They AIN'T TOO PROUD! The History of the Temptations
"Ain't Too Proud - The Life and Times of The Temptations" opened last night, March 21, at Broadway's legendary Imperial Theatre (249 West 45th Street). However, many fans of the Temptations music may not know the group's long and complicated history.
The Temptations began as a five-man group that formed in Detroit in 1961. The group was a merger of two local groups "The Primes" and "The Distants." The Primes consisted of veterans of the Detroit music scene Otis Williams, Elbridge (aka El, or Al) Bryant, and vocalist Melvin Franklin. The Primes consisted of comprised of tenor Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams (no relation to Otis), and Kell Osborne, Alabama natives who moved to Detriot and found local success. (There was even a girl group counterpart created named the "Primettes" featuring Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard aka The Supremes!)
Otis Williams saw the Primes perfrom live, before disbanded in In 1961 and soon after Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Bryant, Franklin, and Kendricks joined together to become the Elgins. It was soon after that a name change created the Temptations!
The Temptations signed to the Motown Records subsidiary Miracle. 1962's "Dream Come True," was the only single to achieve any commercial success. In 1963, Bryant physically attacked Paul Williams and then left the band. In 1964, they replaced Bryant with David Ruffin. The group then began to record with writer and produer Smokey Robinson, which led them to having their first pop hit. The Temptations, with Robinson at the helm, then released "My Girl" in 1965, which became a number one pop and R&B hit. In 1965 their other top hits included "It's Growing," "Since I Lost My Baby," "Don't Look Back," and "My Baby."
The Temptations recorded Robinson's "Get Ready" in 1966, but then the group began to work with producers Norman Whitfield and Brian Holland after "Get Ready" failed to chart in the Top 20. The next single released was the Whitfield-produced "Ain't Too Proud to Beg", with David Ruffin on lead. "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" outperformed "Get Ready" on the charts and Whitfield became the Temptations' new main producer in 1967. With Whitfield at the helm, the Temptations' records became rougher and more muscular, like 1968s "I Wish It Would Rain."
The success of the group with Ruffin at the front began to change his attitude, however, as he began to request special treatment, which annoyed the other four members, In 1968, Ruffin was fired by the rest of the group after he failed to appear at a live performance. Ex-Contour Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin, and his arrival in the group coincided with Whitfield's decision to create a new psychedelic sound for the group, which Edwards' less polished voice fit well into. They subsequently released "Cloud Nine," their first Grammy-winning recording.
"Cloud Nine" was followed by singles like "Run Away Child, Running Wild," "Psychedelic Shack," and "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" which showed their more political side as the 1960s were coming to an end.
Kendricks left the group to go solo in 1971, after the success of "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)." Soon after, Paul Williams left The Temptations as well, after his doctor declared he was unable to perform due to medical reasons. Having long suffered from Sickle Cell Disease, Williams had developed a severe case of depression and later alcoholism. Williams was discovered dead from a self-inflected gunshot wound on August 17, 1973, at the age of 34.
After losing two members, the remaining three members of the group enlisted Damon Harris and Richard Street. They released hits like 1971s "Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are)," and 1972's "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone," which won two Grammy awards.
As the 1970s went on, the Temptations saw their success begin to decline. They had hits in 1973 with "Masterpiece," "Let Your Hair Down," and "The Plastic Man," but in 1975 Harris left the group and was replaced by Glenn Leonard. In 1976 they released their final album for Motown Records, "The Temptations Do the Temptations,"
Edwards was fired from the group in 1976, and Louis Price replaced him. The group subsequently signed to Atlantic Records and released two albums "Bare Back" and "Hear to Tempt You," neither of which were successful in reigniting the group's success.
Price left the group, which prompted the return of Edwards, who could not find success as a solo artist. The group released the1980 hit with "Power," but the following two years still saw underperforming albums and records for the Temptations.
A reunion tour was planned in 1982, and Kendricks and Ruffin agreed to rejoin the group to release the new album "Reunion." A single from the album, "Standing on the Top," which featured Motown funk star Rick James, went to number six on the R&B charts. The group then went on tour with all seven Temptations members. (David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Otis Williams, Franklin, Edwards, Richard Street, and Glenn Leonard). The tour was very successful financially, but it put stress on the group. Kendrick's voice had weakened due to years of smoking, Ruffin missed many performances due to being incapacitated from drugs, and Edwards and Leonard were causing issues. After the tour, Ruffin and Kendricks were dismissed from the group.
