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The Temptations dance and sing into Pennsylvania

February 16, 2012|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • The Temptations won four Grammys between 1968 and 2001. The group will perform Thursday, Feb. 23, at H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center in Shippensburg, Pa.
Submitted photo

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — When The Temptations received their first Grammy for the album, "Cloud Nine" in 1968, they couldn't accept it in person because they were on the road.

The same thing happened when they picked up two more Grammys in 1972 for "Papa Was A Rolling Stone."

Finally in 2001, the Temptations were able to be at the Grammys in person when they received their fourth award for "Ear-Resistible."

Today, the Grammys are in founding member Otis Williams' pool room, where he can see them as he racks it up.

Those Grammys symbolize the hard-working nature of The Temptations, who during their more than 40 years in the business have seen their shares of high and lows but have continued to keep their fan base.

The Temptations will dance their way into the stage of Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23.

It's just one of the many stops the group has been bouncing around during the last couple of weeks. They spent three weeks pulling what's called in the biz as "one-nighters," meaning just one show a night, before ending last weekend in Frederick, Md.

 As they gear up for the Shippensburg show, Williams said they'll pull seven more one-nighters before heading off on March 7 to play Europe. After they return from their tour, they will begin work on a new album.

At 70, Williams and the rest of The Temptations show no signs of slowing down.

"I've been as busy as a blind dog in a meat market," Williams said during a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home.

And Williams said he's been enjoying every minute of it.

"I'm doing something God let me do, bringing happiness and enjoyment not only to myself but to people," he said. "I can't complain, it's like me crying and having a loaf of bread under my arm."

The Temptations started first as the Detroit-based group The Distants. The lineup then consisted of Williams, Melvin Franklin and Al Bryant. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams came along after their band disbanded, and decided to join The Distants.

The band had it's share of regional hits and was performing at a record hop when Motown founder Berry Gordy spotted them.

Williams said Gordy had came along with The Miracles, who already had hits with "Shop Around," when The Distants were performing onstage.

 "The audience wouldn't let us off the stage, they kept on calling us back," Williams said. "But when we finally got off, I was standing there watching The Miracles and (Gordy) said to me," ‘I like the record you guys have and if you decide on leaving, I'm starting a record company, come see me.' And we did."

Once at Motown, The Temptations were born. Soon after, they were cranking out a slew of No. 1 and top 10 hits.

By the time they released 1964's "The Way You Do the Things You Do," Bryant left the group to be replaced by David Ruffin.

In 1964, they recorded one of the group's best-known hits, "My Girl," which was on "Cloud Nine" helped the group to earn Motown's first Grammy.

"My Girl" remains one of Williams' own personal favorites.

"I'm a big Temptations fan," he said "When I look at our discography, I'm like ‘Wow!' We've been recording for a long time but naturally the first and foremost would be ‘My Girl' and everything else just falls in place behind it."

The Temptations paved the way for other black musicians, but Williams said it took time before they realized what kind of path they blazing.

"At the beginning when we first signed, it was like just another company starting out ‘cause we signed in '61, everybody was trying to make their bones then," he said. "We didn't know the impact that Motown would have until about the mid-'60s to late '70s, that's when we really realized it was something of importance."

As the group continued, they saw the well-documented drug problems of Ruffin, then Paul Williams' suicide and eventually Franklin's failing health. And Otis Williams suffered personal tragedy including the death of his only son.

The Temptations roller-coaster career was chronicled in the NBC miniseries "The Temptations" in 1998.

And through it all The Temptations' fans have remained.

"They've grown up right along with us," he said. "And the amazing thing about our fans now was when we first started out they just wanted to be entertained, but now we're dealing with a very sophisticated audience. They can tell if you're really enjoying it or just going through the movements. We have to really stay on point because we're really dealing with a very smart audience today."

Of the original line-up, Ruffin, Kendricks, Franklin and Williams have all passed away. Others like Dennis Edwards, Richard Street and Theo People joined then decided to leave. Ali-Ollie Woodson, who left the group, passed away in 2010.

Today, the band consists of Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon and Bruce Williamson.

"We love what we do," Williams said. "In life, regardless of what or who you are, you're going to have tragedies — that's part of living. You're going to have ups and downs and sometimes when you go through that you find out what you're made of. It can develop character. You understand it's not always glory, it's the bitter along with the sweet. We understand that. We're dealing with people first, regardless of how talented we might me.  Through it all you continue on. I've continued."



If you go ...

WHAT: The Temptations

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23

WHERE: Shippensburg University's H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center, 1871 Old Main Drive, Shippensburg, Pa.

CONTACT: Tickets cost $30 to $45

MORE: Call 717-477-7469 or go to www.luhrscenter.com.

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