TamlaTamla T 54026 (A), July 1959

b/w Motor City

(Written by Berry Gordy and Charles Leverett)

Label scan kindly provided by Lars “LG” Nilsson - www.seabear.se.  All label scans come from visitor contributions - if you'd like to send me a scan I don't have, please e-mail it to me at fosse8@gmail.com!After Charles “Chico” Leverett’s somewhat underwhelming solo single Solid Sender came out on Tamla, he returned to his day job as a member of the Satintones, the first vocal group to be signed to Motown, and co-wrote this, their first group single release. (Satintones Robert Bateman and Sonny Sanders had already sung backup to Leverett on his solo record as members of the “Rayber Voices”, so only lead singer Jim Ellis was actually making his Motown bow here, but this was the first time the Satintones were credited as such on a Motown 45).

Anyway, this is probably stronger than Solid Sender. It’s certainly more likeable; this one is a light-hearted, uptempo doo-wop number with a nice intricate harmony arrangement, and mildly funny lyrics about the band’s knackered old car breaking down on the way to a show. The comedy isn’t as corny or forced as on Ron & Bill’s execrable It, instead coming over as sweetly self-deprecating. There’s also a surprisingly fresh twangy surf guitar solo at the halfway mark, which calls to mind the early work of the Beach Boys a couple of years later.

It’s a nice enough little song, if still not exactly remarkable. It has to be said, though – and I apologise in advance to any surviving Satintones who happen to come across this – that on this evidence, for a vocal harmony group, they just aren’t very good singers.

(Actually, considering the company would go on to forge a reputation for studio perfection, the amount of off-key or clashing backing vocals and outright bum notes on these early sides is a kind of testament to how effective Motown’s Sixties studio backing singers, the Andantes and the Originals, were in crafting that atmosphere. You may not notice backing vocals when they’re done with a perfect lightness of touch, but it’s very noticeable whenever they go wrong, as they do here.)

Furthermore it’s massively dated; apart from that guitar solo, the record just screams “mid-Fifties”, and the overall impression is light years away from both the “Motown Sound” and even the label’s early Sixties efforts.

It went on to sell few copies, and remained a local Detroit-area release; still, as the first Motown vocal group single, this one has its place in history.



(I’ve had MY say, now it’s your turn. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment, or click the thumbs at the bottom there. Dissent is encouraged!)

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Ron & Bill
“Don’t Say Bye Bye”
The Satintones
“Motor City”