The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Marilyn McCoo

Singer and actress Marilyn McCoo was born on September 30, 1943 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her parents, Mary and Waymon McCoo, were both doctors and moved the family to Los Angeles, California when McCoo was seven years old. She graduated from Dorsey High School and went on to attend the University of California-Los Angeles, where she received her B.S. degree in business administration.

In 1962, McCoo entered the Miss Bronze California beauty pageant where she won the Grand Talent award and met Lamonte McLemore, who asked her to join his singing group, the Hi-Fi’s. She went on to perform with Ray Charles and record the single "Lonesome Mood." The Hi-Fi’s disbanded in 1965, and that same year McCoo, McLemore, Florence LaRue, Ron Townson, and Billy Davis, Jr. formed The Versatiles. The group signed to the Soul City label, changed their name to The 5th Dimension, and recorded their first hit in 1966, "Go Where You Wanna Go." In 1967, they released “Up, Up, and Away,” which won four Grammy Awards and was the title track to the 5th Dimension's first hit album. In 1969, The 5th Dimension released The Age of Aquarius. The album's first single, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," became a mega-hit and occupied the number one spot on the charts for six weeks. It earned the group two more Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year.

In 1969, McCoo married bandmate Billy Davis, Jr., and in 1975, they left The 5th Dimension. Together, they released 1976's I Hope We Get To Love In Time, featuring the single, "You Don't Have to Be a Star (To Be in My Show)." The song went straight to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned the duo a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. McCoo and Davis went on to host The Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr. Show on CBS in 1977. In the 1980s McCoo hosted the music countdown show Solid Gold. She also had a recurring spot on the soap opera Days of Our Lives in the 1980s, and acted in a number of movies. She appeared on stage in productions of Anything Goes, A...My Name is Alice, Man of La Mancha, and the Broadway production of Show Boat.

McCoo released a solo album, Solid Gold, in 1983, and then a gospel album in 1991 entitled The Me Nobody Knows; its title single went to number one on the gospel charts. She received another Grammy Award the following year for participating as a guest artist on Quincy Jones’ Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, which won Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. In 2004, McCoo and Davis co-authored the book Up, Up and Away…How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World.

McCoo has also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and The 5th Dimension was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. She has received two honorary doctorate degrees and served on the boards of the Children's Miracle Network, the Los Angeles Mission, and the Cancer Research Foundation.

Marilyn McCoo was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 29, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.178

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/29/2014

Last Name

McCoo

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

University of California, Los Angeles

Talladega College

University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Arlington Heights Elementary School

Los Angeles High School

Susan Miller Dorsey High School

First Name

Marilyn

Birth City, State, Country

Jersey City

HM ID

MCC18

State

New Jersey

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/30/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Short Description

Singer and actress Marilyn McCoo (1943 - ) is an eight-time Grammy Award-winning singer and an original member of The 5th Dimension. She has also hosted television shows, appeared on Broadway, and acted in a number of movies. McCoo is co-author, with her husband Billy Davis, Jr., of Up, Up and Away…How We Found Love, Faith and Lasting Marriage in the Entertainment World.

Employment

Joseph Magnin

Westminster Neighborhood Association

The 5th Dimension

McCoo & Davis, Inc.

Timing Pairs
0,0:3299,53:5483,94:6120,102:10924,123:26553,353:30490,420:32590,428:32940,434:33500,443:34690,466:36090,502:36440,508:36720,517:37630,530:38050,538:41970,627:47430,655:49183,670:49822,686:51810,723:54224,767:54508,772:57658,801:58154,817:58774,837:60572,868:61006,876:66222,911:66666,920:69245,950:69623,959:70883,984:77750,1179:79199,1231:79640,1239:80018,1247:80333,1253:82160,1294:88118,1313:88610,1321:89266,1337:92710,1476:93448,1486:99290,1588:99650,1593:100280,1602:101090,1615:102170,1649:102800,1657:103250,1663:129671,2050:130252,2058:130667,2064:131829,2098:135896,2171:136394,2180:137058,2191:140808,2205:146733,2342:147049,2347:147365,2352:153448,2476:153764,2481:154238,2489:159980,2516:160330,2524:161100,2541:161450,2548:161730,2553:162570,2579:162920,2585:163340,2593:163970,2604:165230,2625:166280,2650:166700,2657:167540,2669:168170,2681:170130,2721:170620,2729:173998,2751:174818,2764:175474,2774:175884,2780:176212,2785:176704,2795:177032,2800:180696,2834:181950,2859:187109,2910:189090,2920:190533,2938:194117,2963:194651,2971:195185,2978:197160,3007$0,0:13100,202:17020,280:17820,296:19260,322:24090,344:24455,350:25915,376:26207,381:26572,387:28251,409:28908,419:29200,425:29565,432:30149,438:33580,496:36427,561:36792,567:37449,577:42508,686:44770,718:49918,801:51244,844:52648,881:57299,910:60352,979:62553,1044:68217,1121:73350,1272:73763,1284:79304,1306:79794,1314:80676,1327:82310,1333:82578,1338:86933,1425:91382,1471:91678,1476:92566,1494:93306,1512:94120,1524:98338,1602:102393,1639:102711,1648:102976,1655:103559,1668:104330,1674
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171986">Tape: 1 Slating of Marilyn McCoo's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171987">Tape: 1 Marilyn McCoo lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171988">Tape: 1 Marilyn McCoo talks about her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171989">Tape: 1 Marilyn McCoo talks about her mother's upbringing and education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171990">Tape: 1 Marilyn McCoo describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171991">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo talks about her father's career as a singer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171992">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo describes how her parents met and their move to Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171993">Tape: 1 Marilyn McCoo talks about her family's civil rights activism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171994">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171995">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo talks about her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171996">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171997">Tape: 1 Marily McCoo describes her early childhood education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171998">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo talks about her childhood in Columbus, Georgia and her family's move to Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/171999">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172000">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo describes her early interest in show business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172001">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo describes the role of religion in her upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172002">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo talks about the importance of music in her family.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172003">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo talks about her early education and her parents' influence on her career path</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172004">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo describes her early musical education and her mentor Eddie Beal</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172005">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo describes the music she listened to and how it influenced her</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172006">Tape: 2 Marilyn McCoo shares her experience in high school activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172007">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo describes singing with her sisters as a youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172008">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about her early career goals and her decision to attend college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172009">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about her private vocal lessons with Florence Russell during her college years</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172010">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about competing in Miss Bronze California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172011">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about meeting HistoryMaker Lamonte McLemore and joining the Hi-Fi's.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172012">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about performing with the Hi-Fi's and her mother's reaction.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172013">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about her centerfold in Jet magazine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172014">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about her friend, actress Vonetta McGee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172015">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about working with Ray Charles through the Hi-Fi's</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172016">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo describes her experience as a woman in the entertainment world</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172017">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about the music she performed with the Hi-Fi's and Ray Charles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172018">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about returning to school to study business administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172019">Tape: 3 Marilyn McCoo talks about earning money on the road with the Hi-Fi's</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172020">Tape: 4 Marilyn McCoo talks about her decision to leave the Hi-Fi's</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/172021">Tape: 4 Marilyn McCoo talks about her career goals after leaving the Hi-Fi's</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

9$3

DATitle
Marilyn McCoo talks about working with Ray Charles through the Hi-Fi's
Marilyn McCoo describes her early interest in show business
Transcript
So anyway, back to--so the Hi-Fi's are--well, you're still a minor with the Hi-Fi's, and at a certain point Hi-Fi's, they, they mu--they, they're still together until what, '65 [1965], '64 [1964] or '65 [1965]?$$Right, yeah, we stayed-- sa Okay.$$--together until the end of sixty-four [1964].$$And what--$$Yeah.$$Now you had Ray Charles--$$How did Ray Charles--$$Yeah, how did--$$--come into the picture?$$Yeah, yeah.$$Well, I don't remember exactly how we met Ray Charles. And [HM] Lamonte McLemore might have had something to with it because Lamonte was always trying to hook up the group with somebody. But Ray heard the group, and he liked what he heard. And he decided that he wanted to record us, and he did. He recorded us on his label, and we recorded a song called 'Lonesome Mood' and a couple of other things. And it was also during that time--so, Ray started managing the group. And now I was still in school, and Fritz Baskett was still in school, but he guys were ready to go out and work. You know, they wanted to go out on the road, so they went to Ray and said hey, why don't you take us out on the road? You know, you're managing us, and, and we're not doing anything, and you're out on the road. So Ray decided that he would take us out, and we ended up opening the show for him.$$Now this is really, this is like your father [Wayman McCoo] singing with Fletch Henderson [Fletcher Henderson].$$Yeah, well, it was, it was amay--$$Your--$$--it was a wonderful opportunity.$$Ray Charles--$$As a matter of fact, I dropped out of school for a semester to go out on tour with Ray Charles. My mother [Mary Ellen McCoo] was not pleased about this at all. So, and I was not twenty-one yet. And I'm, I'm forgetting Joe, Joe--what's Joe's last name?$$(OFF-CAMERA MALE VOICE): (Unclear)--$$Thank you, baby, okay.$$What, what was it?$$I'm just, I'm--now, my mother was not--$$What's his last name? What was Joe's last name?$$I'm gonna give it to.$$Okay, all right.$$I'm gonna give it to you in--$$Okay.$$So now, my mother was not excited about this at all.$$Okay.$$And I wasn't twenty one yet. But Joe Adams, who was managing Ray Charles now at this time, he came to my mother and he talked to her. And, and you know, he said you know your daughter wants to go out, and the group is gonna go out. And, and we'll, we'll take good care of her (laughter). And my mother didn't believe that at all. As a matter of fact, she told Lamonte, she said you all make sure my daughter is okay. And she made me promise her that when I came back home that I would go right back to school and finish and graduate, because I only had about twenty seven units left at the time that I dropped out. And it was an amazing experience for me. I really got a chance to learn what goes out, what goes on out on the road. I got a chance to sit out in the audience and watch Ray Charles perform. He was so amazing. What a brilliant, brilliant artist. And I really, really enjoyed those three months.$$$I read that you always interested in, been interested in show business. So when did this first manifest itself? Well, I guess always. I, I don't know. I mean, do you have any stories about when you first started thinking about yourself as being an entertainer at some point?$$Well, you know, when I was growing up, my father [Wayman McCoo] would come home sometimes with, with vocal arrangements, usually something from, from a book, because daddy at one time taught, taught choir at, at his church. He would come in with a vocal arrangement, and he would start assigning parts. And my mother [Mary Ellen Holloway McCoo] would sing her part; and my sister, Glenda, would sing her part; and then they'd give me a part to sing, and then we'd all four sing in harmony. And I loved it; I loved the sound of harmony. And we'd get around the piano, and daddy would plunk out the parts and, and play the, you know, play the chords. And I just loved that they included me in it because I was thinking I'm just one. And then they would marvel because I could, I could hold my note. And they'd say well, listen to her. She's holding her note. And I would think, well, of course I'm holding my note. That's what you told me to sing (laughter). It never occurred to me that it was unusual.$$Okay.$$So I just, I just enjoyed music from very on. And then my, my, my parents made sure that we studied piano lessons, that we took piano lessons. All four of us did. And they just wanted us to have, you know, a familiarity with, with music. My mother had studied violin when she was in, when she was growing up, and so they wanted us to have, to have a knowledge of music.

Cal Street

Singer and performer Caldin “Carol” Street was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan to Dora and Reverend Willie Gill, Sr. Street was the middle child of seven children and was raised in Kalamazoo, where she graduated from Lincoln Jr. High School.

