The Temptations were a vocal quintet signed to Motown. They were one of the company’s most successful and well-known acts.
Friends Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams starting singing together in church as children. They formed a local doo-wop group, The Cavaliers, which then became The Primes after they moved to Detroit. Otis Williams had moved to Detroit and set up a separate group, Otis Williams & The Siberians. Changing their name to The Distants (which included Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Melvin Franklin and Richard Street), they cut a couple of singles for Northern Records. They then took up on an audition at Motown Records, but needed two more members. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, following The Primes’ dissolution in 1960, happily joined, and the quintet auditioned as The Elgins. As that name was already in use, they rechristened themselves as The Temptations, and began recording for Motown.
Success mostly eluded the group in the very early 1960s (apparently they went by the name “The Hitless Tempations” around Motown) and Al Bryant became frustrated at this (to the point of hitting Paul Williams on the head with a beer bottle) and was fired in 1963. David Ruffin, who had already joined them several times onstage, auditioned as Al’s replacement, and passed. ASmokey Robinson saw the potential in David’s voice, and he soon became their main lead singer. He lead them through an incredibly successful period in the mid-1960s, but he had begun demanding special treatment and his (cocaine-fuelled) behaviour annoyed the other members, who fired him in 1968. Dennis Edwards, who had been The Contours‘ lead singer, was drafted as his replacement.
Norman Whitfield had taken over from Smokey Robinson as The Temptations’ main producer, and he started to craft a new funk-influenced “psychedelic soul” sound for the group. Nevertheless, with Dennis Edwards as main lead signer, they continued to score hits in the late 1960s and into the 1970s. By this time, however, original member Paul Williams was becoming increasing ill, and had developed both depression and alcoholism. After officially leaving the group in 1971, Richard Street (then lead singer of The Monitors) was drafted as his replacement. Eddie Kendricks, who was uncomfortable with the “psychedelic soul” songs the group were singing (and was at odds with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin over financial issues), rekindled his friendship with ex-Temptation David Ruffin, and left the group in 1971. Ricky Owens replaced Eddie Kendricks (briefly) and Damon Harris replaced Ricky Owens.
Norman Whitfield continued to produce hits for the group in the early 1970s, but they found him arrogant and controlling, and Otis Williams complained to Berry Gordy. Jeffrey Bowen then became Norman’s replacement. Damon Harris was fired from the group in 1975 (not really sure why) and Glenn Leonard replaced him. After several less successful albums, Dennis Edwards was fired in 1976, and with new lead Louis Price they left Motown and signed with Atlantic.
This proved equally unsuccessful, and they soon returned to Motown in 1980. Louis left, and David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards all returned for a reunion album. David and Eddie were fired shortly after (sigh). Glenn Leonard was also let go, and was replaced by Ron Tyson. Dennis Edwards, who was missing rehearsals and/or showing up late by this point, was fired in 1984. Ali Ollie-Woodson replaced him, and lead them through a period of brief resurgence, but was fired for consistent lateness in 1986. Dennis Edwards replaced him, but was fired again (!) in 1988. Ali was then brought back in, until he left in 1997 (although he returned for a tour in 2002). Original member Melvin Franklin remained with the group until his death in 1995.
Their line-up continued to change (even more so) throughout the 1990s and 2000s, with Theo Peoples (who would later join The Four Tops), Terry Weeks and former Spinner G. C. Cameron all becoming members at some point. They have continued to record, most notably (no bias here) an album of classic Motown songs. The group still exists (just about) and Otis Williams remains the only original member.
- Otis Williams (1960–present)
- Elbridge “Al” Bryant (1960–63)
- Melvin Franklin (1960–95)
- Paul Williams (1960–71)
- Eddie Kendricks (1960–71, 1982 reunion)
- David Ruffin (1964–68, 1982 reunion)
- Dennis Edwards (1968–77, 1980–84, 1987–89)
- Ricky Owens (1971)
- Richard Street (1971–92)
- Damon Harris (1971–75)
- Glenn Leonard (1975–83)
- Louis Price (1977–80)
- Ron Tyson (1983–present)
- Ali-Ollie Woodson (1984–87, 1989–97, 2002)
- Theo Peoples (1992–98)
- Ray Davis (1994–95)
- Harry McGilberry (1995–2003)
- Terry Weeks (1997–present)
- Barrington “Bo” Henderson (1998–2003)
- G. C. Cameron (2003–07)
- Joe Herndon (2003–15)
- Bruce Williamson (2007–15)
- Larry Braggs (2016–present)
- Willie Green (2016–present)
The Marvels of The Temptations
- THE WAY YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO
- GIRL (WHY YOU WANNA MAKE ME BLUE?)
- MY GIRL
- IT’S GROWING
- GET READY
- AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG
- BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP
- ALL I NEED
- CLOUD NINE
- I CAN’T GET NEXT TO YOU
- YOU NEED LOVE LIKE I DO (DON’T YOU?)
- PAPA WAS A ROLLIN’ STONE
- LAW OF THE LAND
- LET YOUR HAIR DOWN
- STANDING ON THE TOP
- TREAT HER LIKE A LADY