All photos by Jay Gilbert
The Temptations, often referred to as “American Music Royalty,” are world-renowned superstars of entertainment, revered for their phenomenal catalog of music, and prolific career.
Named the “#1 R&B/Hip Hop Artists of All Time” and one of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists” by Billboard Magazine, as well as one of the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” by Rolling Stone Magazine, the group is truly a beloved “National Treasure.”
The Temptations are currently the subject of the smash hit Broadway musical, “Ain’t Too Proud,” which opened on March 21st, 2019. The musical won the Tony Award for Best Choreography at the 73rd Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 10, 2019 and continues to captivate thousands of theater-goers during sold-out performances on the Great White Way. In June of 2019, the show’s producers announced tour plans for the musical starting July 2020, in more than 50 cities for 100+ weeks.
Prior to the musical, the Temptations’ journey, as seen through the lens of Otis Williams, the sole surviving original Temptation, was also a blockbuster television mini-series which aired in 1998. The mini-series, which was produced by long-time Temptations manager Shelly Berger, Otis Williams, and Suzanne de Passe, head of de Passe Entertainment, was reportedly viewed by 45 million fans and went on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Direction for a Mini-series or Movie, as well as the 1999 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-series. The mini-series continues to air on cable networks today.
In 2018, Universal Music Enterprises released worldwide the Temptations’ latest studio album, All The Time, their first new album in eight years. It was released in CD, vinyl LP, limited edition white vinyl LP and digital formats. It features three new, original Temptations songs, in addition to inspired renditions of songs from Maxwell, The Weeknd, Sam Smith, Bruno Mars and others.
At the time of the album’s release, Otis Williams, founding member of the Temptations said, “…Looking back, I never could have imagined where my life has taken me. I’m proud of what the Temptations have achieved, and I’m grateful for every opportunity we’ve been so fortunate to receive. The music carries me. Together, we lift our voices with love and wonder…”
The group’s 60-year history spans both the 20th and 21st centuries and their music transcends generations. What began in Detroit, when a remarkable combination of soulful voices united, was the genesis of an epic journey that introduced multiple superstars to the world and produced some of the greatest music of our era.
Considered trailblazers in the 60’s, leading the way, not only for themselves, but for other R&B artists, successfully reaching mainstream audiences here and abroad, the Temptations’ rise to fame was meteoric. When the legendary “Classic Five,” (Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and David Ruffin) released the single, “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” in 1964, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Chart and remained on the list for 11 weeks, it marked the beginning of a multitude of award-winning and chart-topping songs and albums that would be embraced by popular music audiences globally. It was on March 6, 1965 that their first million copy bestselling single, “My Girl” hit #1 on Billboard’s Pop chart.
The Temptations, throughout the group’s evolution, have produced 53 Billboard Hot 100 Hit singles, including four that became #1 Pop singles: “My Girl,” “I Can’t Get Next To You,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.” Additionally, they released 43 Top 10 R&B hit singles, 14 of which were #1 R&B hits, including timeless classics such as “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep,” “I Wish It Would Rain,” and songs influenced by their funk/psychedelic soul sound including “Happy People,” and “Shakey Ground.” The group also has 16 #1 R&B Albums.
The Temptations are the recipients of numerous awards and honors. They have won four Grammy Awards, including being honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 2013. The Temptations received their first, as well as Motown’s first, Grammy Award in 1969 for the “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group, Vocal or Instrumental,” for their song, “Cloud Nine.” They won their next Grammy Award in 1973 for the #1 Billboard Hot 100 Hit, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” which won a total of three Grammy Awards that year: “Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group,” awarded to the Temptations; “Best R&B Instrumental,” awarded to Norman Whitfield and arranger/conductor Paul Riser; and “Best R&B Song,” awarded to Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong as song composers. They also won a Grammy in 2001 for their “Top 20” R&B Album, Ear-Resistible for the “Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.” In 1998, “My Girl” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and “Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone” was inducted a year later.
In 1974, the group was also the very first to be awarded “Favorite R&B Vocal Group” at the inaugural American Music Awards. In 1975, the Temptations recorded their album, A Song For You, that won the 1976 American Music Award for “Best R&B/Soul Album.” The album includes two wildly popular and bestselling #1 R&B songs, “Happy People,” (co-written by Lionel Richie) featuring the Commodores as instrumentalists, and “Shakey Ground” featuring instrumentals by Parliament-Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel with Billy “Bass” Nelson. In 1998, the Temptations released the album, Phoenix Rising, featuring the debut of Terry Weeks, a lead vocalist for the group then, and now, and it won the Soul Train Music Award for “Best R&B Album by a Duo or Group.” The single, “Stay,” from that album became a “Top 30” R&B single.
