b/w Just For You
(Written by Janie Bradford, Rebecca Nichols and Stanley Ossman)
Freddie Gorman is an unheralded but key character in the earliest chapters of the Motown story. A Detroit mailman (though not, as has often been stated, the postman who delivered mail to Motown’s offices) possessed of a good, strong voice, he’d been a member of mid-Fifties doo-woppers the Quailtones, as well as briefly forming a new group, the Fidelitones (sometimes spelled “Fideletones” or “Fideli-Tones”) with Motown backing singer, songwriter and producer Brian Holland, releasing one single, “Pretty Girl”, in 1959. (Youtube doesn’t have it, in case you were wondering why I’ve not provided a link.)
Gorman was also a talented songwriter, having helped pen two of the best Motown singles to date, the Supremes’ I Want A Guy and the Marvelettes’ rather better-known Please Mr Postman; several sources state that Gorman’s “reward” for his (then-uncredited) songwriting contribution on the latter was this one-off Miracle single. While his working relationship with Brian Holland on the performing side went nowhere, the two struck up a fine songwriting partnership writing material for other Motown artists. The following year, Gorman would draft little-known R&B singer Lamont Dozier into the team, and for a few months the best up-and-coming songwriting team in the Motown empire was Holland-Dozier-Gorman.
Strangely, though, for his one and only Motown solo single, Gorman recorded a song he didn’t write himself. Hitsville receptionist Janie Bradford contributes a smart little midtempo R&B dancer, short and sweet (just over two minutes in length), musically reminiscent of Someday, Someway, a Holland-Dozier-Gorman song recorded by the Marvelettes the following year.
Gorman doesn’t have the best voice in the world, but he definitely has talent, handling the song with aplomb and a real deep warmth which is immediately likeable. (“Deep” is the right word; he hits some very smooth low notes during the course of the song, such that the liner notes to The Complete Motown Singles: Volume 1 explicitly name-check Brook Benton, and they’re not wrong). The song is a good one, too, getting better as it goes on; some excellent understated verses featuring neat minor-key changes which play to Gorman’s rich, smoky bass-baritone voice. There’s a slightly uncomfortable bit at the one-minute mark, a would-be bridge and middle-eight which takes Freddie out of his range and which he can’t quite hit, but then the whole thing is rescued with a series of melismatic “Mmm-whoa-oh-oh”s before the song lands back in more comfortable territory and Gorman enters the home stretch with infectious confidence.
The arrangement gets lusher and fuller as the record goes on, too; the burgeoning “Brianbert” production team of Brian Holland and Robert Bateman turn in a richly-arranged backing track featuring sparse violins, backing vocals and Ondionline organ stabs sketching out where full orchestral string parts would have gone had there been more money to spend. Meanwhile, the band are on exceptionally good form, bass, drums and guitar all locking perfectly into their groove in that home stretch. Indeed, it’s probably the best-sounding of all the Miracle Records singles, something which is really brought home when we get to the ending; Gorman vamps out of the song, repeating I’ll be looking for the day / Don’t make me wait / I’ll be looking for the day / When you come my way as layers and layers of instrumentation and backing vocals carry him across the line and through the final fade. It’s a full-on and fully enjoyable ending to a great little record.
For whatever reason, though, it didn’t get anywhere near the charts; released on the unloved Miracle Records imprint, it didn’t receive much promotional push, and it’s possible Motown just didn’t see Gorman as a commercial prospect worth developing.
Freddie would have no more Motown singles as a solo turn, and eventually became a forgotten man as a songwriter; unable to quit his job with the Postal Service in the absence of any royalty-spinning hits, he found himself being squeezed out of the Holland-Dozier-Gorman songwriting trio’s all-night work sessions, having to miss more and more of them as Brian and Lamont upped their work rate while he had to go back to his day job; eventually replaced by Brian’s brother Eddie Holland, Freddie ended up drifting away from Motown altogether in the early mid-Sixties.
He would wind up at rival label Ric-Tic, where he wrote a couple of minor hit singles (and one big one, (Just Like) Romeo And Juliet, a Top Five smash for the Reflections); however, he always saw performing as his true vocation, and so he also resumed his singing career at Ric-Tic, cutting two fine singles, In A Bad Way and Take Me Back. (The former’s excellent B-side, There Can Be Too Much has also been uploaded by someone to YouTube).
As with many failed early Motown singles, Mary Wells ended up covering The Day Will Come as an album cut, this time in a newly-recorded version for her second album, The One Who Really Loves You, in 1962. Unusually, for once Wells’ version is inferior to the original.
Freddie Gorman’s Motown story began a strange second chapter when Berry Gordy bought out Ric-Tic in the mid-Sixties, re-acquiring Gorman’s contract in the process. Freddie would go on to be a key member of a new vocal group called the Originals, who would go on to provide backing vocals on a number of Motown’s late-Sixties hits before hooking up with Marvin Gaye and racking up some big-selling hits of their own at the turn of the decade.
MOTOWN JUNKIES VERDICT
(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!)
You’re reading Motown Junkies, an attempt to review every Motown A- and B-side ever released. Click on the “previous” and “next” buttons below to go back and forth through the catalogue, or visit the Master Index for a full list of reviews so far.
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“Come To Me”
“Just For You”