Motown 1964, Hittsville, USA – Gary

Some significant artists and songs for this year of Motown…

The Temptations

Otis Williams
Melvin Franklin/deceased
Edward James Kendricks/deceased
Paul Williams/deceased
David Ruffin/deceased

The Temptations (also abbreviated as “The Tempts” or “The Temps”) are an American Motown singing group whose repertoire has included doo-wop, soul, psychedelia, funk, disco, R and B, and adult contemporary. Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1960 as The Elgins, the group, known for its finely tuned choreography, distinct harmonies, and stylish suits, has been said to be as influential to soul as The Beatles are to rock.

Having sold an estimated 22 million albums by 1982, The Temptations are one of the most successful groups in black music history and were the definitive male vocal group of the 1960s. In addition, they have the second-longest tenure on Motown (behind Stevie Wonder), as they were with the label for a total of 40 years: 16 years from 1961 to 1977, and 24 more from 1980 to 2004 (from 1977 to 1980, they were signed to Atlantic Records).

As of 2005, The Temptations continue to perform for universal records with only one original member, founder Otis Williams, in its lineup.

Here are two of their big hits form 1964: “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and the block buster, “My Girl“.

The Way You Do The Things You Do: The Temptations/Released/1/23/64 Pop #11

My Girl: The Temptations/Released/12/21/64 Pop #1 R&B #1


The Temptations, My Girl

Shorty Long

– deceased/boating accident/69

Frederick Earl “Shorty” Long (May 20, 1940 – June 29, 1969) was an African-American soul singer, songwriter, and record producer for Motown’s Soul Records imprint. He was a native of Birmingham, Alabama, United States.

Shorty Long came to Motown in 1963 from the Tri-Phi/Harvey label, owned by Berry Gordy, Jr.’s sister, Gwen, and her husband, Harvey Fuqua. His first release, 1964’s “Devil With The Blue Dress” was the first recording issued on Motown’s Soul label, a subsidiary designed for more blues-based artists such as Long. While this song never charted nationally, the song was later covered and made a hit by Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels. His 1966 single “Function At The Junction” was his first popular hit, reaching #42 on the national R and B charts. Other single releases included “It’s A Crying Shame” (1964), “Chantilly Lace” (1967), and “Night Fo’ Last” (1968).

Long’s biggest hit was “Here Comes The Judge” in 1968, which reached #4 on the R and B charts and #8 on the pop charts. The song was inspired by a comic act, from “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in”, about a judge by Pigmeat Markham, whose own “Here Comes The Judge” (a totally different song) charted two weeks after Long’s did in June 1968, and became a Top 20 hit. Long’s 1969 singles included “I Had A Dream” and “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. He released one album during his lifetime, 1968’s “Here Comes the Judge”.

Here he is doing “Devil With The Blue Dress”…

Devil With The Blue Dress: Shorty Long/Released/3/23/64 (did not chart)

Brenda Holloway

Brenda Holloway (born June 21, 1946 in Atascadero, California) is an African-American singer and songwriter best known for her period as a recording artist for the Motown label during the 1960s. Her best known hits from her Motown days were the soul ballad “Every Little Bit Hurts” (which reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. The title of the song was similar to the ‘60’s television public service announcement about highway littering— Every Litter Bit Hurts.

Every Little bit Hurts: Brenda Holloway/3/26/64 Pop # 13

After her 1964 hit, she recorded, “When I’m Gone”,which had been recorded by Mary Wells and was intended to be Mary’s followup to her ‘64 mega-hit , “My Guy”. However, after a contract dispute, Mary Wells left Motown for 20th Century Fox Records. Brenda’s version of “When I’m Gone” was an R and B hit, but never crossed over in the days of segregated R and B vs. Rock & Roll radio.

Holloway did not fit the Motown mold well. She lived in Los Angeles, not Detroit. She also had a grittier edge than the typical polished Motown performer, and wrote songs as well as sang them, which was unprecedented for a female Motown artist. Brenda Holloway inspired many Pop artists, including The Beatles who asked her to perform as the opening act on their 1965 tour of the U.S. She was the only female to open for them.

The Four Tops

Levi Stubbs – Lead/deceased
Abdul “Duke” Fakir
Renaldo “Obie” Benson/deceased
Lawrence Payton/deceased

(retained original line up until forced in 1997/43 years)

Levi Stubbs (b. c.1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA), Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson (b. 1937, Detroit, Michigan, USA), Lawrence Peyton (b. c.1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 10 June 1997) and Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir (b. c.1938, Detroit, Michigan, USA), first sang together at a party in Detroit in 1954. Calling themselves the Four Aims, they began performing at supper clubs in the city, with a repertoire of jazz songs and standards.

In 1956, they changed their name to the Four Tops to avoid confusion with the popular singing group the Ames Brothers, and recorded a one-off single for the R&B label Chess. Further unsuccessful recordings appeared on Red Top, Columbia and Riverside between 1958 and 1962, before the Four Tops were signed to the Motown jazz subsidiary Workshop, in 1963. Motown boss Berry Gordy elected not to release their initial album, Breaking Through, in 1964, and suggested that they record with the label’s Holland/Dozier/Holland writing and production team. The initial release from this liaison was ‘Baby I Need Your Loving‘, which showcased the group’s strong harmonies and the gruff, soulful lead vocals of Levi Stubbs; it reached the US Top 20.

Baby I need your Loving: Four Tops/Released/7/10/64 Pop #11

The following year, another Holland/Dozier/Holland song, ‘I Can’t Help Myself‘, topped the charts, and established the Four Tops as one of Motown’s most successful groups.