In 1961, Street was asked by her older sister, Mildred Arbor, to join a singing group called the Velvelettes with Bertha McNeal, Norma Fairhurst and Betty Kelley. Street became the lead singer of the quintet, which won an Alpha Phi Alpha talent contest at Western Michigan University in 1962. The Velvelettes auditioned for Berry Gordy and signed to Motown Records in 1962. They recorded two singles in 1963: "There He Goes" and "That's The Reason Why." In 1964, the Velvelettes recorded and released the single "Needle In A Haystack" on Motown’s VIP Records, which peaked at #19 on the National Billboard Magazine’s Top 40. The group then recorded "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin',” which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at #21 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

In September of 1964, Betty Kelley left the Velvelettes to join Martha and the Vandellas. The remaining four Velvelettes continued to perform and released the singles “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)" in 1965, and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You,” in 1966, which later became a hit in the United Kingdom peaking at #34 on the UK Singles Chart. The Velvelettes also performed on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours, and the “chitlin circuit” that consisted of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; the Regal Theatre in Chicago, Illinois; and the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan. In the mid-1960s, Street moved from Kalamazoo to Detroit, Michigan, where she graduated from Chadsey High School and later from the business college of the Detroit Institute of Commerce.

In the late 1960s, Arbor, Fairhurst and McNeal left the Velvelettes and were replaced by Sandra Tilley and Annette Rogers-McMillan. Then, in 1969, Street disbanded the group after she married fellow singer and Temptations member, Richard Street. She later worked as an administrative assistant at Ford Motor Company and Western Michigan University, as an HR specialist at the Upjohn Company/Pfizer, and as an executive assistant for her local NAACP chapter.

In 1984, four of the original Velvelettes, Arbor, Fairhurst, McNeal and Street, reunited. In 1990, the group re-recorded their original hits and new songs for the album One Door Closes for Motorcity Records. Motown Records then released The Very Best of the Velvelettes in 1999, The Velvelettes: The Best Of in 2001, and The Velvelettes: The Motown Anthology in 2004. The Velvelettes are the only Motown group of the classic era still performing with the “original” line-up.

Street has one son, Richard Allen Street, Jr.

Carol Street was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 26, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.159

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/26/2014

Last Name

Street

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Middle Name

Ann

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Lincoln International Studies School

Chadsey High School

Detroit Institute of Commerce Business College

First Name

Caldin

Birth City, State, Country

Kalamazoo

HM ID

STR07

State

Michigan

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

8/10/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Kalamazoo

Country

USA

Short Description

Singer Cal Street (1946 - ) was a member of the classic Motown group the Velvelettes.

Employment

Motown Records

Motorcity Records

Ford Motor Company

Western Michigan University

Upjohn Company/Pfizer

NAACP, Local Chapter

Bertha McNeal

Singer and performer Bertha McNeal was born in Shannon, Mississippi and raised in Flint, Michigan. McNeal and her cousin, Norma Fairhurst, first sang in a group with their uncle called The Barbees, where they recorded “The Wind” and “Que Pasa” for the Stepp label in 1957. Following high school and the breakup of The Barbees, McNeal enrolled as a student at Western Michigan University as an accomplished classical pianist.

In 1961, McNeal and her friend, Mildred Arbor, formed a singing group called the Velvelettes at Western Michigan University. McNeal then recruited her cousin to join the group and Arbor enlisted her younger sister, Carolyn Street, and Street’s best friend, Betty Kelley. After the quintet won an Alpha Phi Alpha talent contest at the University, fellow student and nephew of Berry Gordy, Robert Bullock, suggested they audition for Gordy’s Motown Records. The Velvelettes signed to Motown in late 1962 and started recording in January of 1963. They recorded two singles in 1963: "There He Goes" and "That's The Reason Why." In 1964, the Velvelettes recorded and released the single "Needle In A Haystack" on Motown’s VIP Records, which peaked at #45 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The group then recorded "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin',” which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at #21 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

In September of 1964, Betty Kelley left the Velvelettes to join Martha and the Vandellas. The remaining four Velvelettes continued to perform and released the singles “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)" in 1965, and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You,” in 1966, which later became a hit in the United Kingdom peaking at #34 on the UK Singles Chart. In the late 1960s, McNeal, Fairhurst and Arbor left the group and were replaced by Sandra Tilley and Annette Rogers-McMillan. Then, in 1969, Carolyn Street married and disbanded the Velvelettes. McNeal went on to receive her M.A. degree in music and became a middle school teacher and choir director.

In 1984, four of the original Velvelettes, Arbor, Fairhurst, McNeal and Street, reunited. In 1990, the group re-recorded their original hits and new songs for the album One Door Closes for Motorcity Records. Motown Records then released The Very Best of the Velvelettes in 1999, The Velvelettes: The Best Of in 2001, and The Velvelettes: The Motown Anthology in 2004. The Velvelettes are the only Motown group of the classic era still performing with the “original” line-up.

Bertha McNeal was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 26, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.135

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/26/2014

6/27/2014

Last Name

McNeal

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Louise

Occupation
Schools

Western Michigan University

First Name

Bertha

Birth City, State, Country

Shannon

HM ID

MCN02

State

Mississippi

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

6/12/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

USA

Short Description

Singer Bertha McNeal (1940 - ) was a member of the classic Motown group the Velvelettes.

Employment

Stepp Records

Motown Records

Kalamazoo Public Schools

Motorcity Records

Mildred Arbor

Singer and performer Mildred Arbor was born in Mississippi to Dora and Reverend Willie Gill, Sr. In the early 1940s, when Arbor was still a child, her family moved from Mississippi to Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was raised in Kalamazoo and attended Western Michigan University.

At Western Michigan University, Arbor met Bertha McNeal and they formed a singing group in 1961 called the Velvelettes, which included Arbor’s younger sister, Carol Street, McNeal’s cousin, Norma Fairhurst, and Street’s friend, Betty Kelley. After the quintet won an Alpha Phi Alpha talent contest at the University, fellow student and nephew of Berry Gordy, Robert Bullock, suggested they audition for Gordy’s Motown Records. The Velvelettes signed to Motown in late 1962 and started recording in January of 1963. They recorded two singles in 1963: "There He Goes" and "That's The Reason Why." In 1964, the Velvelettes recorded and released the single "Needle In A Haystack" on Motown’s VIP Records, which peaked at #45 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The group then recorded "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin',” which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at #21 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

In September of 1964, Betty Kelley left the Velvelettes to join Martha and the Vandellas. The remaining four Velvelettes continued to perform and released the singles “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)" in 1965, and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You,” in 1966, which later became a hit in the United Kingdom peaking at #34 on the UK Singles Chart. The Velvelettes also performed on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours, and the “chitlin circuit” that consisted of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; the Regal Theatre in Chicago, Illinois; and the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan.

In the late 1960s, Arbor, Fairhurst and McNeal left the group and were replaced by Sandra Tilley and Annette Rogers-McMillan. Then, in 1969, Street married and disbanded the Velvelettes. Arbor went on to become a registered nurse at McLaren Hospital in Flint, Michigan, where she worked for over thirty years. She also retired from the Flint Board of Education Health Occupations as a program coordinator/instructor.

In 1984, four of the original Velvelettes, Arbor, Fairhurst, McNeal and Street, reunited. In 1990, the group re-recorded their original hits and new songs for the album One Door Closes for Motorcity Records. Motown Records then released The Very Best of the Velvelettes in 1999, The Velvelettes: The Best Of in 2001, and The Velvelettes: The Motown Anthology in 2004. The Velvelettes are the only Motown group of the classic era still performing with the “original” line-up.

Arbor has one daughter, two sons, and two granddaughters.

Mildred Arbor was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 25, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.158

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/25/2014

Last Name

Arbor

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Gill

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Western Michigan University

Lincoln International Studies School

Kalamazoo Central High School

First Name

Mildred

Birth City, State, Country

Brandon

HM ID

ARB01

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Chickey Do.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/15/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Flint

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Baked Chicken, Green Beans

Short Description

Singer Mildred Gill Arbor (1941 - ) was a member of the classic Motown group, The Velvelettes.

Employment

Motown Records

Motorcity Records

McLaren Hospital

Flint Board of Education Health Occupations

Favorite Color

Navy Blue, Silver

Timing Pairs
0,0:1656,96:12627,356:12972,362:18186,469:18571,475:27965,702:32700,714:33050,720:36340,796:38440,832:39210,851:40190,874:41870,918:42220,924:48874,963:49098,968:49378,974:49714,982:50106,990:52718,1001:58460,1053:59318,1069:60254,1085:60800,1093:62282,1118:63218,1132:63764,1140:64622,1152:65792,1170:66572,1183:67274,1195:67742,1202:70394,1237:71720,1294:72422,1304:72890,1311:79594,1357:80258,1367:93134,1553:93494,1559:95870,1624:96230,1632:96518,1637:97598,1659:98174,1674:106809,1800:107235,1807:107732,1816:108158,1832:109294,1872:109578,1877:110643,1908:128340,2078:128977,2089:130524,2125:131343,2211:135210,2282$0,0:963,20:1318,44:5720,145:6004,150:30506,433:33070,475:68885,907:73942,987:74453,995:74745,1000:94510,1249:96200,1281
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656950">Tape: 1 Slating of Mildred Gill Arbor's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656951">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656952">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers visiting her family in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656953">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656954">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her parents' reasons for leaving Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656955">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers her mother's career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656956">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656957">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers her father's career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656958">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656959">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her paternal family's land</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656960">Tape: 1 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about the Friendship Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656961">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor speculates on how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656962">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her parents' occupations, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656963">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her parents and her likeness to them</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656964">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656965">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656966">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor describes Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656967">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Friendship Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656968">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls Lincoln Junior High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656969">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656970">Tape: 2 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her early musical education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656971">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls the music of her youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656972">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her strict upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656973">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her classes at Kalamazoo Central High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656974">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her musical education at Kalamazoo Central High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656975">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her aspiration to become a nurse</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656976">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers forming The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656977">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls signing a contract with Motown Records, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656978">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls signing a contract with Motown Records, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656979">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers recording and touring with The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656980">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers The Velvelettes' song, 'There He Goes'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656981">Tape: 3 Mildred Gill Arbor recalls a mishap at a sock hop performance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656982">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656983">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Betty Kelly's move to The Vandellas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656984">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers The Andantes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656985">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers working with Stevie Wonder</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656986">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about The Velvelettes' repertoire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656987">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her compensation from Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656988">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers touring with The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656989">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers leaving The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656990">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor explains her decision not to join her church choir</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656991">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about the legal rights of Motown Records artists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656992">Tape: 4 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers reuniting with The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656993">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor remembers recording and touring in London, England</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656994">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor describes balancing her performances with her nursing duties</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656995">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her performance schedule with the Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656996">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor shares what she learned about the music industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656997">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor reflects upon her career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656998">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor speculates on the challenges to the Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656999">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/657000">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/657001">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor describes her concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/657002">Tape: 5 Mildred Gill Arbor describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/657003">Tape: 6 Mildred Gill Arbor narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/657004">Tape: 6 Mildred Gill Arbor narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

