TamlaTamla T 54030 (A), September 1960

b/w That Child Is Really Wild

(Written by Berry Gordy)

If Mary Wells’ Please Forgive Me had hinted at a piano-thumping blues just beneath the surface, Singin’ Sammy Ward was the real deal: a genuine dyed-in-the-wool blues man. Here we find Sammy at his most polished – the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 draw explicit comparisons to Ray Charles – but it’s still pretty raw compared to the direction the rest of the Motown roster seemed to be heading in at the time.

He’s really holding back here, is Singin’ Sammy, trying his level best to put on a respectable front, keeping his trademark throat-tearing vocals in second gear the entire time and turning in an attractive, smoky lead vocal instead. The backing track is similarly restrained; pianos are pounded, but firmly and softly in the background rather than in blistering two-fisted solos. Brushed drums beat out a slow, steady, grooving tempo. Guitars chime moodily and unobtrusively. It’s very likeable, performed with enough humid Southern soul that it’s definitely not an ersatz blues record – Ward knew his stuff too well to let Gordy sand the edges off entirely – but nor is it the electrifying rough blues that Singin’ Sammy so clearly yearned to be singing.

This song was in for an unusual fate; a few copies of the single were pressed up before Berry Gordy had a last-minute change of heart and decided to swap out the A-side for another, bluesier song, Who’s The Fool, which ended up becoming a totally-forgotten but crucial early Motown chart hit. Gordy wasn’t done with What Makes You Love Him, however, and he had Sammy Ward (sans the Singin’ nickname) cut a new version of the song for a Tamla single release in November 1961 (see the “Coverwatch” section below for more details).



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Motown Junkies has reviewed other Motown versions of this song:

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Mary Wells
“Please Forgive Me”
Singin’ Sammy Ward
“That Child Is Really Wild”