I INTERVIEWED Earl Van Dyke, leader of the famed Funk Brothers, who played on all those Motown hits, at his home in Lafayette Park. He was as honest as he was cordial, noting that he did not care for Diana Ross. He also recalled he and some of the other Motown musicians seeing David Ruffin roughing up his then-girlfriend Tammi Terrell. He said when they tried to intervene, Tammi said, “Please don’t hurt him!”
Due to an unexpected turn of events, I ended up writing the obituary for David Ruffin. To do that, and then hear Melvin Franklin read it word for word at the funeral, was a special feeling. I was honored to have done it. Ruffin had serious personal issues, but he was a remarkable talent.
The first press party I ever attended was for the Temptations (Otis Wiliams, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin and Dennis Edwards). They were red hot with “I Can’t Get Next to You” at the time. Unfortunately, always friendly Paul Williams was extremely intoxicated.
Willie Tyler, who had just moved out of Detroit, told me that he had to leave because every time he would return from being on the road, he would find that someone had broken into his home. Ventrioquist Tyler and “partner” Lester used to provide a comedy interlude in the Motortown Revue shows. Tyler also recorded had an album for Motown.
GLADYS KNIGHT, in 1968, signed my “Everybody Needs Love” album, featuring Gladys Knight & the Pips’ breakthrough hit, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”
Many years later — in 1987 to be exact — I interviewed the group and showed Gladys that album she had signed so many years earlier. On the new album cover (“All Our Love,” featuring “Love Overboard”), she wrote, “We meet again.”
One day out of the clear blue sky I received a call from Katherine Schaffner of the Marvelettes. I didn’t know her at the time, but I loved the Marvelettes. She was no longer in show business and was inviting me to attend a party staged by an organization similar to Amway, where you sell products, get others involved, etc. I went but chose to not become a part of it, although it started a long friendship with Katherine that continues to this day.
Jermaine Jackson was doing an interview with yours truly at the Whitney restaurant in 1989 when he had a No. 1 (non-Motown) hit with “Don’t Take It Personal.”
When the subject of his sister LaToya’s (reportedly) abusive husband at the time, Jack Gordon, came up, Jermaine asked me to turn off the tape recorder so he could tell me off the record how much he despised Gordon.
IT WAS A sad sight when the Chronicle had to call the police on Billy Gordon, who sang lead on all of the Contours’ hits, including the classic “Do You Love Me?” I didn’t know Billy, but a few months earlier he had unexpectedly come to the office and asked me if I could let him have a few dollars. I gave it to him.
Not long after, he came back, as drunk as the first time, with the same request. The receptionist, at my request, told him I wasn’t there. He got belligerent and just sat in the parking lot, refusing to leave. (He wasn’t driving.) So the police came and took him away. I felt bad, but I had to bring the money requests to a halt.
Ah, and now the Supremes, the epitome of female vocal groups, and a group that meant so much to me. I was crazy about the Supremes — Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard.Everything about them excited me.
“When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes” is one of my two all-time favorite records. The energy level of this big, brassy record is amazing. It still explodes from the speakers. No surprise that it was written, produced and arranged by my favorite songwriting team, Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland. It meant a lot for me to meet all three and do an extensive interview with Eddie.
I met Diana Ross the first time at the Latin Quarter when she was just starting her solo career. She was doing a benefit for the Danny Thomas charity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The second encounter occurred in 1989. This time it was an interview, when she had a big hit with “Workin’ Overtime.”
I KNOW Miss Ross can be a real you-know-what, but she was very nice to me both times. She even stuck her head out of the limousine window to say goodbye to me and photographer Andre Smith after the interview.
As for Mary Wilson, she, too, is special. I met her backstage at the Roostertail where the last version of the Supremes (Mary, Susaye Green and Scherrie Payne) were doing a two-week stint. A longtime friend of mine, Esther Gordy Edwards, former Motown vice president and founder of the Motown Historical Museum, introduced me to her.
Mary Wilson always responds to my e-mails. A Supreme corresponding with me! If you had told me in 1964 that such a thing could happen, I would have said, “No way!”
These are just some of my Motown memories.
Motown: Just a sound? Again, “No way!”
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' Porsha Stewart Locked Out By Husband Kordell? [Video} (2)
- Earn and Learn Program helps chronically unemployed find careers (1)
- "Hot Lap Ride" with Will Power and the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix (1)
- Charlie Murphy headlines grand opening of The Comedy Zone (1)
- Gordy explains Ross relationship (3)