5$11

DATitle
Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her aspiration to become a nurse
Mildred Gill Arbor recalls a mishap at a sock hop performance
Transcript
So what kind of counseling did you get about--did you get any college counseling at all? I mean about what, whether you ought to go or not--$$I basically--we do--we did have a counselor, I went to the counselor and I told him I wanted to be a nurse. The only reason I want to be a nurse is because my mom [Dora McDonald Gill] was working at the Kalamazoo State Hospital [Kalamazoo Psychiatric Hospital, Kalamazoo, Michigan] and she would get up every morning, put her white uniform on and white shoes. And I said one of these days I'm going to be a nurse, without even thinking about it. So he told me I had to take chemistry. I think this was when I first started tenth grade. So that's why I took chemistry. Wrong thing to do, I knew nothing about chemistry. The tutors they had, as I was telling you before, did not--always ended his tutoring session when it was my turn to go--for him to tutor me. I was not happy with that at all. And then he told me that there were no nursing schools in Kalamazoo [Michigan] and he lied there were three. There was, both hospitals had a nursing school. Back in the day hospitals had nursing schools but they were diploma schools. And there was a junior college in Battle Creek [Michigan] that had a RN [registered nurse] school. But there was a practical nurses school in Kalamazoo. But my counselor told me there was nothing. So I didn't pursue anything.$$So the coun- (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I went straight to Western. And--$$How did you find out about Western--I mean did you know students there already or did you have any friends there?$$No, Western was just there. Some friends were students there that had graduated a year before I did.$$It's in Kalamazoo?$$In Kalamazoo.$$Western Michigan University$$Yes. And the practical nurses school that was there, I didn't know where it was. They didn't tell me that there was one there at all and there was no RN program other than both hospitals. They didn't tell me about those. So I basically had to find out on my own and the way I found out I went to Western, started in September, I dropped out--$$This is September of 1959 (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Sixty [1960].$$Sixty [1960], okay. Nineteen sixty [1960].$$Nineteen sixty [1960] I went to Western.$$Okay.$How long w- was the group [The Velvelettes] formed before you went on a tour, I mean started doing sock hops and that sort of thing?$$We started like almost when we did 'There He Goes.' I think that was '60 [1960].$$That was '60 [1960] I think. Or '61 [1961].$$But you know what happened one time it's real memorable this is really funny. I was married, lived here; we had to go to Detroit [Michigan] for a sock hop. I had the 45 record [45 rpm record] in the back of the seat of the car. We get down to the sock hop and they didn't have the 45 there, we had to bring our own. So we took the 45, we got up to start the song and do our routine and the record started skipping. Now do I need to say--should I--do I need to say anything else?$$This is a crisis.$$It's a crisis. Everybody started laughing--the whole audience started laughing and then they'd skip above it because the sun had warped the record.$$Oh, you left it in the back window.$$While we were driving down there, without even thinking.$$So the record was like a roller coaster.$$In a certain section but the person that was running the record should have his own 45, we had to take our own 'cause I guess Motown [Motown Records] didn't trust him to ha--I don't know but I do remember that (laughter).$$Okay.

Norma Fairhurst

Singer and performer Norma Fairhurst was born in Verona, Mississippi and raised in Flint, Michigan. Fairhurst and her cousin, Bertha McNeal, first sang in a group with their uncle called the Barbees, where they recorded an album for the Stepp label in 1957. Following high school and the breakup of the Barbees, Fairhurst enrolled as a student at Flint Junior College.

In 1961, while a freshman at Flint Junior College, Fairhurst was asked by her cousin to join a singing group at Western Michigan University with Mildred Arbor, Carolyn Street and Betty Kelley, which they named the Velvelettes. After the quintet won a talent contest at the University, fellow student and nephew of Berry Gordy, Robert Bullock, suggested they audition for Gordy’s Motown Records. The Velvelettes signed to Motown in late 1962 and started recording in January of 1963. They recorded two singles in 1963: "There He Goes," which was written by Fairhurst, and "That's The Reason Why." In 1964, the Velvelettes recorded and released the single "Needle In A Haystack" on Motown’s VIP Records, which peaked at #45 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The group then recorded "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin',” which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at #21 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

In September of 1964, Betty Kelley left the Velvelettes to join Martha and the Vandellas. The remaining four Velvelettes continued to perform and released the singles “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)" in 1965, and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You,” in 1966, which later became a hit in the United Kingdom peaking at #34 on the UK Singles Chart. In the late 1960s, Arbor, Fairhurst and McNeal left the group and were replaced by Sandra Tilley and Annette Rogers-McMillan. Then, in 1969, Carolyn Street married and disbanded the Velvelettes. Fairhurst went on to become general manager of the Radisson Hotel in Flint, Michigan.

In 1984, four of the original Velvelettes, Arbor, Fairhurst, McNeal and Street, reunited. In 1990, the group re-recorded their original hits and new songs for the album One Door Closes for Motorcity Records. Motown Records then released The Very Best of the Velvelettes in 1999, The Velvelettes: The Best Of in 2001, and The Velvelettes: The Motown Anthology in 2004. The Velvelettes are the only Motown group of the classic era still performing with the “original” line-up.

Norma Fairhurst was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 25, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.160

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/25/2014

Last Name

Fairhurst

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

Jean

Occupation
Schools

Charles Stewart Mott Community College

Flint Southwestern Academy

Emerson Junior High School

Jefferson Elementary School

First Name

Norma

Birth City, State, Country

Verona

HM ID

FAI05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

Wow.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/24/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Flint

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Spaghetti

Short Description

Singer Norma Fairhurst (1943 - ) was an original member of the Motown group The Velvelettes, known for records like ‘There He Goes’ and ‘Needle in a Haystack.’

Employment

Stepp Records

Motown Records

Motorcity Records

Radisson Riverfront Hotel

Flint and Genesee Convention and Visitors Bureau

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
0,0:6080,158:9590,259:13010,336:19400,478:19760,483:20840,518:21290,524:32215,629:52698,1014:54708,1033:59804,1217:63542,1241:63872,1247:64532,1264:64796,1273:66380,1302:68030,1335:68294,1340:69416,1375:69746,1381:79396,1575:85190,1666:87800,1716:88430,1724:89330,1736:94640,1797:95312,1806:108464,2017:109244,2029:109712,2037:116108,2172:116732,2181:120916,2193:131920,2319:132268,2326:133254,2355:133486,2360:135880,2380:143848,2487:148402,2628:149023,2638:149506,2648:150334,2662:150610,2667:151300,2689:151576,2694:157406,2722:158924,2750:159269,2756:159683,2763:164099,2983:172070,3118:172410,3132:193219,3339:194805,3383:197001,3433:199380,3494:199746,3501:200051,3507:205240,3597:207215,3633:209380,3680$0,0:237,5:1264,24:4740,85:6320,133:8690,197:16150,284:17158,301:17662,306:23003,369:27148,388:27706,395:29566,419:30496,433:35735,488:38795,548:41090,591:41855,604:44405,648:45255,659:49110,704:49590,711:58070,846:58390,851:58790,857:59110,862:67712,937:72963,1025:74832,1051:75633,1059:76612,1072:78570,1105:83198,1177:83643,1183:84533,1199:85423,1220:85779,1225:86135,1230:91722,1243:93382,1262:93714,1267:95208,1289:97117,1327:99773,1367:111155,1495:112200,1515:113055,1526:115905,1571:116855,1585:117235,1590:120370,1638:120750,1643:121985,1658:122745,1667:126150,1725:127374,1762:128238,1785:129030,1797:131046,1841:133206,1867:134070,1885:135510,1905:146364,2113:146712,2118:147408,2127:147756,2132:148539,2143:152106,2209:155412,2325:159842,2337:160172,2343:162074,2354:162608,2362:163676,2376:164566,2389:166758,2401:167538,2413:168162,2423:170810,2441:171138,2446:171466,2451:173598,2495:175156,2529:179010,2614:180732,2649:181306,2657:181880,2665:184340,2727:184668,2732:190374,2743:190806,2748:192102,2764:192534,2769:205280,2947:206190,3082:206610,3089:206890,3094:207240,3100:207660,3107:209097,3119:209856,3137:210339,3146:212133,3173:212409,3178:213237,3192:213582,3198:217248,3225:217904,3234:222540,3267:227540,3296
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656572">Tape: 1 Slating of Norma Fairhurst's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656573">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656574">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656575">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst talks about her mother's upbringing and employment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656576">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656577">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst talks about her father's U.S. Army service in World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656578">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst describes how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656579">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst talks about her father's career at the General Motors Corporation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656580">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst remembers her parents' personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656581">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst describes her earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656582">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst remembers her early singing experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656583">Tape: 1 Norma Fairhurst describes the sights and sounds of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656584">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers the music of her youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656585">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst describes her early musical training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656586">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers her father's alcoholism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656587">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst recalls her travels to the segregated South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656588">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers her experiences of bullying</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656589">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst describes her early personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656590">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers singing with the Barbees, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656591">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers singing with the Barbees, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656592">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst talks about the decline of the automotive industry in Flint, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656593">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst remembers her aspiration to become a performer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656594">Tape: 2 Norma Fairhurst describes the formation of The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656595">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst remembers writing the song 'There He Goes'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656596">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst recalls her coursework at Southwestern High School in Flint, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656597">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst remembers signing a contract with Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656598">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst talks about The Velvelettes' contract with Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656599">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst reflects upon her decision to sign with Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656600">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst talks about the rights to The Velvelettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656601">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst remembers The Velvelettes' early records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656602">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst remembers touring with The Temptations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656603">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst talks about Berry Gordy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656604">Tape: 3 Norma Fairhurst recalls the format of The Velvelettes' tours</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656605">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst reflects upon her experiences at Motown Records, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656606">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst remembers Maxine Powell</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656607">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst talks about The Velvelettes' success in England</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656608">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst remembers auditioning for The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656609">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst recalls her decision to leave Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656610">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst talks about the challenges of working as a performer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656611">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst remembers the start of her hospitality career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656612">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst talks about The Velvelettes' reunion, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656613">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst remembers recording with Nightmare Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656614">Tape: 4 Norma Fairhurst talks about The Velvelettes' reunion, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656615">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst describes The Velvelettes' rapport</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656616">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst talks about The Velvelettes' recognition from Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656617">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst reflects upon her life and career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656618">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst reflects upon her experiences at Motown Records, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656619">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst talks about her concerns for minority communities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656620">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst describes her children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656621">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst talks about her parents' perspective on her career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656622">Tape: 5 Norma Fairhurst describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656623">Tape: 6 Norma Fairhurst narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

8$7

DATitle
Norma Fairhurst remembers touring with The Temptations
Norma Fairhurst remembers the start of her hospitality career
Transcript
When did you start touring? Was that same, same year the record ['There He Goes/That's The Reason Why'] came out?$$Yeah. We did what we called sock hops to promote the record. And then The Temptations had asked Berry [HistoryMaker Berry Gordy] if we could open for them; and we think, you know, now that we're adults, they had other things in mind.$$Oh, I see.$$But then Berry knew that, too, so he sent Mrs. Powell [HistoryMaker Maxine Powell] with us.$$Okay. So, you were five young, nice looking--$$You know, I don't think--$$And--$$--Betty went with us 'cause he pulled Betty away from the group because--and she started with Martha Reeves [Martha and The Vandellas].$$Oh, he--so, he took Betty--$$Betty Kelly, yeah.$$--Kelly out and, and--$$Yeah.$$--and assigned her to The--$$Yeah.$$--Vandellas.$$'Cause one of their--yeah, one of their ladies pulled out, and he needed someone quickly to go on tour with Martha [HistoryMaker Martha Reeves]; and Betty went.$$Okay.$$And she stayed with The Vandellas for years. So, it was just Bertha [Fairhurst's paternal cousin, HistoryMaker Bertha McNeal], myself, and Carol [HistoryMaker Cal Street].$$Okay. All right. So--$$Mildred [HistoryMaker Mildred Gill Arbor] dropped out to have her first child, so it was just the three of us that toured; and then I dropped out, then Mildred came back--$$Did--$$--so, it was one of those things.$$Well did it affect the sound very much to be missing one--$$Not a whole lot.$$--more than the other? (Unclear) okay.$$Not a whole lot.$$Okay.$$I don't think. You'd have to ask Bertha that.$$Okay.$$'Cause evidently, Bertha would have--somebody took my soprano. I don't know which one. I've never asked. You're bringing up certain things I've never asked.$$Okay. But, the--there were five of you on the original recording, 'There He Goes'?$$Yeah, um-hm.$$All five?$$Um-hm.$$Okay. All right. So, so, did The Temptations try to take advantage of you all on the road?$$Ye-$$Or some of them, or?$$Mrs. Powell was with us. I remember we were in Baltimore [Maryland], I believe, and it was my birthday, so they wanted to surprise me and give me a birthday party, and they gave the birthday party in my room, I think; and Mrs. Powell walked in, and David Ruffin went under the bed and--I mean, you know it was crazy. I, I--they really never tried any--they had so many women laying in the hallways and--oh, it was awful. You know, and I was trying to be a mother to them saying, "Don't do that, what are you doing? That's wrong." "Oh, Norma [HistoryMaker Norma Fairhurst], shut up," they'd say. But, no, they probably would've tried different things, I guess, 'cause they were grown men and we were just teenagers. But, to my knowledge, they flirted but never really tried to do any--push themselves on us or anything like that.$$Okay.$$'Cause Mrs. Powell was there, remember?$$All right.$$And then she called Berry when she found them in my room.$$Okay.$$And they were reprimanded when they got back to Detroit [Michigan].$$I know when I was in high school, the high school girls were fascinated by The Temptations.$$Oh, they were--we were, too.$$Okay.$$Trust me. We thought, god, we're singing with the Temp- they were fabulous. I mean, they were all tall and their choreography and their singing--they were wonderful as far as, you know, being entertainers. But, you know, I guess they were lonely, too, for family members and for friends. So, they threw me a birthday party, and we weren't really doing anything, you know, but sitting there laughing and talking.$$Mrs. Powell wa- wasn't gonna have it?$$Oh, she wasn't gonna have that 'cause she said Berry would have her head.$Now, when did you start working in the hotel industry; and how did that come about?$$Actually, my mom [Earlene Tardy Barbee] visited with me and my hair was standing all over my head and I got the diapers and the whatever, she says, "You need a job. You need to get out and be among people. I don't like seeing you like this." And, so I was really--I started out in retail, but it was always accounting. I ended up working for a store in the office doing all the billing. And then I worked in the office, and then I went on the floor and sold clothing; so I was kind of this all around person. And then I started working for one of our local television stations in accounting and I found out I was really good 'cause I was determined and a hard worker. I won awards for collect--I worked in accounts receivables, and I ended up retrieving more money than anybody in the whole ABC network. I was just an achiever. I wanted to do well. And working at a TV station was kind of hospitality-ish, kind of singing. I was around people--flamboyant people, newscasters, reporters, anchors, you know, so that was kind of still in that realm of entertainment. And then I left there because I got a divorce and I had to make more money, and I think I took a job with United Way, and I was their accountant. So, I paid all the agencies under the United Way umbrella, which was a, a big job--worked with their CDs [certificate of deposit], their investments, that sort of thing. And then I left United Way--I could always get jobs, good jobs without a degree, I was very fortunate. I left there and I believe I went to the--to the Flint area convention and visitors bureau [Flint and Genesee Convention and Visitors Bureau] selling Flint [Michigan] and Genesee County [Michigan] as a destination site for conferences. And I got awards for that, too. I brought the biggest group ev- that Flint has ever seen as far as a conference--Benny Hinn's. I billed all the hotels and, and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, the religious--$$Yep. Yeah.$$--broadcast evangelist.$$Brought him in, yeah, and I brought in more business than anybody in history in Genesee County. So, I did very well at that job and I guess the owner of the Radisson Hotel [Radisson Riverfront Hotel; Riverfront Character Inn, Flint, Michigan] at the time saw my track record, so when he purchased the building, he hired me as director of sales and marketing. I did very well with that. I brought in--'cause I knew the contacts. So, I did very well at that job and then I was promoted for--what was my next position there at the hotel? Assistant general manager and then finally general manager. And I felt very proud of myself 'cause I had worked very hard, many long hours to get to that point (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Now, how long? I mean, what, what year is this when you become general manager?$$I don't remember. I, I don't--$$Is this in the--$$--keep track of years and--$$--in, in the '90s [1990s] or?$$Yeah.$$In the '90s [1990s]? Okay.$$Yeah. Yeah. I don't keep track. And I felt really good about myself because not only is it--is it rare for women to get a position of that nature, but a black woman 'cause I belong to a national organization, so I know how many blacks were in that position.

Joe Billingslea, Jr.

Singer and performer Joe Billingslea, Jr. was born on November 14, 1937 in Hamtramck, Michigan. Before his first birthday, his parents moved to Detroit, Michigan where he was raised. He sang with the boys' choir while attending Chadsey High School. After graduation, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. While stationed in the State of Maine, Billingslea formed a vocal group with four other airmen called the Revere Tone Five. After receiving an honorable discharge following his four-year stint, he returned to Detroit.

Upon his return, Billingslea was invited by an old high school friend, Billy Gordon, to join his singing group, The Majestics. In 1958, the group disbanded, so Billingslea and Gordon decided to form a new vocal group. Billingslea placed a want-ad in the local newspaper looking for singers. Billy Hoggs responded to the ad and became the group's third member. At Hoggs' recommendation, his friend Billy Rollins, became the fourth member of a group they named The Blenders. Within weeks, Rollins was replaced with another friend of Hoggs, Leroy Fair. In 1959, Hubert Johnson was added, making the group a quintet. At Billingslea’s suggestion, the group renamed itself "The Contours."

Within days of the name change, The Contours signed a recording contract with Motown Records. The group's first two records in 1960 and 1961 on the Motown label didn't receive much airplay outside the Midwest. However, in 1962 the group made music history with the million-seller, "Do You Love Me", recorded on Motown's newest label, Gordy. Billingslea continued to sing with The Contours for two more years, racking up a number of chart hits on the way. In 1964, every member of The Contours, except Billy Gordon, left the group over creative differences with Motown.

Billingslea took a job for Chrysler Corporation at the Dodge Truck Plant in Warren, Michigan. A year later, he was elected UAW Chief Steward; a position he held until he resigned in 1968 to join the Wayne County Sheriff's Department. In 1977, he joined the Detroit Correctional Department (DeHoCo), and eventually reached the rank of Sergeant.

In the early 1970s, Billingslea reconstituted The Contours and the group began playing weekends in the greater Detroit area, with occasional dates outside Michigan, including a few international dates. While leading The Contours, he continued to work his day job and in November 1985 he was assigned to the Detroit Police Department, 9th Floor Lockup.

In 1987, the release of the movie, "Dirty Dancing" created a renewed interest in The Contours’ music. The 1988 re-release of "Do You Love Me" from the movie's soundtrack soared on the charts, eventually going multi-platinum at level 4.0. The movie's success prompted the ten-month "Dirty Dancing Tour," in which The Contours participated.

In 1989, Billingslea decided to resign from the Detroit Police Department to devote all of his time to The Contours and his singing career. He is married and has eight children - five boys and three girls.

Joe Billingslea was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.206

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/22/2014

Last Name

Billingslea

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Sill School

Condon Intermediate School

Chadsey High School

First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Hamtramck

HM ID

BIL04

State

Michigan

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

11/14/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

USA

Short Description

Singer and performer Joe Billingslea, Jr. (1937 - ) was a member of the musical group The Contours, famed for their 1962 Motown hit “Do You Love Me.” The Contours have been inducted into both the Rock ‘n’ Roll Walk of Fame and the Doo-Wop Hall of Fame.

Employment

The Majestics

The Contours

Chrysler Corporation

United Automobile Workers

Wayne County Sheriff's Department

Detroit Correctional Department

Detroit Police Department, 9th Floor Lockup

Mary Wilson

Motown recording artist Mary Wilson was born in Greenville, Mississippi to Sam Wilson, a butcher, and Johnnie Mae Wilson, a homemaker, on March 6, 1944. At age three, Wilson’s parents sent her to live in Detroit, Michigan with her aunt, I.V. Pippin, and uncle, John L. Pippin. In 1952, Wilson moved to Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects. She was bused from the projects to Algers elementary school in 1956 when integration of public schools began. Wilson went on to graduate from Northeastern high school in 1962.

In 1959, Wilson joined a local singing group, Primettes, which also included Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and Betty McGlown. The Primettes performed at the 1960 Detroit-Windsor Freedom Festival amateur talent contest and won first place. In 1961, the group, which now included Barbara Martin, signed with Motown Records and changed their name to the Supremes. After Martin left the group in 1962 the Supremes permanently became a trio and traveled that year with “The Motortown Revue,” a showcase of Motown artists including the Temptations, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye.

In 1963, the Supremes teamed up with writer-producers Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland (HDH). A few of their records received national airplay. Having recorded the Supremes, who had shared the lead singing for three years without a hit record, Gordy rearranged the group with Wilson and Ballard as background singers. The Supremes scored their first hit in 1963 with the song, “When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes.” The group reached #1 on U.S. pop charts for the first time in 1964 with the hit record and single, Where Did Our Love Go.

In 1964, the Supremes became one of the first Motown acts to perform outside of the United States when they played at the Clay House Inn in Bermuda. The Supremes also began European tours starting with Great Britain and later toured elsewhere, including the Far East. Where Did Our Love Go was followed by four consecutive singles that reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts: “Baby Love,” which was also a #1 hit in the UK; “Come See About Me”; “Stop! In the Name of Love”; and “Back in My Arms Again.” “Baby Love” was nominated for the 1965 Grammy Award for Best R&B Song.

The Supremes became the first black pop group of the sixties to play New York City’s Copacabana, and the first pop group to play New York’s Philharmonic Hall in Lincoln Center in 1965. Wilson began a solo career after the group disbanded in 1977. As a solo performer, Wilson toured the world, recorded, acted on stage and television, and participated in celebrity charity events. Wilson wrote about her career with Motown and the Supremes in Dreamgirls: My Life as a Supreme (1986) and Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together (1990).

The Supremes received the NAACP Image Award for Best Female Group in 1972, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Wilson was honored in 1973 with a Mary Wilson Day in Detroit.

Mary Wilson Was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 19, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.323

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/24/2013

Last Name

Wilson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Northeastern High School

Bishop Elementary School

First Name

Mary

Birth City, State, Country

Greenville

HM ID

WIL69

Favorite Season

Spring, Chirstmas

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Love

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/6/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Japanese

Short Description

Singer Mary Wilson (1944 - ) , an original member of The Supremes, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

Employment

Motown Records

Favorite Color

Blues, Pastel, Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:4664,85:11130,169:16482,195:17058,251:17706,263:20272,339:20600,344:20928,349:23935,370:25678,403:26425,410:28168,435:28666,443:30160,476:30907,486:39510,571:41310,588:41790,596:44768,611:56716,824:58608,875:59296,885:59726,891:60328,899:63510,943:63940,949:90241,1236:90988,1247:91320,1252:92316,1268:93810,1289:102666,1388:103126,1394:103494,1399:106960,1449:109092,1486:109420,1491:110978,1510:111470,1517:112700,1555:115460,1569:115946,1584:116162,1589:117760,1606:121180,1689:121636,1696:131026,1844:133755,1863:140702,1995:142268,2025:142616,2040:143921,2085:154536,2348:157140,2467:165174,2574:165582,2579:179810,2755:180363,2763:181074,2775:190962,2871:207782,3124:210932,3165:219375,3274:225196,3334:225819,3342:228753,3363:229167,3370:232548,3467:240897,3676:245757,3703:250531,3811:250993,3828:253457,3910:254304,3928:254997,3944:255536,3953:256922,3992:263980,4064:264260,4156:278884,4369:283678,4459:284430,4508:334120,5182$0,0:882,20:1134,25:1638,35:2268,48:5004,114:6636,149:7452,166:8268,220:12756,309:13028,314:13368,361:32460,511:32796,516:33384,525:35600,554:38192,593:39056,607:39704,620:48172,708:50226,745:51727,786:54966,865:55282,870:61148,951:61836,962:65992,1003:66604,1013:69188,1063:69868,1074:72044,1124:73132,1148:74968,1188:75240,1193:79180,1209:79476,1214:79920,1222:80216,1227:82732,1290:83028,1295:84952,1320:85914,1337:86210,1342:86506,1347:87986,1379:96350,1483:96894,1492:97574,1501:98254,1513:101178,1581:101722,1590:102810,1613:103082,1618:103490,1625:103762,1630:105530,1668:105802,1673:106346,1684:106618,1689:108114,1723:108590,1731:110976,1743:111782,1762:113208,1790:113828,1802:114200,1810:114448,1815:122891,1881:123587,1891:124283,1903:125675,1927:135754,2072:139114,2136:139702,2150:140038,2155:140710,2166:143734,2237:144742,2260:145918,2283:152540,2319:159690,2398:162318,2436:165852,2496:166782,2515:180750,2721:181125,2728:181650,2737:182400,2756:185325,2783:187786,2802:192600,2889:193575,2904:193950,2910:194325,2917:198376,2963:200428,3003:201264,3020:215136,3236:217296,3261:218304,3295:218808,3300:219096,3305:225648,3486:226080,3493:226944,3508:227232,3513:232828,3527:233516,3537:234290,3549:234806,3557:235494,3570:236354,3578:238934,3637:239708,3650:240052,3655:247250,3734:250250,3791:250625,3797:251900,3822:252200,3827:260880,3915:266572,3992:267124,4003:267400,4008:268573,4039:269263,4053:270091,4067:272989,4137:274162,4165:275335,4182:278509,4235:278854,4241:288468,4331:292391,4387:292865,4394:303084,4482:304020,4502:304308,4507:304596,4512:306468,4542:308124,4569:309852,4602:311004,4619:313308,4721:315540,4749:316188,4783:316548,4789:324241,4857:329470,4927:331960,5012:353118,5318:353366,5323:354870,5337
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647558">Tape: 1 Slating of Mary Wilson's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647559">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647560">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647561">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647562">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson remembers learning that she was adopted</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647563">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647564">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson talk about her adoptive parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647565">Tape: 1 Mary Wilson remembers moving into her birth mother's household</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647566">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson lists her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647567">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson describes her household</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647568">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson recalls her start as a choir singer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647569">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson remembers Carolyn Franklin and the Franklin family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647570">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson talks about the music scene in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647571">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson remembers the popularity of teenage doo wop groups</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647572">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson describes the formation of The Primettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647573">Tape: 2 Mary Wilson remembers The Primettes' early performances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647574">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson talks about her role in The Primettes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647575">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson remembers Milton Jenkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647576">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson talks about Northeastern High School in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647577">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson remembers auditioning for Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647578">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson talks about signing with Lu Pine Records and Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647579">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson remembers hanging out at Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647580">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson talks about the distribution of The Primettes' first record</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647581">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson remembers Mary Wells</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647582">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson describes the structure of Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647583">Tape: 3 Mary Wilson remembers the creativity and talent at Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647584">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson explains the importance of recording contract negotiations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647585">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson talks about her decision to speak out about Motown Records' unfair contracts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647586">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers her parents' emphasis on college education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647587">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers touring with the 'Motortown Revue'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647588">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers the chaperones for the 'Motortown Revue'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647589">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647590">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647591">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson talks about her experiences of integration in Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647592">Tape: 4 Mary Wilson remembers working with Holland-Dozier-Holland</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647593">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson talks about the songwriting process at Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647594">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson describes the voices and personalities of The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647595">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson describes the relationships with other Motown artists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647596">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson remembers The Supremes' first tour of the United Kingdom</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647597">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson remembers Maxine Powell</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647598">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson talks about the early success of The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647599">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson remembers Cholly Atkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647600">Tape: 5 Mary Wilson talks about The Supremes' responses to their success</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647601">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson remembers Florence Ballard</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647602">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson talks about the group dynamic of The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647603">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson talks about the struggles of The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647604">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson talks about Florence Ballard' departure from The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647605">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson talks about her favorite songs in The Supremes' repertoire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647606">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson remembers The Supremes' opening night at the Copacabana in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647607">Tape: 6 Mary Wilson remembers the addition of Cindy Birdsong to The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647608">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson remembers the addition of Cindy Birdsong and Jean Terrell to The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647609">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson talk about her work life balance during a transitional period with The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647610">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson talks about losing friendships and support systems</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647611">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson recalls The Supremes' final performance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647612">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson remembers the breakup of The Supremes, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647613">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson talks about her marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647614">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson remembers the breakup of The Supremes, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647615">Tape: 7 Mary Wilson remembers Florence Ballard's funeral</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647616">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson talks about the aftermath of Florence Ballard's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647617">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson talks about the legal battle with Motown Records over ownership of The Supremes name</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647618">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson talks about focusing on her career after The Supremes disbanded</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647619">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson remembers her divorce</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647620">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson talks about 'Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647621">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson talks about the release of her autobiographies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647622">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson recalls the attempts to organize a reunion tour for The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647623">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson remembers her son's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647624">Tape: 8 Mary Wilson reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647625">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson talks about her plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647626">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647627">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson reflects upon the legacy of The Supremes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647628">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647629">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson remembers the Christmas parties at Motown Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/647630">Tape: 9 Mary Wilson describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$6

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
Mary Wilson describes the formation of The Primettes
Mary Wilson remembers The Supremes' opening night at the Copacabana in New York City
Transcript
But wait, but let, let's go--so it's you and Carol- Carolyn and you, right? Carolyn suggests the group; let's, let--okay, before and then?$$Okay, well after we were no longer bused to the other school [Alger Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan], we went to the school, Bishop [Bishop Elementary School, Detroit, Michigan], and it was at that time when we had the--our school had a talent show and our school said, "If you wanna be a part of this talent show, sign up in the gymnasium wall and you know you'd be on the show." So, here I am loving Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, I saw them on some show. Now this was the beginning of, of rock and roll and, and I fell in love with Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers. So, when I saw the sign on, on the gymnasium wall about being a part of a show, I said, "Oh, okay." And I dressed up in my brother's [Roosevelt Wilson] blue jeans and black leather jacket, and back then the colored boys, the black boys, Afro Americans we say now, wore processed hair. So, I had a du wet rag tied around my head, had a big a comb in my pocket, and I went up there and I pantomimed to Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers' song. This was very odd--I just wanna regress a minute here. Why I would do that? Because my only experience, and this was having sung with Carolyn Franklin for a little bit, and then we were bused back to Bishop and now I see on TV, these guys singing. Fell in love with Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers and now I'm signing up for this show. I'm like--I didn't think about this then, but as I think about it now, where did that come from? It wasn't like I said I wanna be a singer or whatever. I mean these things are just kind of coming into my lap and I'm just following 'em. So, I went up there, I never even thought I could sing, I never thought about it, and I pantomimed to that record. Well, the crowd in the gymnasium went wild, they were like, "Go Mary [HistoryMaker Mary Wilson], go Mary," da, da. And, and I mean I had the crowd just like going and I'm only twelve or twelve and a half, something like that. So, then Florence [Florence Ballard] was on the same--she had, I guess she had signed up. I didn't know her, but she lived in the projects [Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects; Frederick Douglass Homes, Detroit, Michigan] and in the projects, there were thousands of people. You may see them but you don't really know them all the time. So, she sang and she actually was singing, she said, (singing) "Ave Maria," ['Ave Maria,' Franz Schubert] and everybody was like, "Whoa!" So, as wild as they were about me, we all were like, "She's only twelve and a half too." And she's this--voice was huge. It was big and she sounded so great. Somehow or another I don't remember anybody else on the show at all, never have actually, and she and I kind of migrated that day after the show and we started just talking and, and I said why--I said, "Ooh, your voice, it's so big and it's so beautiful," da, da. And she said, "Girl, you had the crowd going." They were. Now, I'm a quiet, bashful type. For me to get up there and do that was so out of character, but yet, and still when I did that, you know it dawned on me that I totally enjoyed doing that and did it so naturally, so it was if I had been trained and I had not been. So, Florence and I became friends that day and she, we talked about you know everyone's got these little groups and this and that, I didn't think--I use to be with Carolyn and then, da, da, da, you know and then we started talking and said, "Well maybe we should start one or anyone talks--wants it, let's remember each other." So, we walked home that day and became friends, and sure enough a couple of months later Florence came up to me on the playground and she said, "Mary," she said, "this, this group called The Primes wanna put a girl group together, and my sister [Maxine Ballard Jenkins] is dating one of the guys, and their manager, Milton Jenkins, wanted to know if, you know, if I wanna be in it." She said, "I told them about you." And she said, "I heard they were gonna go across the street. You know this girl Diana [Diana Ross] that lives right across the street from you?" "Yeah, I've seen her out there. She's always playing with the boys," and da, da. "They've asked her so and they want to see us." And then we all, me, Diana and Flo walked down to the guy's apartment. Our parents would've killed us had they known we did that, but we went over to their house and that's when we met The Primes, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams and Kell Osborne and the manager, Milton Jenkins. And, so they asked us, "Well can you girls sing?" You know, and so we're like um, you know, and so Florence says, "I know this song." And she started singing 'You Know the Night Time is the Right Time,' the Ray Charles song, and so Diane and I--and then there was another girl there, Betty [Betty McGlown]. I guess she had been dating one of the guys and we all chimed in and sang the song. Not taught anything and it sounded beautiful, so Milton said, "All right, we've got the group. We're The Primes and you're The Primettes." And that's how we started singing.$What about--can you talk about the night of the Copacabana [New York, New York]? Can you talk?$$Which night? We were there for two weeks.$$Oh, the first night, the opening, I mean the--well, you don't wanna talk about that?$$Um.$$Okay.$$No, I mean I don't know what you mean?$$Well, I'm just saying can you talk about the whole--let's say--$$The experience?$$Let's talk about the experience, yes.$$Okay, sure. Gee, the experience. First of all, it was extremely exciting to, to know, to be rehearsing for a show that you know could go this way or go that way (gestures), and we had enough experience to know that we were, should be going there, and we rehearsed on all the songs. We knew the songs very well and I think there was one, only area where it could've been negative and that was I think Florence [Florence Ballard] was supposed to sing "People" and that song was--chose not to. She couldn't sing it. I think that was the only downer that I can remember of opening at the Copa. It was extremely exciting. It was a place where Mr. Jules Podell, supposedly this was all mafia and all kind of stuff, and you know you'd hear all the stories throughout the years, so it was very exciting to, to know that we were going to be in that environment 'cause in a way it kind of put back into the old mature, you know the, in the days when things were--it was a different generation so we're kind of catching the last part of a generation that's dying out and we're there. I remember seeing a contract or something of Sammy Davis [Sammy Davis, Jr.], who he was making five thousand dollars and I think we were making five thousand dollars too. So, it--things like that were, were happening and you're like just so excited that you're actually right now living your dream. So, all remember is that we were actually living our dream. We were there at the Copacabana. The place was packed. We heard that all kinds of people were there. I don't know if it was the first night we were there it was Flip Wilson, or I mean all kinds of who, who was, or who is, was there. So, yeah, it was, it was and then after the--during the show it was a very exciting. Everyone was sitting there and they were very excited. You could tell that they were totally into it. So, it was a success. It was--to talk about the experience we lived our dream at the Copacabana. They actually recorded it as well and, oh, I'll tell you the other downer was we had on these horrible outfits that we did not like and they had, someone had brought all these flowers and put 'em around here, fake flowers, right? We hated those gowns, I know I did and I remember we tore 'em off later, but, and, and then we had a hat--got straw hats with a cane and that was the album cover of the, of the album that they recorded there ['The Supremes at the Copa']. So, that was--it was very, very exciting. It was everything you would want a successful night opening to be.$$Who, who was responsible for that? Was that a whole group or team of people at, at Motown [Motown Records] and did [HistoryMakers] Berry Gordy sit down and talk to you about the significance of that as a--?$$I don't know if Berry had to sit and talk to us.$$Okay.$$Yeah, I don't think that, that was something that we--I say that to say we all knew that this was.$$A big deal.$$The big, the biggie. Well, that's that I think I'm saying it wasn't something that he would say, "Girl we gonna go to the Copa." I don't think that had to happen because we had been preparing for that, but there was a team of people, yes, working around us. As I mentioned earlier, the artist development people. But they also had the P, the PR [public relations] and I'm quite sure who they used for that and then you had the marketing, Barney Ales and the sales department. But I think they also had a, you know the new public relations team that was helping, 'cause this is New York [New York]. So, I think we had all kind of New York affiliations there that would help them in that. So, it was a, a full fledged, everybody was involved in it.$$Now, the line up, 'cause there were, you did a whole range of songs, you weren't just doing your, your, popu- you know your hits?$$Um-hm.$$So how were those decisions made?$$Well, as I mentioned earlier we, we actually had been doing loads of, of standard material. The kind of in our earlier days we, that's what we , we actually--that was our expertise and I think Berry in his you know knowing that we could go to this next level understood that they're already doing this kind of standard material. They call it today, 'American Songbook,' ['Great American Songbook'] they didn't say that back then, but that's what it was, and we were already doing that, so this kind of fit into a scheme of where they wanted to be as a company too because we were already, we were already singing some of those kind of songs, so it just made sense to continue on, and I, I that's one thing that Mrs. Powell [HistoryMaker Maxine Powell] always said, "You're diamonds in the rough and we're just here to polish you." So, I think that Berry and Motown, everyone kind of you know had said you know, "Supremes, they can do this. We, our dream is to go there, The Supremes can take us there." So, they gave us all the ammunition they had and we were able to do it.

