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The Tempos Story by Rob Moss

The Tempos Story by Rob Moss

The TEMPOS Story

The lineage of vocal groups, male and female, in the 1950s and 60s can be as difficult to establish as any family tree. Line-ups would frequently change as individual members came and went, group names could be dropped and replaced completely or entirely different personnel brought in to replace decampers. On a few occasions in the 1960s several different groups, with the same name, managed to co exist. An entire book, devoted to the various and varied formations that represented 'The Drifters', provides a clear indication of the complexity of personnel peripety through the decades, and they certainly weren't the only ones. Legal wrangles over name usage, and performance rights persist to this day, affecting groups like the Contours, Temptations, Four Tops, Coasters, Drifters, Marvelettes to name a few. Some of us can still recall 'known' groups touring Britain in the 1960s purporting to be their more famous compatriots, and believing that the addition of a prefix like 'Fabulous', 'Original' of 'Fantastic' would, in some way, legitimise the ruse. The Invitations toured as 'The Original Drifters', the Velours came as the 'Fantastic Temptations' (later to become the Fantastics) and there were others. An expose of the practice even made it to the pages of the News of the World newspaper, such was the outrage. This could have all been avoided, of course, if the 'real' groups had come in the first place. Ironically, soul devotees would have been quite happy to see these same groups perform as themselves!

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Local singer James 'Jay' Davis happened to perform with two Detroit groups with names that appeared elsewhere – the Moments and the Tempos. " I don't know if we were the first to be called the Moments, 'cause I honestly can't say, but Diamond Jim (Riley) told us to change the name when he heard there was a group out of New Jersey, or somewhere like that, with the same name. 'Cause he was kinda managing us then we did what he said. We were the same guys and we just became the Tempos." The (Detroit) Moments was actually started by Herschel Hunter in the early 1960s and comprised of himself, Buford 'Fab'Glatton, Sam Pearson and James Davis. Davis' recollections of the early years of his career have familiar overtones. "Growing up in the neighbourhood, all I wanted to do was sing. I would dream about being a successful singer and I would practice all day long. My first group at high school was called the Fabuleers. Everyone wanted to be in a group or make records back then. I knew Kim Weston growing up. It was me that introduced her to (future husband) Mickey Stevenson. I didn't even know she could sing! When I first met Herschel his brother Ty (Hunter) was already making records (with Check Mate, Anna and Chess) and he hooked us up with Robert Bateman and Herman Griffin. Herschel had been with the Monitors but wanted his own group. We cut one record as the Moments. Herschel wrote both sides. ('Don't take your love from me' b/w Happiest man in the land' on Hit Productions Records). I remember we recorded it at Earnest Burt's Magic City studios on Grand River. It was kind of a doo wop/rock 'n roll thing and it bombed. But it got us to the attention of Diamond Jim." James 'Diamond Jim' Riley was a local entrepreneur who ran a gym, specialising in boxing, as his official business and a 'blind pig' (unlicensed drinking establishment) into the wee hours. " Everyone knew Diamond Jim. He was kinda flashy. He always wore diamonds – even had one in his front tooth and had these big parties at the Driftwood Lounge at the Twenty Grand on his birthday. He liked our sound and signed us to his label – he actually had three. Big D, Diamond Jim and Riley's. We were on two of 'em."

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Buford 'Fab' Glatton joined the Tempos in 1965 after stints as a member of the Martiniques and as a touring guitarist with several acts, including Jimmy 'Soul' Clark, the Superlatives and the Dells. "I knew Hershell 'cause he was in the Martiniques for a while in the early '60's. I believe that was around '61 or '62. We used to sing around town up 'till around '64 when things kinda drifted apart. I joined the house band at Phelps' Lounge playing guitar. Hershell and Jay brought me in." The Tempos first release on Riley's featured two songs written by Jay Davis, 'Don't leave me' and 'I need you' but Glatten's memory of them is clouded with frustration. " Diamond Jim rented Golden World for that session and brought Sonny Sanders in to work with Jay on the arrangements but he let Joey Kingfish mix them and Kingfish can't mix too good so we weren't too happy with how the record sounded. Jim really believed in us though and kept pushing us. Him and Herschell fell out though not long after 'cause Herschell didn't want to go out on the road. Things got kinda nasty and Herschell left.

