Gig Preview: The Temptations, Four Tops & Tavares UK Tour 2016

In what can be only described as fantastic news, it has just been announced that Motown legends The Temptations and the Four Tops are to tour the UK next Autumn, and are bringing along some very special guests in the form of the Tavares brothers.

It’s pure excitement here at TFSR HQ this afternoon: it has just been announced that none other than Motown superstars The Temptations and the Four Tops will be once again returning to the British Isles next October for a seven-date arena tour. To add to the excitement, disco icons the Tavares performing on stage as well, making this truly a tour of legends.

We had been expecting a tour announcement: the Tempts and Tops regularly tour the UK, usually every 18 to 24 months. In recent years they’ve taken to touring with other artists as package tours: in 2010 they toured alongside Philadelphia’s TheThree Degrees plus the legal group calling themselves the Drifters; in 2012 they toured with the Tavares and The Crystals; and on their last tour they appeared with the elegant Freda Payne and the legal owners of The Platters. This time, with just the Tavares with them, hopefully both the Tops and Tempts can extend their performances.

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(The “Classic Five” line-up of the Temptations: (Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin).

Founded in 1960 in Detroit, Michigan as the merging of two groups: The Primes and The Distants. They found fame locally based on their incredible live shows, and were signed to Motown. It would take four years from their founding, and one personnel change, before the group hit the charts with 1964’s Smokey Robinson-penned ‘The Way You Do The Things You Do’. A classic Robinson lyric and melody combined with the soaring tenor of Eddie Kendricks gave the group their first hit. From there the group went on a run of hits with Robinson that included ‘Get Ready’, ‘Since I Lost My Baby’, and the stunning ‘My Girl’. The Tempts then teamed up with upcoming producer Norman Whitfield, which resulted in hits such as ‘Ain’t To Proud To Beg’, ‘I Know (I’m Losing You)’, and ‘You’re My Everything’. In 1968 lead singer David Ruffin would leave the group and be replaced by Dennis Edwards; undeterred, Whitfield continued to yield hits for the group, embracing the psychedelic sound of Sly & The Family Stone to create songs such as ‘Cloud Nine’, ‘I Can’t Get Next To You’, and ‘Ball of Confusion’.

In 1971 original members Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams left, but not before they delivered the beautiful ballad ‘Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)’. A year later, with newbies Richard Street and Damon Harris, they won a Grammy for the seven minute epic ‘Papa Was A Rolling Stone’. The group has continued to change line-up and record and perform ever since. In 1984 they released the disco favourite ‘Treat Her Like A Lady’ with then lead singer Ali Ollie Woodson; a decade later they recorded a fine album of standards, For Lover’s Only, the last with bass singer and founding member Melvin Franklin. In 1995, with the death of Franklin, last surviving member Otis Williams regrouped and continued the legacy of the group, recording several well-received albums including the platinum selling Phoenix Rising, the Grammy Award winning Ear-Resistable, and their last effort Still Here. Today Williams continues to lead The Temptations, alongside long term members Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon and Bruce Williamson who have performed with each other for over a decade, making the line-up one of the most stable in Temptation history.

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(The Temptations today: Joe Herndon, Bruce Williamson, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, and Otis Williams)

Prior to their last UK tour, I spoke with Otis Williams about the music, history and legacy of The Temptations which you can listen to below.

NSR Meets Otis Williams of The Temptations! by Newcastle Student Radio on Mixcloud

If the Temptations are famous for their rotating cast of characters, the Tops were famous for the opposite reasons. Formed in Detroit in 1953, for over forty years the Four Tops consisted of Adbul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson, Lawrence Payton and the brilliant Levi Stubbs on lead. Only death and illness would change the line-up, beginning with Payton’s death in 1997. But together the group created some of the most iconic music to come out of Motown in the sixties. They were paired with the producing team Holland-Dozier-Holland, and together produced classic cuts such as ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’, ‘Shake Me (Wake Me)‘, ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’, ‘Standing In The Shadows of Love’, and ‘It’s The Same Old Song’. Their run with Holland-Dozier-Holland would only be rivalled with The Supremes.

1966 L to R: Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Levi Stubbs, Lawrence Payton Courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Venice, CA

(The original Four Tops: Adbul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson, Levi Stubbs, and Lawrence Payton).

Yet when H-D-H, as they became known, left Motown in 1967 due to financial disagreements, the Four Tops struggled to reach the same level of success. That said, the tunes kept on coming: ‘Still Water (Love)’, ‘It’s the Way Nature Planned It’, and ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ with The Supremes became fan favourites. The group left Motown when the company relocated for Detroit in 1972, and signed to various record labels. Unlike many other Motown acts who left the company, the group continued to record some very good material, such as the Main Street People album, the hits ‘Ain’t No Woman (Like The One I Love)’, ‘When She Was My Girl’, and their last big UK hit ‘Loco In Acapulco’. Today Duke Fakir is the last original Top alive, and performs with Payton’s son, Lawrence Jr., long-time Four Top collaborator and musician Ronnie McNeir, and new lead singer Harold ‘Spike’ Bonhart.

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(The Four Tops today: Ronnie McNeir, Lawrence Payton Jr., Adbul ‘Duke’ Fakir, and Harold ‘Spike’ Bonhart)

The Tavares, meanwhile, rose to fame in the disco era. Formed in 1959, the group consisted of brothers Ralph, Pooch, Chubby, Butch and Tiny. They began to have success in the seventies with the birth of the disco era, beginning with ‘Check It Out’, and Hall & Oates ‘She’s Gone’. In 1975 they hit the charts in a big way, with the smash hit ‘It Only Takes A Minute’ (to be covered infamously by Take That). The group followed up with hits such as ‘Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel’, ‘Don’t Take Away The Music’, and ‘Whodunit’. The group featured on the soundtrack of the Saturday Night Fever film with their version of the Bee Gee’s ‘More Than A Woman’. Yet, with the demise of disco and the ‘disco sucks’ movement, the Tavares suffered in the eighties and early nineties, with the group struggling to get record deals and profitable gigs. But the group persisted and became, once again, a hit touring act. Today, Pooch has retired, but the others still perform together around the world.

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(The Tavares in some delightful threads back in the day)

Tickets for this incredible tour go on sale on Friday 9AM. This might be your last chance to see these legends perform – Otis Williams will be 75, Duke Fakir will incredibly be 80 years old – so take this opportunity while you still can.

The Four Tops Tour Dates & Tickets

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2 years ago
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George Haffenden
Written by George Haffenden
Brought up on a healthy diet of soul and funk, Haff's dream was to become the first British member of The Temptations. Realising that this dream could never be realised, he is now the curator of The Funk & Soul Revue.