The Undisputed Truth were an American vocal group at Motown in the early 1970s. They were assembled by Norman Whitfield as a means of experimenting with his “psychedelic soul” production techniques.
The group was made up of lead singer Joe Harris and Billie Rae Calvin and Brenda Joyce Evans on additional leads and backing vocals. Billie and Brenda were both members of The Delicates, and were brought to Motown by Bobby Taylor. When The Delicates broke up the two began recording as backing vocalists for artists around Motown. Male singer Joe Harris had been part of the loval Detroit soul group The Fabulous Peps, who recorded briefly for Thelma Records, before the group’s dissolution in 1968. Norman Whitfield then teamed up Billie and Brenda with Joe to create his very own group, The Undisputed Truth, in 1970.
They served as Norman’s test act; he would try out ideas, songs and production techniques on the group. As such, particularly for their earlier albums, they cut a lot of material originally recorded by other artists, finding their only major hit with “Smiling Faces Sometimes“, originally by The Temptations. Norman Whitfield wrote and produced for the group; they released several singles and albums for Motown in the early-to-mid 1970s, scoring a handful of other, minor hits.
In 1973, dissatisfied with the lack of major success, Brenda Evans left was briefly replaced by singer Diane Evans. Both she and Billie Calvin then left and Norman Whitfield took the opportunity to expand the group. A Funkadelic predecessor-style soul group called The Magictones had been recording around Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s, to little success; their last single release had been in 1972. Norman then grabbed the dormant Magictones and Joe were joined by new members Virginia “V” McDonald, Tyrone “Big Ty” Douglas, Tyrone “Lil Ty” Barkley and Calvin “Dhaak” Stephenson. Norman Whitfield then reinvented the group with weirder space-themed music and even more unusual clothing (white makeup and huge Afros) and they recorded two more albums for Motown in 1975.
The Undisputed Truth followed Norman Whitfield when he left the label that same year to set up his own record company, Whitfield Records. Vee McDonald and Big Ty Douglas left, and Vee was replaced by Chaka Khan’s sister Taka Boom. Taka recorded as female lead for 1976’s Method To The Madness, and was replaced by Marcy Thomas for 1979’s Smokin’ (alongside Melvin Stewart and Lloyd Williams). Joe Harris remained with the group despite some unrecognisable line-up changes; Trey Stone, Carl Smalls, Calvin Hardy, Dan Homes, Isy Martin and Jack Weber all became members at some point in the late 1970s (some of these I think were musicians from Rose Royce). They enjoyed a brief disco revival at their new label but released only two more albums. Billie Calvin ended up writing some songs for Norman Whitfield’s other (somewhat more successful) group, Rose Royce. Several members of The Truth also recorded as part of a band called Dream Machine, assembled by Norman Whitfield. Nevertheless The Undisputed Truth disbanded in the early 1980s after the collapse of Whitfield Records.
Joe Harris and Brenda Evans reformed the group with Belita Woods and recorded for lan Levine’s Motorcity label. They released one single, a rerecorded version of “Law Of The Land”, in 1991. Billie Calvin cut a solo version of “You’ve Got The Love I Need” (and “Wishing On A Star”, which she wrote) and Virginia “V” McDonald (as “Vee”) also recorded some material. Founding member Billie Calvin passed away in 2007. Original lead singer Joe Harris, and Vee McDonald, remain active today.
- Joe Harris (1971-82, 1991)
- Brenda Joyce Evans (1971-73, 1991)
- Billie Rae Calvin (1971-74)
- Tyrone “Big Ty” Douglas (mid 1970s)
- Tyrone “Lil Ty” Barkley (mid 1970s)
- Calvin “Dhaak” Stevenson (mid 1970s)
- Virginia “V” McDonald (mid 1970s)
- Taka Boom (late 1970s)
- Melvin Stewart (late 1970s)
- Lloyd Williams (late 1970s)
- Marcy Thomas (late 1970s)
- Trey Stone (late 1970s)
- Carl Smalls (late 1970s)
- Dan Homes (late 1970s)
- Isy Martin (late 1970s)
- Jack Weber (late 1970s)
- Belita Woods (1991)
- SMILING FACES SOMETIMES (9.5/10)
- YOU’VE GOT THE LOVE I NEED (8.5/10)
- I’M A FOOL FOR YOU (9/10)
- HELP YOURSELF (10/10)
- EARTHQUAKE SHAKE (8/10)
- POONTANG (9/10)