Originally formed in Detroit in 1958, The Contours started out as a quartet consisting of lead singer Billy Gordon, Billy Hogg, Joe Billingslea and Sylvester Potts. Their original name was The Blenders, but after the addition of guitarist Huey Davis and Hubert Johnson (cousin of Jackie Wilson), they became The Contours and auditioned with Berry Gordy at Wilson’s suggestion and were signed to Motown in 1961. Most Motown acts at the time upheld an image of style, sophistication, and smooth choreography…which is why The Contours, with their leaps, splits, rowdy R&B style, and refusal to contain their energy during performance, fell out of sorts with Motown early on and were most known for their 1962 hit “Do You Love Me?,”originally written by Berry Gordy for The Temptations. “Do You Love Me?” was the only Contours single to hit the top 40 on the Billboard charts, however, the single achieved this feat not once, but twice — for the first time in 1962 when the song was released, and again in 1988 thanks to Patrick Swayze and a film called Dirty Dancing.
Please enjoy The Contours’ biggest hit below!
Jimmy and Frank Bryant were two brothers from Detroit who worked as session musicians and created a dance-floor hit so groovy, it has been sampled over the years by the likes of British DJ hit-maker Norman Cook (known by most as Fatboy Slim) to create an iconic Northern Soul sound that people for decades have been able to dance to. After working for a long period of time recording music as a session musician for artists such as Gino Washington and J.J. Barnes while his brother Jimmy was completing service in the military, Frank Bryant was asked to do session work for Winifred Terry of The Drifters, and upon Jimmy’s return, the two brothers began to work and record together. While recording a session that was intended to produce a single and a B-Side, the Bryant brothers used the opportunity to show Terry their skill as not only musicians, but vocalists. Subsequently, the original vocalist hired for the songs was taken out and The Just Brothers were able to record their own singles and B-Side. The songs “Honey,” “She Broke His Heart,” and “Things Will Get Better” featured the vocals of The Just Brothers, and the catchy, surf-rock-meets-soul-power B-Side “Sliced Tomatoes” became an iconic tune sampled over the years by Motown and soul-enthusiast DJs and producers. “Sliced Tomatoes” was recorded in 1965, but became more widely known in 1972 when the song was re-released on the Music Merchant record label, reaching a new group of listeners who became fascinated and receptive to the up-tempo beats that all at once showcased the best of Northern Soul, influenced by the Tamla Motown sound.
Check out a video below featuring Frank Bryant and drummer A.J. Sparks, playing “Sliced Tomatoes” as a tribute to the late, great Jimmy Bryant.
New Bethel Baptist Church, located on Linwood St. and previously located on Hastings, was founded in 1948 by the Reverend C.L. Franklin. In the 1960s, Franklin was recording sermons from New Bethel Baptist on the gospel label Chess Records, becoming one of the first ministers to do so. He was known as the man with the “million-dollar voice.” That vocal prowess would be carried down through the Franklin family, as evidenced by Franklin’s daughter Aretha. Aretha Franklin made her vocal debut singing solos at her father’s church when she was only 10 years old. By the time she was 14 and under her father’s management, she was out on the road singing with gospel caravan tours, building her reputation as one of Detroit’s most radiant voices of all time.
Enjoy a performance by the legendary Aretha Franklin from 1970 below.
There are multiple musical groups that write and perform under the name, “The Reflections,” but there is only one of those groups with Detroit roots and a catchy hit from 1964 that remains the group’s signature number when they perform to this day. “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” was penned by songwriters Bob Hamilton and Freddie Gorman (who wrote another classic Motown song performed by The Marvelettes, “Please Mr. Postman”) and when sung by the five members of The Reflections, injected a heavy dose of upbeat, harmonious top-and-bottom Doo-Wop into listeners which resonated and drove the song to classic status. The Reflections were among several “Blue-Eyed Soul” R&B groups signed to the Detroit label Golden World Records in the early to mid 1960s, but only The Reflections achieved the #6 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with one of their singles. Lead singer and original member of The Reflections Tony Micale and Detroit-born bassist John Dean still tour as The Reflections to this day and frequently visit the city they achieved their stardom in, playing at several shows and festivals throughout Michigan and keeping the spirit of oldies and R&B available to all generations of music fans. Terry Stewart, President of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame, summed up the impact of The Reflections and their staying power very well when he said, “These guys could sing the phone book and still bring the house down”.
Please enjoy the classic “(Just Like) Romeo & Juliet” by The Reflections below.
In 1967, East Lansing natives The Woolies recorded a cover of the classic Bo Diddley tune, “Who Do You Love?” This would prove to be the group’s biggest hit, and with many covers of “Who Do You Love?” out there by bands like George Thorogood and the Destroyers and Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Woolies’ version still comes out on top. Formed as a band in Dearborn in 1964, vocalist Stormy Rice, keyboardist “Boogie” Bob Baldori, guitarist Jeff Baldori, bassist Ron English, and drummer Bill “Bee” Metros got their first taste of success before “Who Do You Love?” winning a Vox-sponsored “Best Band In The Land” contest which won them a set of speakers, as well as a trip to Los Angeles and a recording contract. It was Lou Adler of Dunhill Records in LA who first ushered The Woolies into the recording studio after hearing their demos to create their first record, “Who Do You Love?,” split with an original song by the group, “Hey Girl.” Soon after recording in Los Angeles, The Woolies were on their way back to Michigan at Russ Gibb’s request to open The Grande Ballroom on October 6, 1966 along with the MC5. The fast-paced punchy rhythm of “Who Do You Love?” caught the attention of radio DJs and promoters upon its release, and remains their biggest success as a band.
Enjoy The Woolies’ classic, energetic cover of “Who Do You Love?” below!
In the 1960s, The Hideout was a popular venue off of 8 Mile and Harper where numerous up-and-coming Detroit bands would play. The Hideout was a venue that did something differently than most at the time – they frequently booked an all-female rock band to play their stage. The Pleasure Seekers originally consisted of 5 Detroit-born females, including founding member Patti Quatro and her little sister Susan Kay Quatro (known to most as Suzi Quatro), who would go on to become the first female bassist to get recognition as a major rock star.
Enjoy this classic clip of The Pleasure Seekers performing on their 1968 tour, covering the Motown classic “Reach Out (I’ll Be There).”
? and the Mysterians had their first great success as a band when their song, “96 Tears,” was recorded in March of 1966 at Art Schiell’s recording studio in Bay City, located in the back of his house. “96 Tears” was recorded on the back porch of Shiell’s studio and became the first mainstream hit for a Latino rock band in the United States, selling over a million copies upon its national release, certifying it gold. The song was first written as a poem back in 1962 by front man Rudy “Question Mark” Martinez, titled “Too Many Teardrops.” Rudy Martinez hailed from Flint, while the rest of the Mysterians originally hailed from Saginaw. Upon first organizing the band, Rudy’s brother Robert Martinez was the original drummer, and was replaced by Eddie Serrato when Robert was drafted into the U.S. Armed Forces. The lineup that you hear on “96 Tears” also includes Frank Rodriguez laying down the signature Vox organ riffs, who was only 14 years old at the time “96 Tears” was recorded.
Enjoy the rare clip below from Detroit’s “Swingin’ Time” back in 1966.