Shelley Fisher

Singer and pianist Shelley Fisher was born on April 6, 1942 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. In 1953, he moved to Chicago and grew up on the city’s West Side. Fisher studied music theory, composition and vocal technique in the Chicago Junior College System, and at Roosevelt University’s Chicago Conservatory of Music. He received his A.A. degree in music education and social science from Crane Junior College in 1963.

Upon graduation, Fisher became the featured vocalist with the Morris Ellis Orchestra in Chicago. In 1966 he had a principal role in Oscar Brown, Jr.'s musical production “Summer in the City.” Fisher went on to open for Stevie Wonder at the original Regal Theater in Chicago. He then moved to Los Angeles in 1970, where he played the piano and sang for the “jet set.” In 1972, Fisher co-starred in the comedy motion picture Calliope. He also played the role of the piano player in The Three Wishes of Billy Grier, starring Ralph Macchio, and in Letter to Three Wives, with Loni Anderson. Fisher wrote and performed the original music for the motion picture Drifting Clouds.

In 1977, Fisher returned to Chicago, where he taught in two Chicago public schools. In 1985, Fisher launched Vantown Productions, Inc., a publishing and production company. He has composed and published many musical titles, including Yesterday’s Dreams (Lou Rawls on Capital Records), Plainsville, USA (Jimmy Randolph on Motown Records), King Size Bed (The Valentine Brothers on Sony Records), and Girl, I Love You, which launched the career of Chicago R&B legend, Garland Green.

From 1978 through 1999, Fisher worked abroad, namely in Osaka, Japan, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and Oslo, Norway. In 1997, he wrote, arranged and produced CELEBRATION, A Tribute to Nat “King” Cole, a Las Vegas style program produced at NRK TV (Norwegian TV). Fisher toured in Europe and broke two attendance records with performances in Den Hague, Holland and at Puntaldia, the jazz music festival on the island of Sardinia, Italy.

In 2000, Fisher moved to Las Vegas, where he performed at New York, New York, the MGM Grand, the Venetian, and the MGM/Mirage hotels. He has shared billing or recorded with other well-known artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, The Dells, Eartha Kitt and B.B. King. Fisher has also recorded two full-length CDs: 2003’s Driving Home, and 2004’s Stories.

Shelley Fisher was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 23, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.317

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/23/2013

Last Name

Fisher

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Middle Name

Dell

Occupation
Schools

Farragut Career Academy Hs

Theodore Herzl Elementary School

Calvin Coolidge Senior High School

Chicago Conservatory of Music

First Name

Shelley

Birth City, State, Country

Clarksdale

HM ID

FIS05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Sardinia

Favorite Quote

If You Really Want To See The Daughter, First Look At The Mother.$

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Interview Description
Birth Date

4/6/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Oatmeal

Short Description

Singer, pianist, and Shelley Fisher (1942 - ) toured nationally and internationally for over thirty years. He also acted in various stage productions and films, and authored a autobiography titled 'A Motherless Child.'

Employment

Turner Manufacturing Company

United States Postal Service

Chicago Daily Defender

Johnson Publishing Company

Delete

Invictus/Hotwax Records (Capitol)

Vantown Productions, Inc.

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:214,6:18312,398:23055,468:23770,480:24095,486:24420,492:33700,589:44160,787:44460,792:51028,869:51712,886:52168,893:52776,901:54354,928:61960,980:62600,990:64520,1041:66680,1083:75126,1203:79728,1292:82302,1344:82770,1353:91706,1489:92098,1494:97586,1586:97978,1591:111480,1808:120800,1962:129143,2102:133266,2111:138562,2226:151676,2470:156776,2665:158306,2695:167046,2807:167342,2813:172522,2961:192260,3109:193378,3131:196216,3177:198710,3233:199312,3242:199914,3251:203652,3283:203868,3288:212570,3458:213395,3480:220558,3572:227290,3674:235038,3775:241746,3931:257970,4154:258626,4163:259774,4181:260922,4197:262234,4238:274182,4425:279817,4526:281521,4560:282660,4569$0,0:216,3:720,12:1008,17:3816,110:4752,121:67567,1055:68314,1065:69061,1079:69476,1085:72713,1130:73045,1135:73377,1140:73875,1148:81992,1209:82838,1221:85094,1251:86410,1292:97959,1431:105190,1503:106604,1533:110139,1582:122020,1723:157265,2162:161062,2191:169933,2364:186174,2519:189625,2545:190150,2557:196160,2603:198932,2634:199427,2640:203090,2696:203585,2703:204080,2709:216455,2880:218717,2908:219761,2924:220370,2932:228617,2987:229262,2993:231066,3017:240960,3149:241810,3161:248690,3241:252110,3288:255544,3323:259680,3489:290770,3820:292330,3856:295970,3931:297340,3939
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656466">Tape: 1 Slating of Shelley Fisher's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656467">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656468">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656469">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656470">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher talks about his family's affiliation with the Baptist church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656471">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher talks about his mother's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656472">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher describes his early years in Crenshaw, Mississippi, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656473">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher describes his early years in Crenshaw, Mississippi, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656474">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher talks about his early understanding of gender identity</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656475">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656476">Tape: 1 Shelley Fisher describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656477">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher talks about his difficult upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656478">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher remembers joining his father in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656479">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher talks about his behavior as an adolescent in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656480">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher recalls his involvement in Chicago gangs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656481">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher talks about early gang activity in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656482">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher recalls the gang violence that he experienced</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656483">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher remembers his involvement in criminal activity as a teenager</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656484">Tape: 2 Shelley Fisher recalls the inspiration behind his enlistment in the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656485">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher talks about his honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656486">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher remembers selling magazine subscriptions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656487">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher recalls taking the civil service exam to become a mail carrier</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656488">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher remembers enrolling at Crane Junior College in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656489">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher talks about his various jobs in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656490">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher remembers acquaintances from his youth in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656491">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher describes the music scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656492">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher talks about record companies and radio stations in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656493">Tape: 3 Shelley Fisher describes the music scene in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656494">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher remembers the music venues and people in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656495">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher describes Oscar Brown, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656496">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher talks about his role in Oscar Brown, Jr.'s musical production 'Summer in the City'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656497">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher remembers singer Lou Rawls</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656498">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher talks writing the song 'Girl I Love You'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656499">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher recalls founding Aries Records and moving to Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656500">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher talks about learning to play piano</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656501">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher remembers singing with the Morris Ellis Orchestra in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656502">Tape: 4 Shelley Fisher talks about his early career in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656503">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher recalls working with Motown Records in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656504">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher talks about his struggle with substance abuse</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656505">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher remembers his relationship with Jacqueline Dalya</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656506">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher talks about moving back to Chicago, Illinois in the late 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656507">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher remembers his job teaching blues music in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656508">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher recalls living in Japan, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656509">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher recalls living in Japan, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656510">Tape: 5 Shelley Fisher remembers his experiences in Canada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656511">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher describes his film and music career in Canada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656512">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher recalls performing in Europe, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656513">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher recalls performing in Europe, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656514">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher remembers visiting the Auschwitz concentration camps in Oswiecim, Poland</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656515">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher talks about the production of 'Drifting Clouds'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656516">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher describes how he started performing in Las Vegas, Nevada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656517">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher talks about the car accident that ended his piano career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656518">Tape: 6 Shelley Fisher reflects upon his accident</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656519">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher talks about how he revived his singing career after his accident</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656520">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher talks about his portrayal of Conrad Murray</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656521">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher describes the musical legacy of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656522">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656523">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656524">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher describes his decision to leave Las Vegas, Nevada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656525">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/656526">Tape: 7 Shelley Fisher narrates his photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$5