The Temptations released "Surface Thrills" in 1983, which incorporated rock elements in the groups sound for the first time. After the album was released, Leonard was let go and Ron Tyson replaced him. The group performed on Motown 25 and released the direct to video The Temptations: Live in Concert.
The New Group lineup, however, was short-lived when Edwards was fired in 1984 for missing rehearsals or showing up hungover. He was replaced by Ali-Ollie Woodson. The Temptations then released 1984's "Treat Her Like a Lady", which was co-written by Woodson and Otis Williams, and co-produced by former Earth, Wind & Firemembers Al McKay and Ralph Johnson. The song was the group's biggest R&B radio hit since 1975, hitting number two on the R&B charts. The group also saw success with "Do You Really Love Your Baby," which was co-written by Luther Vandross, and 1986's "Lady Soul," the group's third Top 10 R&B hit of the 70s.
In 1987, Woodson was fired from the Temptations for consistent lateness. He was replaced by Edwards, who was now rejoining for a third time. The group released "Together Again" in 1987. However, Edwards was fired for a third and final time in 1988 with Woodson replacing him yet again.
The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 18, 1989. The event honored Edwards, Franklin, Otis Williams, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks (now performing as "Eddie Kendrick"), and, posthumously, Paul Williams. The Temptations decided their end performance of their induction ceremony to Paul Williams with the song, Don't Look Back.
After the induction ceremony, Edwards, Ruffin, and Kendrick decided to tour together and record an album as "Ruffin, Kendricks and Edwards, Former Leads of The Temptations." They went on tour, but the album's production was cancelled when Ruffin died after a cocaine overdose on June 1, 1991.
Soon after, Kendricks was diagnosed with lung cancer. He continued to perform, however, until his death on October 5, 1992. On
In 1992, Richard Street missed a performance due to an emergency surgery. Otis Williams was unaware and was angry at his absence. This prompted Street to leave the group after 22 years in 1993. Theo Peoples replaced Street in the group.
In February 23, 1995 Melvin Franklin passed away after suffering a brain seizure. Ray Davis replaced Franklin, and the group released "For Lovers Only," which featured two songs recorded with Franklin before he died. Davis left the group shortly after the release, due to a lung cancer diagnosis. The group continued as a quartet, and then recruited Harry McGilberry. The Temptations released "For Lovers Only," but shortly after Woodson was released from the group due to health problems. Terry Weeks replaced Woodson.
In 1998, the Temptations, with their new lineup, released with "Phoenix Rising." Peoples was fired before the album's release, however ,due to issues with drug addiction. He was replaced by Barrington "Bo" Henderson, who lip-synced over Peoples' vocals in the music video for their single "Stay."
Also in 1998, the Temptations' history became the subject of televised mini-series, based on Williams' autobiography. It was well-received and nominated for several Emmy Awards, but may parties, including David Ruffin's family, filed lawsuits.
The Temptations released thee 2000 album Ear-Resistible, which won the group its third Grammy in 2001. Bo Henderson was fired from the group in 2003 and was replaced by G. C. Cameron.
The group, which included Cameron, Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Harry McGilberry, and Terry Weeks recorded before McGilberry was dismissed and was replaced by Joe Herndon.
The Temptations released their final Motown album, Legacy, in 2004. The group then asked to be released from their Motown contract, and moved to New Door Records.
The group then released "Reflections" in 2006, which contains covers of popular Motown songs, including Diana Ross & The Supremes' "Reflections", The Miracles' "Ooo Baby Baby", Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing", and the Jackson 5's "I'll Be There."
The Temptations received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award on February 9, 2013. Otis Williams, Dennis Edwards, and the children of David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, and Melvin Franklin attended the ceremony to accept the six Grammys given to the group.
In 2015 Bruce Williamson and Joe Herndon announced their departures from the group. Williamson was replaced by Larry Braggs, and Herndon's replacement was Willie Green.
On May 4, 2018, the Temptations released "All the Time," their first album since 2010.
Otis Williams is the only surviving member of the Temptations, and the group has seen 24 members come and go throughout the group's almost six decade history. The group's legacy is remarkable, from creating dance moves, to inspiring artists for generations to come, The Temptations will go down in history as one of the great R&B groups of all time.