Otis Williams, the one original member of a legendary soul group that would see its 60th anniversary, got to reminiscing one time about their pre-history. “We were the Elgins for two weeks, and there was another group called the Elgins,” he recalled. “We were standing outside with this fellow named Bill Mitchell, and we were kidding around with a name. Somebody said ‘The Temptations.’ I said, ‘That’s the one!’”
Williams had already fronted the late 1950s Detroit outfit the Distants, whose members also included Melvin Franklin and Elbridge “Al” Bryant. An audition was scheduled, after the addition of two members of the Primes, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, with Berry Gordy (already an admirer) at Motown Records. The new five-piece duly passed the test arranged by Gordy and wingman William “Mickey” Stevenson.
Otis told The Guardian in 2019 that fate had determined his own arrival in Detroit just as Gordy was getting his company off the ground. “It was happenstance,” he observed. “It was necessary timing and it was meant to be that God in his infinite wisdom put all of these producers, writers and artists together at that time and made such profound music.”
On July 24, 1961, with the fifth release on Motown’s short-lived Miracle label, the new group released their first single, the Stevenson-Williams copyright “Oh Mother Of Mine.” Its formative sound and mid-paced swing hardly epitomised the group sound that would take the label, and soul music, to unknown heights in the years to come. Lead vocals were shared by Paul Williams, the early group’s de facto leader, and Eddie Kendricks; instrumentation was by the studio maestros we would come to know as the Funk Brothers.
There was more of a birthmark about “Romance Without Finance,” recorded like its co-release in May. Its title may sound like a classic Smokey Robinson rhyme, but the song was actually a Stevenson-Kendricks composition, fuelled by pacy guitar and buzzing saxophone. Both sides were produced by Stevenson and yet another Williams, André, an eccentric R&B notable in his own right. He was known for his Top 10 soul hit of 1957, “Bacon Fat,” for later co-writes such as the Five Du-Tones’ “Shake A Tail Feather,” and as Edwin Starr’s manager, among other distinctions.
“Oh Mother Of Mine,” like many of the company’s releases of the time and all of them on Miracle, failed to trouble the national US charts. It was on release at the same time as the (still “no-hit”) Supremes missed the mark with “Who’s Lovin’ You,” although Motown was only a few weeks from the pop and soul chart glory of the Marvelettes’ August single, “Please Mr. Postman.” In 1999, “Mother” was added to the CD reissue of the 1964 debut LP Meet The Temptations, even though it predated that album by more than two and a half years.
Cash Box magazine did review the Tempts’ single in its September 2 issue, giving the flipside the lead and writing of “Romance Without Finance”: “R&B-styled songsters do an infectious job on the ditty, getting a strong combo sound for their setting.” Of “Oh Mother Of Mine,” the trade publication noted cursorily: “Another upbeat blues showing with an infectious way.” As an aside, another group called the Temptations rated a mention in Cash Box that year, they being the group backing one Cody Brennan, on the late 1961 Swan Records single “Am I The One.”
The first Temptations single may have gone nowhere fast, but the label stuck with them, and by November they were back with another release on Miracle, “Check Yourself,” produced this time by Berry Gordy himself. By the following March, now on the Gordy label and with Kendricks in the lead vocal role, they figured on the national R&B chart for the first time with “(You’re My) Dream Come True,” as their own dream indeed started to become reality.
Buy or stream “Oh Mother Of Mine” on the expanded Meet The Temptations.
CMA Awards BMI Country Songs of the Year – “Country Music’s Biggest Night”
Wallen’s “You Proof” was named BMI country song of the year, while Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. was named publisher of the year.
The CMA Awards may be rightfully billed as “Country Music’s Biggest Night,” but in terms of pure star power, the annual BMI Country Awards just might prove a close rival, as artists including Jelly Roll, Lainey Wilson, Ashley McBryde, Kenny Chesney, Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen, Keith Urban, Luke Bryan, The War and Treaty, Cole Swindell, Kane Brown, Ronnie Dunn, Tyler Hubbard, Bailey Zimmerman, Chris Young, Charles Kelley, Dustin Lynch and Priscilla Block were all in attendance on Tuesday evening (Nov. 7), as the awards ceremony was held at BMI’s Nashville office.
The evening began as BMI president/CEO Mike O’Neill addressed the elephant in the room– speculation over a potential private equity sale of BMI— by stating that no deal has been made.