In 1983, Ron Tyson, one of the group’s current lead vocalists, joined the Temptations. In May of 1983, the televised anniversary special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever, aired on NBC-TV and the extraordinary battle between the Temptations and the Four Tops lead to a road tour of the two groups, famously called the “T’NT” tour. The two legendary groups still perform together today while on their respective concert tours.
In 1988, Otis Williams’ critically-acclaimed autobiography, Temptations, written with The New York Times bestselling author Patricia Romanowski, was published nationally. The book went on to become the source for both the Emmy Award-Winning television mini-series in 1998 and the smash hit Broadway musical, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” with Tony Award-Winning choreography and Grammy-Winning music.
The Temptations were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Blockbuster #1 hits “Just My Imagination,” “Papa was a Rollin’ Stone,” and “My Girl” are among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” The group was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999, and into the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. They were invited back to the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2017 to receive “The R&B Male Group of the 20th Century” Award. They received the NAACP Image Award “Hall of Fame Award” in 1992.
The Temptations were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, California on September 14, 1994, and a star on the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame in Harlem in New York City on June 7, 2019. At the official ceremony, Otis Williams received a plaque marking the occasion on behalf of the legendary, classic five line-up, including himself, Melvin Franklin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, and David Ruffin. Otis Williams was also honored at the Apollo Theater’s 85th Anniversary Gala on June 10th, 2019.
Rolling Stone Magazine in 2003, and again in 2012, ranked the group’s album Anthology, originally released in 1973, as one of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.”
In 2006, Otis Williams received the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
In 2018, the Library of Congress announced the induction of the Temptations’ classic mega-hit, “My Girl” into the National Recording Registry.
In November of 2019, the Temptations appeared on Billboard’s 125th Anniversary list of the “125 Greatest of All Time Artists,” in popular music.
Also in November 2019, the original cast album for the smash hit Broadway musical, “Ain’t Too Proud” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the “Best Musical Theater Album” category. The Grammy Awards ceremony will be held in January of 2020.
In addition, for the 2019 holiday season, Universal Music Enterprises (“UMe”), the Temptations’ current recording company, announced the release of a first-of-its-kind, animated video featuring the Temptations’ “Silent Night,” one of the most popular holiday songs of all time.
The Temptations, iconic superstars, will mark their 60th Anniversary in 2020 with an international concert tour which will include shows in Britain in late October 2020.
Looking ahead to Christmas 2021, the Broadway musical, “Ain’t Too Proud” will go back to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where it ran in previews.
Otis Williams, the sole surviving original Temptation, Ron Tyson, a lead vocalist with the group for 37 years, Terry Weeks, a lead vocalist for 23 years, and Willie Greene, Jr., base vocalist with the group for four years, are still serenading fans with their soulful voices, lighting up stages with their famous Temptations’ Walk, and bringing joy to audiences of all ages.
Otis Williams is the founding, and only surviving, member of the original, legendary, super-group the Temptations. He is unlike any other musical artist in American culture.
The cultural significance of Williams’ overall life achievements, along with the success and longevity of his musical career have made him an icon of entertainment. His personal journey from Texarkana, Texas to Motown and eventual global superstardom, is chronicled in an acclaimed autobiography, written with New York Times best-selling author Patricia Romanowski, in an Emmy Award-Winning television mini-series, and now in the Tony Award-Winning Broadway Musical, “Ain’t Too Proud,” which will begin touring the country in over 50 cities for 100+ weeks, beginning in Providence, RI next July 2020.
Named the #1 R&B Artists of All-Time according to Billboard, the Temptations have sold millions of albums, won four Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, have been inducted into the Grammy, Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues Music, and Vocal Group Halls of Fame, and also have a star on the “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” In June of this year, the Group was inducted into the Apollo Theater’s “Walk of Fame.” In 1969, they were the first Motown recording artists to win a Grammy Award (“Cloud Nine” won for “Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental”). They have released countless gold, platinum and multi-platinum hits, many of which are considered American classics. They have 16 #1 albums, 43 Top 10 R&B hit songs, including 14 #1 singles, and also, four Billboard Hot 100 #1 singles, including what some may call their magnum opus, “My Girl.” In 2018, “My Girl” was entered into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.
The Temptations have played numerous sold-out world tours. The Group’s versatile voices, synchronized dance steps, handsome style and dazzling dress, set a new standard that became world famous and is still their distinguished trademark today. The Temptations were also trailblazers in leading the way for other R&B groups to break into mainstream audiences. Blockbuster #1 hits like “My Girl,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” are included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll,” and marked the early years of what turned into a prolific career and cultural phenomenon spanning nearly six decades. They were the first to receive the American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Band/Duo/Group in 1974 and they won an American Music Award in 1976 for Best R&B Album for “A Song for You,”
Next year, marks the 60th Anniversary of the formation of the Temptations group. There will be incredible excitement around the extraordinary celebration of their legendary history and music. The Temptations are planning to tour internationally during the Anniversary year.
