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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

United States

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

Rosalind Ashford Holmes

Motown singer Rosalind Holmes was born on September 2, 1943, to John and Mary Ashford in Detroit, Michigan, although her parents separated when she was very young. As a child, Holmes sang in church choirs and learned how to dance in local centers, and in high school, she sang in her glee club and mixed choir. In 1957, Ashford auditioned for Edward “Pops” Larkins at the local YWCA in Detroit. Larkins was in search of a new girl group to compliment his already established male group. Rosalind, along with Annette Beard, Gloria Williams, and Martha Reeves, became The Del-Phi’s; they performed at the YMCA, YWCA, high school functions, teas, lawn parties and private events. In 1961, The Del-Phi’s released “I’ll Let You Know” on the Chess Records label subsidiary Checkmate. The record was unpopular, and two follow up records also failed to bring attention to the group.

In 1962, Williams left the group, and the remaining trio became Marvin Gaye’s background singers on singles like “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” and “Hitch Hike.” In September of that same year, Motown president Berry Gordy signed Reeves and her background singing partners to the label as Martha and the Vandellas. Just one year later, "Come and Get These Memories" became the Vandellas’ first hit single, reaching number six on the Billboard R&B Singles Chart. A few months later, the Vandellas’ second hit, “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave,” was released, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one on the Billboard Hot R&B chart. In 1964, the group continued their success with perhaps their most famous single, "Dancing in the Street," which was soon followed by “Nowhere to Run” in 1965 and “Jimmy Mack” in 1967.

In 1968, Holmes left Martha and the Vandellas, married, and began a career with the Michigan Bell Telephone Company. Ten years later, she joined Reeves and Beard in a reunion performance, and then in 1989, the three original Vandellas recorded "Step Into My Shoes" for Motorcity Records. In 1995, Holmes was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as member of Martha and the Vandellas. Holmes has one son, Damon, two granddaughters, Alana and Kaimen, and one grandson, Damon. She continues to perform today.

Rosalind Holmes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 10, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.050

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/8/2010

Last Name

Holmes

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Harry B. Hutchins Intermediate School

Phillip J. Murray-Wright High School

St. George School

First Name

Rosalind

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

HOL15

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

9/2/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Crab Legs

Short Description

Motown singer and motown singer Rosalind Ashford Holmes (1943 - ) was a member of Martha and the Vandellas, famous for singles like “Dancing in the Street” and “Nowhere to Run.” In 1995, she was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Employment

Martha and the Vandellas

Ameritech

The Original Vandellas

Motown Legends Gospel Choir

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Rosalind Ashford Holmes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about her parents' courtship

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers the North End of Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes recalls her early love of popular music

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about the popular musicians of her youth

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her experiences in the Detroit Public Schools

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers her music classes at Wilber Wright High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes recalls the formation of The Del-Phis

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers The Del-Phis' first record

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes recalls how The Del-Phis joined Motown Records

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about her favorites artists

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers The Del-Phis' early hits with Marvin Gaye

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers the first Motortown Revue tour

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers the music venues in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers touring with the Motortown Revue

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers the acts in the Motortown Revue

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about Martha and the Vandellas' first hit single

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes recalls Martha and the Vandellas' performance at the Copacabana in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about Martha and the Vandellas' hit songs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes recalls her favorite single, 'Jimmy Mack'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers Motown Records' European tour

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes Motown Records' popularity in Europe

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her departure from Motown Records

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her lawsuits against Motown Records and the Artists Rights Enforcement Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her position at the Michigan Bell Telephone Company

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about her reunion with Martha and the Vandellas

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes the formation of The Original Vandellas

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about Martha and the Vandellas' name changes

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about the relationships within singing groups

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about The Original Vandellas and the Motown Legends Gospel Choir

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes reflects upon the legacy of Motown Records

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes reflects upon contemporary music

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes shares her advice for aspiring professional musicians