I went over to Motown to sing with the Love Tones not long after that too. I did some background over at Thelma around that time too. I remember singing on 'Peace loving man' for Emanuel Laskey." Eager to maintain what little momentum had been established, Riley placed the Tempos next release ('I'll never forget' b/w 'Disc jockey paradise') on his Diamond Jim label. The events surrounding it's creation make interesting reading however, as Jay Davis explained. " That wasn't us. It was the Steptones but Jim wanted to get something out on us that he could take to radio and promote. When Herschell and Jim fell out things were quite disorganised for a while. In the end Billy Harris was brought in and Robert Walker and Jimmy Charles replaced 'Fab' and Sam . Billy had sung with the Dynamics and, man, did he nail our songs? Yeah, he was hot." The Steptones would play a part in the next Tempos release too as Davis recalled. "Jim had bought the track for 'Lonely one' from Johnnie Mae Matthews and we recorded it over at Golden World, but the group was kinda breaking up by then so Jim brought the Steptones in and recorded it with them too. I remember he used the track on the B side of both records and I heard that he leased it to Luther Dixon who was working on material for the Platters." With so many changes in personnel, it became increasing difficult to keep the group together. "

By the time we did our last release as the Tempos, there were just three of us – me, Billy Harris and Robert Coates. It was 'Let's stick together' and 'Don't act that way' and it came out on Riley's. After that we started touring around Michigan and Illinois and Jim got us dates down South as far as Florida with stops on the way down and back. We played mainly small clubs and took our own band with us. Mr. Bo, who was a blues singer, came with us and Don Mancha's brother Pedro came too as our manager. We would sing our own songs and some of the most popular covers of the day." When the Tempos played around Detroit they would usually 'open' for other acts. Some performers left an indelible impression. "We played Phelps' Lounge before the Falcons one time. Their lead singer 'Sonny' Munro was just like Jackie Wilson, the way he looked, and man, he could sing. I admired him so much back then. Another guy who was a real inspiration to me was Little Willie John. But he died in prison of pneumonia after stabbing a guy in Philadelphia. I guess he was sentenced to 15 to 20 years for that. He was a fantastic performer and real popular wherever he played."

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As a familiar figure on the Detroit entertainment scene, Davis met, and became friends with, many local luminaries, including Richard 'Popcorn' Wylie. "I'd known Popcorn since teenage days and we worked together on two songs him and his writing partner, Tony Hestor, had come up with for me. ('What words do I use' b/w 'Look what I found' on Mello Records) We recorded them at Earnest Burt's Magic City studio over on Grand River with Popcorn's band. Popcorn was a great guy and real easy to work with. Him and Tony had so many songs. I was privileged to watch them working together one time down in Popcorn's basement at his house. Popcorn would strike a groove on the piano and Tony would come up with the lyrics …I don't know where they came from but he could find these killer words just like that. He was a genius."

Considerable mystery has surrounded the details of Tony Hestor's premature death. Davis shared his recollections. "He had just got paid for something around Woodward and Euclid and was walking a couple of blocks to the Latin Quarter to see the Dramatics. I don't know whether he was shot or stabbed, but they took his money and just left him. It was a street robbery. I don't know if they caught them or not. It was a great loss to us all I gotta say." Another aspiring singer to cross his path was Marvin (Jack Montgomery) Jones. "Yeah, we became pretty close. He married my wife's sister and we knew quite a few of the same people. He started out with a guy from Canada who had his own recording studio downtown. Then he got with Johnny Terry who was doing his own thing after leaving the Drifters. Don Mancha was brought in and him and Marvin wrote some things together. He got his last name from Johnny's business partner Don Montgomery and the 'Jack' came from JFK. He was a tall, good-looking dude with this rich, sweet voice. I would work with him to learn the songs Don had come up with. The one I remember best was probably 'Don't turn your back on me'. Man that was a good song. He was hungry for success but he didn't take good care of himself. He contracted diabetes in his twenties and had to have one of his legs amputated later, which kinda finished his career. I remember how he was suffering so bad. It was really sad. He split from my wife's sister (Claudette) and moved out to Madison Heights (northern suburb of greater Detroit) but was found dead not long after. He had been shot in the head." Some speculation surrounds Jones' possible involvement in drugs but Jay Davis is quick to refute this. "No, that wasn't his style. At least I never knew him to mess with drugs. When I heard about his death I wondered who would want to kill someone who was so sick. Then I remembered a conversation we had one time where he said that if he died he wanted to be shot in the head. He said he didn't want to suffer, but I kinda laughed it off, until it happened. Maybe he paid someone to do it – I don't know. He wouldn't have done anything bad. He was always straight up."