The Temptations continue singing their way into the hearts of fans worldwide. They are currently on tour throughout the fall of this year. They released a new album, entitled, “All the Time,” in the Spring of 2018.
Williams, also a songwriter and producer, is well-known for his fortitude, for fueling the Temptations’ enormous and ever-increasing popularity and for inspiring a new generation of musical artists.
Ron Tyson is a first tenor and lead vocalist for the Temptations, and has been with the group since February 1983. Born February 8, 1948, in Philadelphia, PA, he was raised in Monroe, NC, where he recorded his first record at the age of 7 while singing with his grandfather’s gospel group, Southern Gospel Six. His grandfather’s home was a place where young Ron was introduced to many famous artists like Sam Cooke and the Soulters. In the segregated South of the 50s and 60s African-American recording artists often relied on the hospitality of local folks while touring the region because they weren’t allowed to eat at certain restaurants or stay in the upscale hotels. Ron’s grandfather, Horace Presson Sr., who also had a radio show promoting gospel music, welcomed those artists into his home and offered them meals. While at his grandfather’s dinner table, Ron was inspired and further drawn to music.
As he grew older, Ron discovered he had a real talent for singing and returned to Philadelphia to attend Thomas Edison, Olney and Granoff School of Music where he studied opera and guitar. It was in Philadelphia that he found himself surrounded by world famous artists like Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (who lived a few doors down from him), and Russell Thompkins of the Stylistics. By 1967, at age 19, Ron was lead singer of The Ethics, a group that originated in Philadelphia. Later changing their name to Love Committee the group released several disco and R&B hits in the 1970’s.
As his career began to take off Ron was inspired by Eugene Booker Record, lead vocalist for the Chicago based Chi-lites to become a songwriter. Says Tyson, “I used to see his credits on various records and thought wow, this is what I want. I want to write! Eugene had written and produced many of the group’s hit songs, as well as songs for other artists. Without Eugene knowing it I learned what I wanted to do as a songwriter and singer from him. I’m so glad I was able to tell him that years later.” Tyson was also inspired as a songwriter by legendary R&B artists Bunny Sigler, and Joe Simon, who helped Ron fine tune his songwriting skills, including counting bars, and also Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff who owned and ran Philadelphia International Records. Ron wrote or co-wrote the majority of the songs for both The Ethics and Love Committee but his writing career truly took off as he began writing and co-writing songs for a wide range of famous artists including the Dells, Gloria Gaynor, The Four Tops, Curtis Mayfield, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, The O’Jays, Blue Magic, Archie Bell & The Drells, The Trammps, and many others. To date, Ron has written more than 200 songs.
Ron was a big Temptations fan growing up and idolized Eddie Kendricks and his style. He feels blessed to have become a member of the group and has often referred to his Temptations career as one of the greatest things to happen to him. Ron’s first appearance as a member of the Temptations was on the "Motown 25, Today, Yesterday, Forever" television special in 1983. Says Tyson, “I remember practicing with choreographers Lon Fountain and Cholly Atkins at Lon’s house in advance of that show, every morning from 8:00am until noon. We’d take a lunch break and then continue working out from 1:00pm until 4:00pm. Coming from Philadelphia, a city of music, and growing up listening to the Temptations, and Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, and so many others—all these people I admired—it was incredible being part of that historic show. I remember Martha Reeves saying everyone was going to be watching me because I was the new kid on the block, taking over the role originally sung by Kendricks. During the broadcast, as Smokey introduced us, and we walked up the four steps to the stage, I was just thinking ‘feet don’t fail me now.’ Then I heard him say ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Temptations and the Four Tops.’ It’s a moment I’ll always remember.”
Now, thirty-six years later, Ron says, “The original five paved the way. Now I feel like I’m a contributor on this end of history. It’s a great honor and privilege to be a Temptation. I’ve traveled a long way on a path that began at my grandfather’s house in North Carolina, took me back to Philadelphia, and then onto stages around the world. I take great pride in helping to carry the Temptations’ legacy on into the 21st century.”
Terry Weeks is a lead vocalist for the Temptations, and has been a member of the group since 1997. He was born December 23, 1963, shortly before the original five members of the group released their first big hit, “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” Terry grew up in Bessemer, AL near Birmingham listening to gospel, blue grass, and country music (which he once described as the best place, hands down, to learn group harmony). A graduate of McAdory High School, Weeks’ first love was playing the bass but as he started trying out for, and working with, local bands he realized people were drawn more to his singing than his playing.
The original catalyst for his transition from musician to vocalist came while working at a local supermarket. When he and a co-worker, who was part of a local group, began harmonizing as they were stocking shelves the co-worker told Weeks “You’re a singer. You just don’t know it” and urged him to come to his group’s rehearsal. Says Weeks, “I was just out of high school and about to start my enlistment in the Air Force but in those few months he taught me how to be a singer. I was like a sponge, soaking it all up. As I moved away from playing the bass and gained more confidence as I opened up my voice, people started recognizing me for my singing talent.”
