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.
Under their new name, they toured extensively with middle-of-the-road crooner Billy Eckstine and under his guidance learned the tricks of the trade.
They were soon snapped up by Columbia Records where they recorded Ain’t That Love. Like their debut release, the single bombed.
Meanwhile, Berry Gordy had opened his record company, Tamla Motown in Detroit. He had known The Four Tops for some time and approached them to record for him, placing the young quartet in the hands of his in-house writing and producing team of Holland, Dozier and Holland.
The combination proved perfect and thus began a five-year run which provided a dozen Top 20 hits, including such soul-stirring epics as Baby I Need Your Loving, I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) (one of Motown’s most rousing anthems), It’s The Same Old Song and Reach Out I’ll Be There – a worldwide #1.
Brian Epstein booked the group for a tour of Britain where they generated such hysteria that 14,000 fans flocked to see them perform in London alone, and the Royal Albert Hall heaved with the sound of Motown.
Unfortunately, their luck walked out with Holland/Dozier/Holland, who left the Gordy empire after a heated disagreement and a contractual dispute, and The Four Tops began to slide until they moved to Casablanca in 1981 when they made an impressive comeback with When She Was My Girl.
Arista signed the group and heavily promoted their 1988 album, Indestructible.
Founding member Lawrence Payton died of liver cancer on 20 June 1997 at his home in Detroit, Michigan. Levi Stubbs was diagnosed with cancer in 2000 and later had a stroke. He passed away in October 2008.
Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir
Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson