in 1971 by the J Geils Band.
It’s So Hard Being a Loser (1967) was the Contours’ last minor hit and they disbanded the following year.
Among the personnel changes over the group’s ten-year history were the addition of Joe Stubbs, whose brother Levi was a member of the Four Tops, and Dennis Edwards, who later joined The Temptations.
The use of Do You Love Me? in the film Dirty Dancing led to the group re-forming to take part in a Dirty Dancing tour in 1987.