The late Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops I can’t help myself
and in 1965 on Shindig

Holland/Dozier/Holland continued to write and produce for the Four Tops until 1967. The pinnacle of this collaboration was ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There‘, a transatlantic hit in 1966. This represented the pinnacle of the traditional Motown style, bringing an almost symphonic arrangement to an R&B love song; producer Phil Spector described the record as ‘black [ Bob ] Dylan’.

Other major hits such as ‘It’s The Same Old Song‘ and ‘Bernadette‘ were not as ambitious, although they are still regarded as Motown classics today.

In 1967, the Four Tops began to widen their appeal with soul-tinged versions of pop hits, such as the Left Banke’s ‘Walk Away Renee‘ and Tim Hardin ‘s ‘If I Were A Carpenter‘. The departure of Holland, Dozier and Holland from Motown later that year brought a temporary halt to the group’s progress, and it was only in 1970, under the aegis of producer/writers like Frank Wilson and Smokey Robinson, that the Four Tops regained their hit status with a revival of the Tommy Edwards hit ‘It’s All In The Game’, and the socially aware ballad ‘Still Waters’. That same year, they teamed up with the Supremes for the first of three albums of collaborations. Another revival, Richard Harris ‘s hit ‘MacArthur Park’, brought them success in 1971, while Renaldo Benson also co-wrote Marvin Gaye ‘s hit single ‘What’s Going On’.

The Velvelettes

The Velvelettes

The Velvelettes were a 60’s female vocal group founded in 1961 by sisters Carolyn and Millie Gill with cousins Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Norma Barbee (both from Flint, Michigan) on the Western Michigan University campus, where they were students.

The group signed to Motown Records, but were not given top priority, as other female vocal groups were attracting audiences and recording hits. While the group awaited their chance at stardom, they recorded backing vocals for more established Motown girl groups, including The Marvelettes, Martha & The Vandellas, and The Supremes.

The Velvelettes got their break in 1964 with “Needle In A Haystack” which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-1964.

Needle in a Haystack: The Velvelettes/Released/9/3/64 Pop #45

The group recorded its follow-up, “He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin’”, and spent time on various Motown-sponsored tours as an opening act.

He was really sayin’ Somethin’: The Velvelettes/Released/12/28/64

With a song on the charts and a place on several concert tours, The Velvelettes began recording an album. Despite burgeoning success, the members of the group began to disagree about the music they were recording. Half wanted to record more mature songs and thought the material was trite, while the other half didn’t want to rock the boat so early in their career.

Motown became apprehensive about the group’s potential, and wary of the expense of the recordings. Not wanting to let good time and money go to waste, the label released two additional singles, “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and “A Bird In The Hand” as the group endured several line-up changes. Both singles flopped, and Motown canceled the scheduled release of the group’s eponymous debut album.


The Velvettes Needle in a Haystack

The (Original) Supremes

Diana Ross
Florence Ballard/died/76 (replaced by Cindy Birdsong)
Mary Wilson/who may have been the best singer

Writers Opinion: I am totally aware of the popularity of Diana Ross, but was she the best singer? No, I think Mary Wilson was. Unfortunately, because of Berry Gordy’s relationship with Diana, the other two did not stand a chance.

The Supremes were a very successful Motown all-female singing group active from 1959 until 1977, performing at various times doo-wop, pop, soul, Broadway show tunes, psychedelia, and disco. One of Motown’s signature acts, The Supremes were the most successful African-American musical act of the 1960s, recording twelve #1 hits between 1964 and 1969, many of them written and produced by Motown’s main songwriting and production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland.

The crossover success of the Supremes during the mid-1960s paved the way for future black soul and R&B acts to gain mainstream audiences both in the United States and overseas.

Founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1959, The Supremes began as a quartet called “The Primettes”. Founding members Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Diana Ross, and Betty McGlown, all from the Brewster-Douglas public housing project in Detroit, were the sister act to The Primes (later The Temptations).

In 1960, Barbara Martin replaced McGlown, and the group signed with Motown in 1961 as “The Supremes”. Martin left at the end of 1961, and Ross, Ballard, and Wilson carried on as a trio.

After they achieved success in the mid-1960s with Ross as the lead singer, Motown president Berry Gordy renamed the group “Diana Ross & the Supremes” in 1967, and replaced Ballard with Cindy Birdsong.

Ross would later leave the group for a solo career in 1970, and was replaced by Jean Terrell. After 1972, the lineup of the Supremes changed frequently, with Lynda Laurence, Scherrie Payne, and Susaye Greene all becoming members before the group ended its eighteen-year existence in 1977.

Here are two of their huge hits in 1964: “Baby Love” and “Come See About Me“.

Baby Love: The Supremes/Released/9/17/64 Pop #1

Come see about me: The Supremes/Released/10/27/64 Pop # 1 R& B # 3

Other Great Hits of 1964

My Guy: Mary Wells/Released/3/13/64 Pop #1

You’re A Wonderful One: Marvin Gaye/64 Pop# 15

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You): Marvin Gaye/Released/11/4/64 Pop #6 R&B # 4

Dancing in the Street: Martha & the Vandellas/Released/7/31/64 Pop #2


Martha and The Vandellas on Ed Sullivan Dancing in the Street

3 responses to “Motown 1964, Hittsville, USA – Gary

  1. You are full of it. Have you heard Mary Wilson sing lately. OMG… I have heard a cow moo better than her!

  2. Wow. An impressive taxonomy of the great Motown groups – with a lot of detail I didn’t know. Thanks.

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