Weeks would spend eight years in the Air Force, from 1982 to 1990, serving in Korea and in the U.S. at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita, KS and Gunter Air Force Station in Montgomery, AL. He would often sing locally around the Montgomery base, and performed in Tops in Blue, an Air Force ensemble, made up of active duty members, that toured globally performing for airmen and their families.
Once Weeks realized he wanted to make a go of it as a professional singer he gave himself a five-year window to make it happen. In the early 1990s Weeks, then in his late 20s, was visiting friends in Los Angeles when they encountered Otis Williams on Hollywood Boulevard. Says Weeks, “We introduced ourselves and I sang a Donny Hathaway tune for Otis right there on the sidewalk. He asked if I was working with anyone. I told him I was still in the military and it would be a month before I get out. We exchanged phone numbers but I never imagined I would hear from him. When I got home later that day he had already left two messages on my answer machine. I couldn’t believe it. When I called him back he said he wanted to sign me to his production company to do studio work. That was the beginning of my professional music career.”
While working for Williams, Weeks formed a group that signed with Motown which released their self-titled album in 1995. Eventually the group split up and Weeks continued doing studio work for Williams. He also worked with the Temptations during summers on the road, helping with wardrobe and security. Watching the Temptations at work—and the other groups they were performing with such as the O’Jays and the Spinners—Weeks was once again a sponge, absorbing everything he could. “I was in awe of these guys and saw close up the hard work needed to do what they were doing.”
Around this time Weeks was asked to fill in for Ali-Ollie Woodson who was dealing with health issues. The one-month fill-in gig became nine-months and in 1997 Weeks was made a permanent member of the Temptations, a role he sees as a sacred trust. “It’s a huge undertaking and I don’t take it lightly,” says Weeks who’s often told by veterans how the music of the Temptations got them through the war in Vietnam. “I defend the legacy of the Temptations as I’d defend my own family name. It means so much in the world of music, and culturally it helped African Americans find their own voice in the 60’s while striving to be recognized within society. You can’t tell the story of African Americans in this country without talking about the affect this music, and the music of so many others, had on Black culture. It’s part of the fabric of everything that was going on in the country at the time. I feel like I’m a caretaker of it. It’s an honor to be a part of a group, whose rich history and legacy I respect so much.”
Willie Greene, Jr. is the Temptations’ bass vocalist and has been with the group since 2016. Born in Birmingham, Alabama on August 28, 1955 to Maxine and Willie Greene, Sr., he grew up in South-Central Los Angeles, CA and graduated there from George Washington High School.
Greene’s desire to be an entertainer was initially sparked at age six when he saw James Brown & The Famous Flames perform on the big screen. What sealed the deal for Greene however was when he watched The Temptations perform “The Way You Do the Things You Do” and what was then their newest song “Get Ready” on The Lloyd Thaxton Show, a syndicated pop music TV program based in Los Angeles. Says Greene, “When I saw The Tempts, and heard Melvin [Franklin] sing in his bass voice, I knew I wanted to be a Temptation. When my father asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I said I want to be Melvin Franklin.”
Greene—who has recorded and performed with an extraordinary array of music world luminaries including Lyle Lovett, Ry Cooder, Dolly Parton, John Fogerty, and George Harrison—first learned to perform on stage in Los Angeles singing with a quintet called The Formations and moved from there to The Fellas and then The Infallibles. “In all the groups, I’ve been in through my career,” says Greene, “we were always trying to be The Temptations – not The OJ’s, not The Miracles – The Temptations. They were the ones all other groups were measured against.”
In fact, before joining The Temptations Greene had performed nationally and internationally in several Temptations tribute groups including one with former Tempts Ali-Ollie Woodson, Damon Harris, and Richard Street, “That was like being in Temptations University,” says Greene. “We’d rehearse the show three hours a day, five days a week, in Richard’s back yard. He’s the one who taught me all The Temptations choreography.” Another such group, which included former Temptation Barrington “Bo” Henderson, was part of the Legends in Concert show at Harrah’s Casino in Las Vegas.
Greene is convinced what prompted Otis Williams to bring him into the group was a videotape of him performing in that Harrah’s show that Greene included in the audition package he prepared for Williams in December 2015. Says Greene, “The day after he got the package Otis called me. He said we reminded him of the original Temptations. I was floored. What a compliment.”
Asked what stands out most in his mind about the group, Greene says “What I take from The Temptations is how humble, loving, and genuinely decent all these guys are. They’re family to me, a loving family, and I thank God my dream from the time I was a child, to be part of the Temptations family, has come true.”