” If we move in that direction, it will only be with a company that shares in our mission, which is to support your creative growth and grow our distribution. That is and will always be our number one priority. That will never change, no matter what happens,” O’Neill told the audience.
Additional BMI executives including BMI Nashville’s VP, Creative Clay Bradley and Executive Director, Creative Shannon Sanders were on hand to honor BMI’s 50 most-performed country songs of the previous year, which included 27 first-time BMI Award winners.
Combs and Wallen shared the songwriter of the year accolade. Combs was honored for co-writing his his own singles “Doin’ This,” “Going, Going, Gone,” “The Kind of Love We Make,” as well as Zac Brown Band’s “Out in the Middle.” Wallen co-wrote Keith Urban’s “Brown Eyes Baby,” Corey Kent’s “Wild as Her,” as well as his own “Thought You Should Know” and “You Proof.” Combs and Wallen surprised the audience by taking the stage together, and offered a twist on a typical performance by swapping songs, as Combs performed Wallen’s “Thought You Should Know” and Wallen returned the favor by performing Combs’s “Going, Going, Gone.”
Wallen’s “You Proof” was named the 2023 BMI country song of the year, published by Big Loud Mountain, Bo Wallace Publishing, Ern Dog Music, Songs of Universal, Inc., Sony/ATV Songs LLC and Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. BMI’s most-performed Country song of the year was written by Wallen, Ernest Keith Smith and Charlie Handsome.
Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. was named publisher of the year, for publishing 25 of the 50 most-performed songs of the year, including Hubbard’s “5 Foot 9,” Maren Morris’s “Circles Around This Town,” Thomas Rhett’s “Slow Down Summer,” Zach Bryan’s “Something in the Orange” and Zimmerman’s “Rock and a Hard Place.”
The awarding of the evening’s highest accolade provided some of the most heartfelt moments, as Matraca Berg was recognized with the BMI Icon Award. The BMI Icon Award has previously been awarded to songwriters including Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, James Brown, Brian Wilson, Carole King and Kris Kristofferson.
Berg’s BMI Icon Award is the latest in a career filled with prestigious honors, including the ACM Poet’s Award and induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Bradley called Berg “a trendsetter, a rulebreaker.”
Former BMI CEO Del Bryant signed Berg as a BMI affiliate at the beginning of her career; she earned her first No. 1 as a writer at just 18, when her collaboration with Bobby Braddock, “Faking Love,” became a No. 1 Billboard Country hit for T.G. Sheppard and Karen Brooks in 1983. Berg went on to be the go-to writer for numerous artists over the past four decades, a writer who can. In 1996, she became the first woman to have five No. 1s chart in a single calendar year. Her ability to exquisitely detail the stories held closest to the heart, and deftly characterize an array of emotions, made Berg a go-to writer for many artists, but particularly many of the female artists whose music dominated country music in the 1990s. She is a writer and/or co-writer on hits recorded by Patty Loveless (” I’m That Kinda Girl,” “You Can Feel Bad”), Deana Carter (” Strawberry Wine,” “We Danced Anyway”), Reba McEntire (” The Last One to Know”), Martina McBride (” Wild Angels,” “Still Holding On”), Trisha Yearwood (” XXXs and OOOs (An American Girl),” “Wrong Side of Memphis,” “Everybody Knows,” “They Call It Falling”), The Chicks “( If I Fall You’re Going Down With Me”), Faith Hill (” You’re Still Here”) and more. Her songs have also garnered three best country song Grammy nominations, for the Kenny Chesney-Grace Potter duet “You and Tequila,” Carter’s “Strawberry Wine” and the Gretchen Wilson-recorded “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today.” She also released seven of her own albums along the way.
Prior to Berg accepting her honor Tuesday evening, video tributes were shown from Loveless and Yearwood, as well as songwriters and publishers who played essential roles in Berg’s career, including Dean Dillon, Bobby Braddock, Aimee Mayo, Pat Higdon, and Chris Farren.
Two of the artists indelibly influenced by Berg’s work– Lainey Wilson and Ashley McBryde– performed in her honor, with Wilson performing the CMA song of the year-winning hit “Strawberry Wine,” and McBryde performing “Wrong Side of Memphis.”
