Motown RecordsMotown M 1055 (A), February 1964

b/w Right Now

(Written by Buck Ram and Ande Rand)

Scan kindly provided by Gordon Frewin, reproduced by arrangement.  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!Motown boss Berry Gordy’s dreams of major league success were already starting to come true by the spring of 1964, but that didn’t stop him signing up showbiz veterans, one-hit wonders and washed-up former stars whenever he became aware of their availability.

Whether Gordy hoped to generate more hits, or just publicity and prestige for Motown, he was never slow to act; of the artists we’ve already covered, Andre Williams, Bunny Paul, Bobby Breen and Amos Milburn (just to name a few) were all Famous Before Motown and they all sank without trace upon arrival at Hitsville. Now, here’s Sammy Turner to continue that streak.

Sammy was briefly a star over the turn of the decade, scoring big hits for Big Top with covers of Lavender Blue, Paradise and Always, the first two quirky string-drenched productions showcasing his sweet, understated voice, the latter recast as a more energetic number in the Sam Cooke mould. It couldn’t last; Turner’s voice is hard to classify, never quite letting go, never quite putting across real feeling, and in a changing market moving away from crooners and towards more emotionally charged performers, his appeal turned out to be limited. The hits dried up, he left Big Top, and – as with Bobby Breen before him – he had been out of work for some time when Motown came calling.

Turner had some unspecified connection to the Serenaders, the NYC doo-wop group whose one and only Motown single, If Your Heart Says Yes, we’ve already encountered. The group featured songwriter-producers George Kerr and Sidney Barnes, who stuck with Motown’s fledgling New York City office on the other side of the glass once the Serenaders had split up (indeed, it seems entirely plausible that Motown NYC only signed the Serenaders in the first place to get Kerr and Barnes under contract). Sammy’s one and only Motown single (this one) was produced by Kerr and Barnes, and later Sammy ended up as guest lead vocalist on some unused Serenaders demos. Whatever the nature of the Turner/Serenaders connection, it’s likely to have been that connection which brought Sammy to Motown in the first place.

Promo scan kindly provided by Lars “LG” Nilsson - www.seabear.seAfter cutting this record in New York, Turner went to Detroit and cut a veritable truckload of material that never saw the official light of day, some of it highly valued by collectors. A pity, then, that his only released Motown output was this anodyne Platters cover, supposedly in the vein of Sammy’s earlier hits but actually much softer and sappier than those, moving away from Sam Cooke territory and towards the supper-club set.

The arrangement is syrupy and leaden, while Sammy’s interpretation of the material rarely rises above the level of competent karaoke; indeed, it frequently doesn’t even get that far up the scoreboard, high notes getting horribly mangled (the magic that you DO) each and every time with a strangulated falsetto that’s unintentionally funny.

Really quite unimpressive, a sad waste of a good song (this was Motown’s one and only crack at doing Only You, trivia fans) and a once-fine singer. On this evidence, it’s no surprise that there were no further Motown singles released on Sammy Turner; half of this mark is down to affection for the Platters’ original.



(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.

(Or maybe you’re only interested in Sammy Turner? Click for more.)

The Miracles
“Heartbreak Road”
Sammy Turner
“Right Now”


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Motown Junkies presents the finest Motown cuts, big hits and hard to find classics.
Listen to all past episodes here.