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Davis' own career reverted to group membership in early 1970, when he formed the Final Decisions. " Jimmy Charles and I went back to the early 60s with the Tempos so we got with Al James from Chicago to form the group. Our first song together was 'Keep on walking', a song I'd written with JJ Barnes. JJ and me go back to our teen years. We used to do shows all over Michigan back then. We wrote it over at my house. JJ played keyboards but we wanted it someone to arrange it so I brought Mike Terry in. He really was a great arranger. All we gave him was a basic outline of the song. He listened, scratched his chin and within a few minutes went over to keyboard and started arranging. We met Guy Morosco around that time too. He was an Italian guy who had his own studio and was trying to start his own label, Bumpshop. We went with him and cut 'Keep on walking' and 'Hour of your need'. We also had 'I feel what you feel' and 'The pusher' on Love records which was a subsidiary of Bumpshop." Although 'Keep on walking' achieved considerable success in local markets and was supported by a number of 'live' appearances, the group changed direction again in 1975. "We used to go to this club called Ben's High Chaparral and the owner, Ben Cox, liked us and became our manager. He had his own label, Hi C, named after the club. We recorded two songs over at Fast Track studios with Leonard Jones that came out on Hi C, 'You got to be my woman' and "You are my sunshine" but we did other stuff with him too that wasn't released." Jay Davis' friendship with JJ Barnes was renewed in 1999 when they worked together on the 'Love Street' album. " I wrote all the songs for that album, some with Edwin Starr or with JJ. Don Mancha was involved too. We did some demo copies, but it was never released commercially."
Jay Davis continues to write and create music and is about to release his latest album.

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Rob Moss

www.hayleyrecords.co.uk





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Another great informative and worthwhile contribution by Rob.

Sometime I go through articles and highlight some of the names or tracks that may be of interest.

If I did it with this one think its fair to say that the whole page would seem to be full of bold text!

if viewing the forum version, check out the front page version, as per normal from Rob there's some great photos to accompany his latest words.(click on the images to enlarge)

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Wow what a great read over breakfast that was. Hats off to you Rob in giving us such a succint and informative piece.:yes:

Demonstrates 'what a tangled web they did weave' back then and gives food for thought on the 'stories' behind ALL our little bits of plastic.

Great stuff sir:thumbsup:

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Wow what a great read over breakfast that was. Hats off to you Rob in giving us such a succint and informative piece.:yes:

Demonstrates 'what a tangled web they did weave' back then and gives food for thought on the 'stories' behind ALL our little bits of plastic.

Great stuff sir:thumbsup:

Just the sort of articles I like, full of facts.

I agree with you Jez. We often take for granted those little black discs. which have so many "real life" and often tragic stories behind them.

For me, listening to any Jack Montgomery tracks from now on will never be the same but in fact "heightened" due to a little background knowledge.

:yes:

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Hi Rob

Nice job mate, great info and cool you share it with all.

Just a note

Buford 'Fab' Glanton, went on to record as David Lenyard and was also a member of Four Real Inc. all of which came out on Flying Eagle. He still lives in Detroit to this day, but has suffered from poor health for many years.

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Excellent and just proves the worth of documenting this stuff before it's too late. The part relating to Marvin Jones-Jack Montgomery is tragic. It looks like people did turn their back on him, for him to take his life in such circumstances. Like Arkwright, those records of his will take on another dimension for me now.

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Rob,

Nice one, again!

It's amazing, given what has happened to so many, that Jay Davis remains in good health and maintains his enthusiasm...........................that hit is just around the corner................

John

Jay Davis, Detroit 2009

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Hi Rob ..great work Mate and Great Read . Fab's Name is spelt

Fab Buford Glanton , Fab is really a nice guy and good friend he done so much work back in the day and later went to Invictus Records where he joined The Politcians.

Jimmy Charles later Joined The Elgin's .

keep up the good work Rob :tumbleweed3:

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Thank you all. I'm really glad you enjoyed the piece. Debonaires and Holidays coming up.

Best regards

Rob

i can't wait rob, that was so informative and interesting.thats what makes this site so great, more please, jim.

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Thank you all. I'm really glad you enjoyed the piece. Debonaires and Holidays coming up.

Best regards

Rob

Hi Rob,

Great work yet again !!!

hope your well,

regards

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Hi Rob. Hopefully this may help with the 'Tempos' Biography? I bought these 'AFTRA' (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) documents, signed by 3 members of 'The Tempos', Bobby Sanders, Billy London and Bobby Mac. I am finding it really difficult to find out much more about the bands career. If you find out anything else about them, could you please let me know by PM, as I am trying to piece it together to display with the 'AFTRA' documents. Thank you.

P.S. I also  bought 'AFTRA' documents signed by Leon Heywood (1966), and Marlena Shaw (1967)

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1 hour ago, Northern Soul UK said:

Hi Rob. Hopefully this may help with the 'Tempos' Biography? I bought these 'AFTRA' (American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) documents, signed by 3 members of 'The Tempos', Bobby Sanders, Billy London and Bobby Mac. I am finding it really difficult to find out much more about the bands career. If you find out anything else about them, could you please let me know by PM, as I am trying to piece it together to display with the 'AFTRA' documents. Thank you.

P.S. I also  bought 'AFTRA' documents signed by Leon Heywood (1966), and Marlena Shaw (1967)

IMG_20180325_172024.jpg

IMG_20180325_172033.jpg

IMG_20180325_172042_01.jpg

Different Tempos, those in your document are the West Coast group (Countdown).  The one who is the subject of this topic is from Detroit.

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