McBryde recalled that as she was preparing to move to Nashville, a friend gifted her with a copy of Berg’s 1997 album Sunday Morning to Saturday Night “Thank you for setting the bar,” McBryde said.
Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter performed their 2010 Grammy-nominated hit “You and Tequila,” a song that proved a full-circle career moment for Berg, as she co-wrote it with Carter.
Chesney recalled being in Malibu when he heard “You and Tequila” for the first time, saying, “I went, ‘Wow, this song is going to maybe bring a lot of people together’– and it brought me and the wonderful Grace Potter together … thank you Matraca, I love you.”
Berg thanked several of her co-writers, including “Wild Angels” co-writer Harry Stinson, her “You Can Feel Bad” co-writer Tim Krekel, and her “Strawberry Wine,” “Wrong Side of Memphis” and “Wild Angels” co-writer Gary Harrison. “There would be no me standing up here with out him,” she said of Harrison. She also thanked Carter, saying, “‘ You and Tequila,’ we just go on and on, don’t we?” She also thanked music publishing exec Higdon, another early champion. “We started working together, I think I was 22 years old. Boy, you saw something in me.”
” I’ve been a BMI writer since right out of high school. It means so much, this honor,” Berg told the packed audience. “All I ever wanted to be was a songwriter.”
FlipsideMediaET Tampa Bay Music News • Live Music “Everything Music”
Matthew West Shares ‘My Story Your Glory (Expanded Edition)’
Today (Nov 3), Matthew West shares My Story Your Glory (Expanded Edition). The additional tracks feature collaborations with Anne Wilson, Cochren & & Co., daughter Lulu West, and Micah Tyler.
Zac Brown Band Reveals Tune From New Covers Project
The Zac Brown Band has released a jam-heavy version of “Baba O’Riley,” on all streaming platforms. The track is the newest single from the group’s first ever live covers album, From the Road, Vol. 1: Covers, out Nov. 10.
“Baba O’Riley” was recorded live in 2016 at Boston’s Fenway Park, which holds a special place in both the band’s heart and career. As Fenway Music Hall of Fame members, Zac Brown Band made history in August, selling out the iconic stadium for the 14th time and marking the Park’s 100th concert.
Releasing via Brown’s own label Home Grown Music, From the Road, Vol. 1: Covers includes tracks spanning over 11 years and showcases a selection of performances in iconic venues from the ZBB, joined by John Mayer, Steven Tyler, Darrell Scott, Mark O’Connor Band and Marcus King. ZBB’s rendition of Queen’s British-rock anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody,” as well as the recently released cover of “The Way You Look Tonight” made popular by Frank Sinatra, are on the the guilty pleasures album, along with tracks ranging from quintessential rock with “Sweet Emotion” and “Baba O’Riley,” to the Beatles’ pop cult classic “Eleanor Rigby,” to Jimmy Buffett’s tropical escape “Margaritaville” and more.
From the Road, Vol. 1: Covers Tracklist:
1. Bohemian Rhapsody (Live at The SSE Arena, Wembley, London, UK, 09.25.2015)
2. Baba O’Riley (Live at Fenway Park, Boston, MA, 08.20.2016)
3. Enter Sandman (Live at Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL, 09.14.2014)
4. Sabotage (Live at Windy City Smokeout, Chicago, IL, 7.16.2023)
5. Sweet Emotion feat. Steven Tyler (Live at Fenway Park, Boston, MA, 08.09.2015)
6. Whipping Post feat. Marcus King (Live at Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN, 10.17.2021)
7. Margaritaville (Live at Coastal Credit Union Music Park at Walnut Creek, Raleigh, NC, 10.05.2023)
8. It’s A Great Day To Be Alive feat. Darrell Scott (Live at Fenway Park, Boston, MA, 06.16.2018)
9. Eleanor Rigby feat. Darrell Scott & Mark O’Connor Band (Live at Fenway Park, Boston, MA, 06.16.2018)
10. With a Little Help From My Friends feat. Darrell Scott & Mark O’Connor Band (Live at Fenway Park, Boston, MA, 06.16.2018)
11. Neon feat. John Mayer (Live at the Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, Nashville, TN, 09.22.2012)
12. Use Somebody (Live at Jiffy Lube Live, Bristow, VA, 08.25.2019)
13. The Way You Look Tonight (Live at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Irvine, CA, 06.04.2016)
FlipsideMediaET eMagazine • “Everything Music”
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