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Rosalind Ashford Holmes narrates her photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Rosalind Ashford Holmes remembers touring with the Motortown Revue
Rosalind Ashford Holmes talks about Martha and the Vandellas' name changes
Transcript
Well, we were talking, we left off on the road, I think you were on the, or around you said you went to the South--$$To the South (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) and you experienced segregation that you had seen on television but you didn't, had never really experienced?$$Unh-uh, never thought it was that bad and never had the faintest idea that, but we were, you know, going to run into--and then they always thought that, like they thought we were Freedom Riders. We had our big Motown [Motown Records] sign on the bus says Motown revue ['Motortown Revue'] but people thought we were Freedom Riders, you know, and we went through a lot of bad experiences. We, one year, one day we got, we were getting on the bus and we got shot at the bus and, by the time we got to the next venue, everybody looked in the front of the bus and there's a couple of bullet holes in front of the bus where somebody had thought we were Freedom Riders, wanted us to get out of town. So--$$Yeah, that was the age of the Freedom Riders, '61 [1961] they were coming out of Nashville [Tennessee], out of Fisk [Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee], going south in the buses, right.$$Yeah, yeah. There was, it was quite an experience for us all. Like I say, seeing that we had never, you know, experienced that or never seen that actually happen, but it was true to life.$$Did it kind of, kind of cause you to pay more attention to the Civil Rights Movement?$$Yeah, yeah, um-hm, much, much more aware. It was very scary.$$Okay, so where did you stay on the road when you were in the South?$$Well that was the thing, too. They had to pick and choose hotels, you know, we had to stay mostly at the black hotels. We, we, they, they set up a whole itinerary before you left to go on the road, so you knew exactly where we were going but most of 'em were the black, oh we definitely couldn't stay in the white hotels and we had to, to eat, we had to send the bus driver in to get food to bring out because we couldn't go into the restaurants and everything. And one experience that I had that really frightened me was I think everybody had practically got off the bus and I had just woke up and I saw, oh everybody's gone off the bus and went to the restaurant to eat, and I walked in the front door and there were like, I didn't see anybody, I didn't know where they were, where's everybody, you know, and I just saw the backs of a couple of people in the restaurant and then I just, it--thought, when I looked over to the side, I could see everybody, they had like a little side window where all of us could go and order, so I definitely backed up and went 'cause I didn't think, yeah, that's what I'm saying, not, not knowing about being in the South, it never dawned on me, oh, you can't do that, you know, you can't just walk in the front door like that, so it was an experience.$$Okay, do you know where that was?$$I can't remember where that was, that was so long ago but I do remember it happening.$$Okay, but were you received pretty well by the, so white audiences came out to--$$Now that was, that was the thing, it was fantastic. They, I mean, they just, they had a good time, everybody had a time. The white audiences received us very well. We were very well accepted, um-hm, yeah.$$That's, that's interesting that that--$$Yeah, yeah it was, it really was.$$Did you ever think that was kind of crazy in some ways?$$I did, I said, and like you said, just to be there and just see, is this really happening? Am, you know, am I sleeping or is this real but it was real, it was real.$$So, you're getting this warm reception while the black people in town are completely segregated.$$Um-hm, um-hm, and, but everybody's having a good time, you know, that was the thing. Everybody was having a good time.$Now the, the name, you said, we were talking during the break, the name had never been copyrighted before, The Vandellas?$$Unh-uh, unh-uh.$$Now, well tell us (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Nobody owns the name.$$Okay, well give us first some background. Where did The Vandellas come from? Where did that name come from?$$The Vandellas were, okay, we were The Del-Phis and when Berry wanted to sign us, he did not want to have to go through the legal hassle of using Vandell- Del-Phis and then somebody come along and say, "I own that name," you know, and want to sue for the name. So he told us, "You got to, have to change the name, you're going to have to change your name." So we said, okay. So, there was the four of us. There was Gloria [Gloria Williams], Martha [HistoryMaker Martha Reeves], myself and Annette [Annette Beard]. We were in one little room. So he said, "I'm going to give you a half an hour to come up with a name. If you can't come up with a name, whatever I think of or whatever it is, that's what it's going to be." We did not come up with a name, so the next thing we know, he called down, he said, "I've got a name for your group and it's going to be Vandellas," pure and simple.$$Okay, 'cause I heard a story that--$$It wasn't because of Van Dyke Street and Della Reese [HistoryMaker Della Reese-Lett] and, and see at that time, I believe, we were not in circulation. We, nobody ever came to us and asked us questions like this, you know, "Where did the name come from?" Or this and that so, but they did have access to talk to Martha. So, we believe this is what she came up with. Rather than actually say that Berry gave us that name, this is where she came up with because we said, ourselves, "Now, if all of us are in a room, why would I let you, because your favorite singer is Della Reese, you lived on Van Dyke Street, why would I let you use what your favorite singer is? What's wrong with who my favorite singer is or where I live or where the other ladies, why couldn't we get together and agree on a name?" So, we never had any input with that and that's the story that actually is out and we have definitely been trying to correct that 'cause anybody asks us where the name comes, we give [HistoryMaker] Berry Gordy credit 'cause he did not--he did come up with that name.$$Okay, now in the beginning, was it just The Vandellas or was it (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) In the beginning, it was The Vandellas.$$Okay, that was everybody.$$That's what he said, Vandellas, period.$$Like The Supremes were The Supremes?$$Like Supremes, Marvelettes [The Marvelettes], Temptations [The Temptations], Four Tops, [HistoryMaker] Smokey Robinson--The Miracles.$$So there was never--$$It wasn't Smokey Robinson either.$$Okay, right.$$Then eventually, when they started that, Smokey Robinson, then they started the, you know, Diana Ross and The Supremes and everything, then--$$How did people feel on that first? I know, I mean, I think it was pretty obvious, you know, people knew who the lead singers were but, but how did people feel when they, you know, that started to happen?$$I know we were upset. I mean, because, and we knew that it was done for the simple fact because he started out with Diana Ross and The Supremes, and at first it was Diana Ross and The Supremes so, of course, "Well, if it's Diana, how come it can't be Martha and The Vandellas?" You know, and so they just, it just became a thing where everybody had to have their name in front of the group.$$Now the Four Tops never did that?$$They never did it. Now the Four Tops were more of a group, you know. They, they had been together for so long, years, and everything and I don't think they would even think about wanting to do that.$$Well, I sort of, just looking at it from just a fan standpoint, I think of all the groups, probably none was there, where there's no group where there's that, that dramatic a difference in the background and the featured singer.$$Um-hm.$$Levi Stubbs, people didn't know who he was, his name for years, but he was obviously the, you know, the driving, you couldn't, you know, force. I mean, the rest of them, you know, we didn't even know what their voices were like necessarily.$$Right, right, um-hm.$$He had that powerful baritone voice that just, you know, but it was never Levi Stubbs and the--$$Never Levi Stubbs and The Temps. David, David wanted to do it, he wanted to be David Ruffin and The Temptations, but they said, "No, no way, you know, we will not do that." And then with us, it was, first it was Martha and The Vandellas for a while and then we're on some of the, I think on our first record, it says Vandellas, that's it. Then the next one, I think it was, it was Martha and The Vandellas.