DATitle
Shelley Fisher talks about learning to play piano
Shelley Fisher remembers his job teaching blues music in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
I got there it was raining. Got--never go to L.A. [Los Angeles, California] hungry in December. It's the rainy season. And I went, I got there, and I figured if you're gonna jump in the water, get in the deep water, 'cause that's where the, you know, don't be--you know. So I checked in at the Continental hotel [Continental Hyatt House; Andaz West Hollywood, Los Angeles, California] there on Sunset [Boulevard]. Now I, remember I got $350 in my pocket. I think that lasted about three days, and I was out on the street. And I had some jewelry that I pawned, and I checked into the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. I went from the five star to the Y (laughter). And I, one day I was so, I didn't even have money to make the phone call to call the agent. I had to walk from Wilcox [Avenue] and Sunset, which is--I don't know if you know L.A.--to 8100 Sunset, which is almost Beverly Hills [California], walked just to see if I, if anybody had a job for me. And about two weeks went by and nobody, they said, "Sorry, we're working on it." And then one day I got a call. I mean I got a yes. And I said, "Well, where, where is it?" 'Cause I'd, I'd, when I went to California, I took music. I'd had charts, all the charts I used in Morris Ellis' band, and you know, I had music up the ying yang, no--I said, "How much music should I take?" He said, "Well, what do you mean?" (Laughter) I said, "Well, how many people in the band?" He said, "Well, you got on the, on your resume that you play piano." I said, "Oh, no problem," (laughter). I knew about ten tunes well enough to be played in public. And I was booked up at San Luis Obispo [California] at this--his brother [Jimmy Ellis] was used to be on 'Laugh-In' ['Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In']. He was--yeah, they was a fantastic restaurant. And so after I would play my ten song repertoire, I would get up and start getting the peop- doing 'Signifying Monkey,' [HistoryMaker] Oscar Brown, Jr.'s (singing), "Said the signifying monkey to the lion one day, there's a great big elephant down the way." And I would go around table to table, and I'd make the people clap. They were my band. They were (laughter)--and in the daytime, I had my music books. I would get down--I was, I would build my repertoire.$$And that's how you learned how to play the piano?$$That's how I learned to earn a living playing the piano.$$Playing the piano (laughter). But when, when had you learned the piano before that, that you've never (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, and now we studied in, in, in, in Crane [Crane Junior College; Malcolm X College, Chicago, Illinois] with sort of theory and harmony, theory, harmony, and compositions. I can look at the music and tell you what it sounds like. But elocution on the, on, on the--you know, when you play to be a piano viturso [sic. virtuoso], you got to go through years of da, da, da, da, da, da, da, da. I didn't have the patience for that. So, I learned to play, to, to play the--I could do a solo with my right hand, but I'm playing block chords, as I hear an orchestra playing. That way I had a more full sound, and it wasn't like no one else's, because it's very different. [HistoryMaker] B. B. King does not sing and play at the same time. Did you know that?$$He plays and then he sings.$$Then he sings.$$I think I--'cause, yeah--$$Somebody pull your coat to that? But anyway, singing and--$$No, they didn't put--we worked with them. And I was just thinking, he does play and then he sings.$$He play (makes sounds); then he sings. But playing and hearing all of those notes and executing those notes and singing, not very many people do that well. Nat Cole [Nat King Cole] was the one. Mr. Cole could do it. But so you--and, and in my case, I was, I'm playing, I'm playing the piano. Can't nobody say they can't, can't play piano. They say, "He's not Oscar Peterson." 'Cause I didn't have that ring. But I didn't back down from no gigs. I was good enough to go up and play with Ike [Ike Turner] and Tina Turner. So, to me I, and I still, I still, even though no matter how good you can play, I still allocate learning theory so you can communicate the language. You're, you're dealing with a language. And if you can go to Japan and say I want it in B flat, they can understand you. You go Switzerland: I want it in C sharp played from whatever. They can understand. So, but today's music, but the--all you gotta do is turn your boot up. And you know, nobody understands the language that they supposed to be speaking.$So when you came back to Cabrini-Green [Cabrini-Green Homes, Chicago, Illinois] and you were--how did you get that job?$$With the, with--I had assisted Jimmy [Jimmy Tillman] the year before, in '76 [1976]. And he recommended me to--I forget her name, who was head of--I got a letter. I brought a copy of the letter from that, yeah, from the, from the (unclear). But he recommended me to do the blues program. So we wrote, we wrote the grant, we wrote the--for the Illinois Arts Council [Chicago, Illinois], and they were the liaison to NEA [National Endowment for the Arts]. That was a fan- that was a great experience.$$So talk about that. How long did you do that for?$$It was a three month program. And we used--we had kids from age ten to sixteen, over at the Schiller [Schiller Elementary School, Chicago, Illinois], from the Schiller and the Newberry Schools [Newberry School; Walter L. Newberry Math and Science Academy, Chicago, Illinois] there in Cabrini-Green. And it was diverse racially. And what we did, these kids would--we, we, we projected that we could raise their reading scores and have self-esteem if they were able to communicate their feelings through the blues. So, we taught them how to write their blues with an AAB format. (Singing), "They call it stormy Monday. Tuesday is just as bad. They call it stormy Monday. Tuesday is just as bad. Wednesday is worse. Thursday is--," AAB. And the kids started writing their blues songs. And we found out, Jimmy and I, that the problem with many in education is not the students; it's the teachers half the time. One young lady wrote about her boyfriend--her mother's boyfriend, who was a pimp. He was pimping her mother. And he walked with a limp. And I, I--forgive me for not remembering it 'cause it was such--using those, those rhymes, this girl--I got a picture of her--she wrote, and sang it; she wrote the song, so we would work with the teachers on grading on, on evaluation and so forth. And Will, Willie Dixon, Koko Taylor, some of the other artists would come in and would do performances, so, to inspire the kids. And this one English teacher gave this girl a failing grade. And the girl came, "Mr. Fisher [HistoryMaker Shelley Fisher], Ms. So and So blah, blah, blah," and it was 'cause the women did not, the teacher did not understand limp, knew very little about pimp and the other lyrics that the young lady was using that were rhyming and making sense in, in terms of the jargon of the hood. I had to explain that. Then they began to respect the program a bit. So we taught the kids guitar, because, let's face it, blues, after three chords it starts to become jazz. So they learned three, three chords and played tambourine and harmonica, and they learned to play their blues. And as a result, the finale was the, they wrote their own--I can't say--what's a--not a graduation but their, their ceremony, their success ceremony, and it was wonderful. It was wonderful what those kids did, how they--you know, it's--and we're talking about all kinds of kids, not just, not just black kids. Some of the white kids had better worse--had problems of abuse than, than, than Dora [ph.] did.$$Right.$$So everybody can be helped from music, when we understand it. But in order to understand it you gotta be able to communicate it. And if I'm just feeding you something, I'm not communicating to you. I'm, I'm marketing you. You're part of my demograph. And why nobody'll write something that anybody else can sing, our Mistys ['Misty'], our Stormy Weathers ['Stormy Weather'], our (singing), "Go down Moses," ['Go Down Moses']. Ain't nobody writing nothing that nobody else can sing. Jay-Z, bless his heart, and him and Beyonce [Beyonce Knowles], ain't nobody can sing that stuff but them (laughter).$$Now, that, that's in '77 [1977], right? Seventy se-(simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Seventy-seven [1977], the blues program.

Pete Moore

Singer, songwriter and producer Warren “Pete” Moore was born on November 19, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan. He attended Northern High School in Detroit, and was a childhood friend of singer Smokey Robinson. The two formed a singing group in 1955 called the Five Chimes, where Moore was the bass singer. In 1956, they changed their group’s name to the Matadors.

The Matadors caught the attention of Berry Gordy in the late 1950s, and, in 1959, the group recorded their first songs on Gordy’s newly formed Tamla label. The Matadors then changed their name to the Miracles, and went on to become the first successful recording act for Gordy's Motown Records. In 1967, the Miracles changed their name to Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. After producing many musical hits, Robinson left the group in 1972, but Moore and the Miracles carried on until the entire group disbanded in 1978. In 2007, Moore founded the Las Vegas-based entertainment firm, WBMM Enterprises. He is also co-owner, with Miracles member Billy Griffin, of the music publishing company Grimora Music.

Moore co-wrote several of the Miracles hits, including 1965’s "Ooo Baby Baby;” 1965’s Grammy Hall of Fame inductee “The Tracks Of My Tears;” “My Girl Has Gone,” a Billboard Top 20 hit from 1965; “Going to a Go-Go;” and the multi-million selling #1 pop smash, "Love Machine;" among others. The song "Overture" from the Miracles’ album City of Angels, co-written by Moore, was used as the official theme on Radio Monte Carlo in France from 1978 to 1979. He was also the vocal arranger on all of the Miracles’ hits.

Moore produced several hit songs as well, including the Miracles' 1965 R&B chart hit, “Choosey Beggar,” their 1969 hit, “Here I Go Again,” and the group's million-selling Top 10 hit, “Baby Baby Don't Cry” in 1969. He also produced the group’s City Of Angels album, along with albums by Marvin Gaye, and the Supremes. Moore's compositions have been recorded by Marvin Gaye, Debbie Boone, Linda Ronstadt, George Michael, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Ramsey Lewis, Tom Jones, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, and The Four Tops.

Moore has received many honors and awards. He has been a four-time winner of the Broadcast Music, Inc. award for songwriting, and was inducted with the rest of the Miracles into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001. In 2009, the Miracles received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and, in 2012, Moore was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has received the Award Of Merit by the American Society of Composers, Authors,and Publishers. The Miracles are also four-time inductees into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Moore passed away on November 19, 2017.

Pete Moore was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 21, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.316

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/21/2013

Last Name

Moore

Maker Category
Organizations
First Name

Warren

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

MOO18

State

Michigan

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Birth Date

11/19/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

USA

Death Date

11/19/2017

Short Description

Singer, songwriter, and producer Pete Moore (1939 - 2017)

Employment

Miracles

WBMM Enterprises

Grimora Music

Alfreda Burke

Opera singer Alfreda Burke was born in Chicago, Illinois on June 17, 1961. Her father, John H. Burke, Jr., was a pastor; her mother, Mamie Burke, a church administrator. She received her BM and MM degrees from Roosevelt University Chicago Musical College (1984, 1987).

Burke made her Carnegie and Orchestra Hall debuts in Strauss’ Elektra in 1995 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Daniel Barenboim. She has also performed with numerous orchestras and at various venues in North America and Europe, including the Auditorium Theatre (1995); the Chicago Symphony Center (1997); the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia; the Kennedy Center (1998); the Detroit Opera House/DSO/Rackham Symphony Choir (2002); the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (2003); the Chorus Angelorum (2003, 2010); the Cincinnati Pops Symphony Orchestra (2011); the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra (2004); the Lancaster Festival (2003); the Umbria Music Festival (Italy) (2007); the Prague Philharmonic (2010); the TodiMusicFest (2007); the Millennium Park Gala (2008); the Miss World (China) (2012); and the NATO Chicago Summit (2012).

Burke’s oratorio, opera, concert and musical theater engagements include the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts broadcast on WFMT-FM; Mozart’s Requiem; Handel’s Messiah; Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Beethoven’s Mass in C; Poulenc Gloria; Mahler’s 2nd & 8th Symphonies; Strauss’ Elektra; Puccini’s Turandot; Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta; Barber’sKnoxville: Summer of 1915; Menotti’s Amahl & the Night Visitors; Rutter’s Requiem; Boulez’s Le Visage Nuptial; Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess; Bernstein’s West Side Story; and Kern’s Show Boat (Prince). She was featured in CSO’s Symphony Center Inaugural Festival and Radiothon.

In 2002, Burke and her husband, opera singer Rodrick Dixon, performed in Too Hot to Handel The Jazz-Gospel Messiah at the Detroit Opera House and the Auditorium Theatre (2006). Burke performed with Tenors Cook, Dixon & Young (formerly the Three Mo’ Tenors) as a featured soloist.

Burke’s work in recordings, music video, television, radio, film and commercials, includes Celine Dion and R. Kelly’s I’m Your Angel; The Visit; The Visitors; Unconditional Love; guest soloist appearances on WTTW/Odyssey’s broadcast, 30 Good Minutes; solo CD, From the Heart; the Prague PBS Special Hallelujah Broadway; and the Chicago Olympic 2016 Bid Anthem, I Will Stand. Some of Burke’s other engagements include the Auditorium Theatre & DiBurke Inc. co-produced show “Songs of A Dream,” CD release, and national tour; and Old St. Patrick’s Church production of Siamsa na nGael at Symphony Center.

Burke has taught music and voice at a number of institutions, including Evanston/Skokie District 65 (1985-1996); the CSO Musicians Residency at South Shore Cultural Center (1996-1998); the Wheaton College Conservatory Voice Faculty (1998-2009); the Carl Sandburg High School (2004-2007); the Chicago State University Voice Faculty (2007-2008); the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra, Berkeley, California (2009-2012); the Wright State University Music & Medicine Symposium (2009-Present); and master classes throughout the US.

Burke is a Roosevelt University CCPA Advisory Board member and served on the Chicago 2016 Olympic Bid Arts & Culture Advisory Committee. In 2005, Burke was an Alumna Ambassador for Roosevelt University's 60th Anniversary.

Opera singer Alfreda Burke was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 20, 2013.

Accession Number

A2013.231

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/20/2013

Last Name

Burke

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

"Freda"

Occupation
Schools

Roosevelt University

Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School

Rudyard Kipling Elementary

Mary Church Terrell Elementary School

First Name

Alfreda

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BUR20

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy, England

Favorite Quote

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/17/1961

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Singer Alfreda Burke (1961 - ) has performed with a number of symphony orchestras, as well as performing with her husband, Rodrick Dixon, in productions of Too Hot to Handel: The Jazz-Gospel Messiah, and Prague PBS Special, Hallelujah Broadway.

Employment

Wheaton College Conservatory

Chicago State University

CSO Community Outreach

Dr. Martin Luther King Experimental Lab Schools

Young Musicians Choral Orchestra

DiBurke, Inc.

