Move it on over, rock ’n’ roll oldies. Get out of the way, classic rock. Step aside, blues and jazz. Motown is coming to town!
This coming Tuesday, the 10-member Masters of Motown cast will be soul-training their way into the Rim Country, donning the typical Motown fashion of the day — the men in their slim fitting, matching jackets and the ladies with their beautifully coiffed hair and long, slinky dresses with a high slit up the side. Show time is 7 p.m. in the Payson High School Auditorium.
The Virginia-based Motown tribute group promises to give the audience a stroll down memory lane, performing hits such as “Get Ready” made famous by the Temptations, “Dancing in the Street” that Martha and the Vandellas made into a hit in 1964 and 1967’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.
Ever since the TCCA 2012-13 concert schedule came out over a year ago, this concert, more than any of the other great concerts the TCCA board has brought to Payson, is the one I’ve really been licking my lips over.
I grew up during the pinnacle of Motown popularity, tuning my little blue and white, pocket-sized, 9-volt, Japanese-made transistor radio to the Larry Lujack Show on WLS radio in Chicago, to hear the latest hits of Little Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Gladys Knight & The Pips and so many other Motor City stars.
Although most of us probably think of Motown as a style or genre of music (which it has become), the genre actually took its name from the record label “Motown.”
It was 54 years ago, on Jan. 12, 1959, that songwriter Berry Gordy, Jr. borrowed $800 from relatives and founded Tamla Records, a small Detroit label that would one year later become Motown Records.
Since that early beginning in a modest studio in the residential home Gordy purchased, Motown Records quickly expanded and added six other nearby homes to its operation. It has now owned or distributed releases from more than 45 subsidiaries of varying genres, although it is most famous for its releases in the music genres of rhythm and blues, soul and pop.
In September 1961, Motown scored its first No. 1 hit, “Please Mr. Postman,” by the R&B quintet The Marvelettes. Over the next decade, the Motown Record Corporation enjoyed extraordinary chart success, landing 110 songs on Billboard’s Top 10.
The 1960s Motown movement also had a large influence in exacting social change. As Smokey Robinson once said, “Into the ’60s, I was still not of a frame of mind that we were not only making music, we were making history. But I did recognize the impact because Motown acts were going all over the world at that time.
“I recognized the bridges that we crossed, the racial problems and the barriers that we broke down with music. I recognized that because I lived it. I would come to the South in the early days of Motown and the audiences would be segregated. Then they started to get the Motown music and we would go back and the audiences were integrated and the kids were dancing together and holding hands.”
The Masters of Motown concert on Tuesday should certainly bring back great memories for us old fogies or bring an appreciation of that era’s music to those too young to have experienced it live.
This week’s question
This week’s music trivia question is: Can you match the following Motown artists with their respective No. 1 hits?
A) The Supremes, B) The Four Tops, C) The Jackson Five.
1) “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” 2) “I Want You Back,” C) “Baby Love.”
This week, if you’re the seventh caller and have the correct answer, you’ll win two (one for you and one for your “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch”) complimentary tickets to next Tuesday’s Masters of Motown concert, compliments of the Tonto Community Concert Association.
Last week’s question
Last week’s music trivia question asked if you could name the Kentucky-born singer-songwriter who recorded the 1967 Grammy Hall of Fame hit “What The World Needs Now.”
The choices were: A) Jackie Wilson, B) Jackie DeShannon, C) Jackie Lee, and D) Jackie Gleason.
The correct answer was Jackie DeShannon.
Jackie Wilson — known as Mr. Excitement — was one of the all-time great soul singers, charting over 50 hits from 1957-72. R&B singer, Jackie Lee, was a one-hit wonder with this 1965 Top-20 hit “The Duck.” Jackie Gleason, in addition to being a legendary movie and TV comedian, was a top orchestra leader, who, from 1953-56, had 11 consecutive Top-10 hit albums.
Congratulations to last week’s first-time music trivia winner, Leon Chamberlain, of Payson, who won a CD of his choice. Being a gentleman, Leon chose a CD for his wife, Susan — the greatest hits of contemporary artist Jewel.
A little about Leon. He was born and raised in Flat Rock, Mich. and nearby Romulus. After finishing high school, he began a 33-year career with the Ford Motor Company as a plumber and pipe fitter.
In the early 1990s, while attending a poetry club meeting at his local community college, Leon met Susan, where it was love at first stanza. The poesy couple has been married for 21 years.
Now retired, Leon enjoys traveling, reading and being a member of the Racketeers, Payson’s writing club.
As for his music preference, Leon says, “I like it all, everything except rap.”
His three favorite artists are Aretha Franklin, Johnny Cash and Leon Redbone.
I hope you take advantage of the opportunity Tuesday night to blast into the past — and enjoy what should be a class Motown experience.
I know “I’ll Be There.”