First Mennonite Church

Favorite Color

Melon

Timing Pairs
0,0:2651,58:3362,68:7360,124:14704,268:15208,277:24100,390:27544,455:39712,610:40336,621:43144,685:61236,876:62300,892:74308,1125:85199,1212:86512,1236:100712,1382:101168,1390:102840,1420:103144,1425:110288,1578:110744,1586:128260,1801:135994,1845:138584,1888:139176,1897:143816,1951:153200,2131:165455,2296:165810,2302:166094,2307:166378,2312:168579,2358:169076,2366:193610,2636:195068,2666:207312,2828:213306,2927:215008,2971:215526,2980:240438,3249:240868,3255:251968,3407:260150,3496:260940,3509:287449,3826:287947,3833:310622,4173:321670,4263$0,0:4300,58:5110,72:23613,317:32079,416:32826,426:34071,445:55418,749:55763,755:56453,767:64584,817:64919,823:65991,844:70547,935:70949,942:73294,989:74031,1009:107294,1350:112296,1460:113280,1475:120080,1549:126520,1666:127080,1676:128690,1694:137873,1791:139699,1823:140695,1831:141442,1891:142189,1901:142853,1911:145509,1984:146505,2004:152746,2037:171178,2324:171442,2329:178318,2422:179102,2431:182400,2441:191040,2609:195576,2670:218357,2948:227722,3061:232408,3150:237662,3238:238301,3248:256421,3558:265019,3594:265404,3600:265712,3605:266405,3620:267791,3643:274875,3750:281863,3811:297730,3968:298180,3974:305740,4118:318738,4272:319394,4281:319886,4289:323772,4302:327548,4359:330030,4391
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117482">Tape: 1 Alfreda Burke narrates her photographs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117483">Tape: 1 Alfreda Burke lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117484">Tape: 1 Alfreda Burke lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117485">Tape: 1 Alfreda Burke describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117486">Tape: 1 Alfreda Burke talks about her mother's childhood and education, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115158">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about her mother's childhood and education, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115159">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about her mother's childhood accident</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115160">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about her mother's college education and move to Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115161">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115162">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke describes her father's experiences as a musician before his call to the ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115163">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about her father's call to the ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115164">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke describes how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115165">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about which of her parents she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115166">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke talks about her sister and their experience as preacher's kids</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115167">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke describes her childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115168">Tape: 2 Alfreda Burke describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117487">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117488">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke talks about her experience at Mary Church Terrell Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117489">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes her experience at Rudyard Kipling Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117490">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes her academic and artistic interests in school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117491">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes her interests at Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117492">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke talks about the congregation at her father's First Mennonite Church in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117493">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes her experience at Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117494">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke describes her graduation from Lindblom Technical High School in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117495">Tape: 3 Alfreda Burke talks about enrolling at the Chicago Musical College at Roosevelt University in 1979</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117496">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about her musical abilities in high school and some of the ensembles she sang in</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117497">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about her voice teacher at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois and the Alexander technique</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117498">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about vocal health and taking care of her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117499">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about some of the technical elements of her musical education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117500">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about the factors that inform a musician's interpretation of a piece of classical music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117501">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about how music history informs performers' musical interpretations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117502">Tape: 4 Alfreda Burke talks about famous black sopranos and the different types of operatic sopranos</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117503">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke talks about the power of children's singing voices</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117504">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke talks about maintaining a healthy voice while crossing musical genres</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117505">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke recalls meeting Chicago Mayor Harold Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117506">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke talks about beginning her career in music education at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Laboratory School in Evanston, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117507">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke describes her experience teaching music at Martin Luther King, Jr. Laboratory School in Evanston, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117508">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke describes her graduate recital at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois in 1987, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117509">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke describes her graduate recital at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois in 1987, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117510">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke talks about her voice teachers, mentors, and inspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117511">Tape: 5 Alfreda Burke talks about vocal phrasing and the importance of acting in opera</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117062">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke describes her experience singing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117063">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke talks about her experience singing oratorios</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117064">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke describes her experience singing in Richard Strauss' "Elektra" with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117065">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke talks about studying foreign language pronunciation as a singer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117066">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke talks about the differences in singing technique between opera and gospel</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117067">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke talks about joining the cast of "Show Boat" in 1995 and leaving her job as a teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117068">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke describes her experience performing in "Show Boat" in 1995, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117069">Tape: 6 Alfreda Burke describes her experience performing in "Show Boat" in 1995, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117512">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke reflects on the message and music of "Show Boat"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117513">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke remembers meeting her husband, HistoryMaker Rodrick Dixon</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117514">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke recalls her wedding to HistoryMaker Rodrick Dixon and their careers in 1998</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117515">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke talks about teaching at Wheaton College Conservatory of Music from 1997 until 2009</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117516">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke talks about performing "Too Hot to Handel," pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117517">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke talks about performing "Too Hot to Handel," pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117518">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke talks about the creation of DiBurke, Inc. and her album "From the Heart"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/117519">Tape: 7 Alfreda Burke describes the scope of DiBurke, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115202">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke talks about serving as an alumni ambassador for the sixtieth anniversary of Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115203">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes her work with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra in Berkeley, California, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115204">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes her work with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra in Berkeley, California, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115205">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes recording "Hallelujah Broadway" in Prague, Czech Republic in 2010</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115206">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke talks about performing "Hallelujah Broadway" in Cincinnati, Ohio and Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115207">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes performing in "Siamsa na nGael" in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115208">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes her "Songs of a Dream" concert, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115209">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke describes her "Songs of a Dream" concert, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115210">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke talks about her future projects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115211">Tape: 8 Alfreda Burke lists the organizations she is involved in</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115212">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke talks about orchestras she has performed with</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115213">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115214">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke reflects on her career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115215">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115216">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke reflects upon the label of "crossover artist"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115217">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke talks about her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/115218">Tape: 9 Alfreda Burke reflects on how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$8

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Alfreda Burke talks about how music history informs performers' musical interpretations
Alfreda Burke describes her work with the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra in Berkeley, California, pt. 1
Transcript
Okay, so there's a certain amount of latitude even within classical music in terms of the interpretation of a piece.$$Right because you're--you're gonna do the research. You have to do the history, you have to find out the, the year this piece was con--'cause I love just the fact we do "Too Hot To Handel" and we do [George Frideric] Handel's Messiah" the traditional, the version of the classical oh it was baroque, but you know what I mean when I say that the traditionally sung one, performed one, and I am amazed that Handel was inspired by God and [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart was, all of these masters of music, you know [Franz] Shubert, [Robert] Schumann, [Gustav] Mahler all of these-- [Ludwig van] Beethoven, and on and on. They all have their moments and their stories of inspiration but with Handel's Messiah, he composed that piece in twenty-four days and it is a monumental work that is done now. It was composed in the 1700s [1741] and he did it in twenty-four days and it is, it's--I can't believe three parts to that piece and if you were to do all of the movements then the audience would sitting there for quite a while and it's the, the birth, life, death, resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus Christ and it speaks to people in different ways. It's, it is just a very uplifting and inspiring piece and the music is very powerful and very beautiful and it is said that he wouldn't even eat for much of that time while he was composing this piece and he just felt the glory of God in the room and he was writing and writing, he even fell ill but he just said I have to continue writing, so he may have rested a while in there but it was done rapidly, twenty-four days is not a long time, less than a month to do such a loved, adored piece. Love it and, and frequently performed, the piece to this day.$$As a performer then you have to immerse yourself into some sort of cultural education to be able to really perform the music on a high level.$$And it's the stylistic right, because you can't, you're not just gonna sing it like you would an R&B piece or, or--and it's early music, it's baroque so we're talking about the traditional and original [George Frideric] Handel's Messiah, not the offshoots from it which are different interpretations in our day and age now, which I think they have their place too, and Handel would probably be tickled pink knowing because he's said to be a man of the people.$$Now just to be simple here what, what does "baroque" mean?$$The, the, the 1700s, let's see, 1685 to--it is a period from the, I don't wanna say it wrong, but it is the in the 1600s to the 1700s, and so you have like the "Baroque" period and then you go into the "Classical" period in the 1700s and then the "Romantic" period in the 1800s then "20th Century music" in the 1900s, and now we are the "21st Century."$$So these, these periods of music.$$They have different stylistic and a different set of rules, different set of tendencies and ways that the music is to be performed. So I, you know I if I would bring portamento into you know Handel's "Messiah" (laughter), that's wrong 'cause that's later on in the you know where we have the Romantic era where you can do that in arias and in opera and that's-- and even in later music you can so, but it's more clean, and you have the figured bass and you have the harpsichord. You even have instruments according to that period, early instruments like the harpsichord which is not gonna be the full sound of the piano that we hear later, in later periods as we get closer you know, 1700s, 1800s--1800s is when--and then you see these instruments evolving and getting--they really begin to have more tone, more resonance. You have--the, the orchestras are even extended to have more orchestral members and you know the brass section is larger, the string section is expanded so, so now a composer like [Ludwig van] Beethoven can and [Gustav] Mahler can really go, you know and they use dissonance quite a bit and have a deceptive cadence so you're expecting this chord to resolve one way and then they fool you and it goes in a totally different direction so that, you can have that back in the early periods, the Baroque and Classical periods where things are sort of more in the box.$Tell us about Daisy Newman's Project in, in University of California at Berkeley [Berkeley, California]. Is that?$$Oh, yeah, oh yes the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra and it was formerly "YMPA" Young Musicians Program and she founded this instead, well no she did not. She came on board and really took it to the next level and, and this it was on the campus of U.C. Berkeley and she being a stellar soprano and performer herself who worked with Leonard Bernstein, she could certainly--it takes one to know one, 'cause she could certainly spot the use and the talents for this program and they were wunderkinds, they were genius, brilliant, talents but her program was centered around those that were under privileged or children or risk or you going through all kinds of adverse circumstances in their lives and their homes and may not be able to get that type of training that she offers, and the type of training she offers for master teachers, and she had a staff of teachers that taught the students around the year, through the, the summer they were learning musical instruments, they were learning vocal, they had voice lessons and training as well as choral rehearsals, so they had to be able to be proficient in more than one instrument. She wanted them to sing as well as to play their instruments and they--and academic subjects they also had to main a certain GPA and they also had to be students of excellence and respect one another and the campus and the opportunity. So she has her program set so she could talk to you on more about more eloquently about Three Tier. The, the rate, rate of the students leaving her program by the time they're ready for college they--100 percent acceptance rate. They were accepted by and some of the leading music conservatories and schools and institutions in our nation, Juilliard [The Julliard School in New York City, New York], Manhattan School of Music [New York City, New York], on and on you know all over the nation, some of our leading institutions for music; and many times they were receiving full rides, full scholarships or partial scholarships but because her, she raised the bar and because of her own standards and what she had achieved in real life. She also worked for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra [Detroit, Michigan], she worked for other New York Philharmonic [New York City, New York]--you know as far as an administrator with educational outreach tentacles that as well as having been a perform--an international performer so she had auditions and interviews, interviewed the parents, interviewed the stud--the children, the students and there were times when she--she had an age group that she wouldn't go lower than but there were times when she even had to take young ones you know, eight year olds, nine year olds, because they just exhibited such extremely genius ability and the capacity to go through her program and to be able to digest and process all of these great people that are in front of them. I mean she even has a jazz group, so we're talking classically at first and operatically and then they're learning German lieder, they're speaking foreign languages, they have to know their theory as well, they have to read and then they have wonderful proficient voice teachers, prolific staff of people that really can produce abundance you know--$$So that means you right, you're part of the staff that teaches voice and--$$Well we [Burke and her husband, HM Rodrick Dixon], well thank you for that (laughter), we're honored to be part of that but we come two weeks in the summer and this is the first time that we didn't because the program is transitioning off-campus to its own location now and she has a board of directors and donors and sponsors, supporters. So she has a lot of support, she knows a lot of people and she you know she's had people like Martin Katz who is known concert pianist and a recitalist, come work with her students, Frederica von Stade, a world class mezzo-soprano from the Metropolitan Opera [New York City, New York] and other venues around the world, all of kinds of people and for the jazz, Patrice Rushen, and she her staff oh, they are, they're just amazing what they are getting out of those students, those children and they--plus the students come to work and she provides two meals for them. So I just think there is a special place in heaven for her.