Scherrie Payne

Singer and songwriter Scherrie Payne was born November 4, 1944, in Detroit, Michigan, to Frederick and Charcle Lee Payne. The younger sister of Freda Payne, Scherrie learned to sing and play the piano at an early age. Payne attended Crossman Elementary School, Hutchins Middle School, and graduated from Central High School in 1961. Payne earned her B.S. degree from Michigan State University in 1966.

Teaching at Grayling School of Observation, Payne was discovered by Eddie Holland of the Motown team of Holland, Dozier and Holland. In 1968, Payne and her sister Freda, already an established performer, signed contracts with Holland, Dozier and Holland’s new label, Invictus. Payne joined The Glass House, which consisted of herself, Pearl Jones, Larry Mitchell and Ty Hunter. Payne sang lead and contributed to the writing of “Hotel”, “The Fox”, “Horse and Rider”, “Heaven Is There To Guide Us”, “Let It Flow” and “Crumbs Off The Table,” the group’s biggest hit record. When The Glass House disbanded, Payne toured briefly with Charo’s Review before Lamont Dozier introduced her to Mary Wilson; Wilson then invited Payne to join the Supremes. Payne joined Wilson and Cindy Birdsong in the fall of 1973 and became known as “the little lady with the big voice” singing most of the leads. Payne was officially the last lead singer for the Supremes in 1977, when the group consisted of her, Susaye Greene, and Mary Wilson. The final Supremes album Mary, Scherrie & Susaye was released in late 1976; it boasted several club smashes, including "Let Yourself Go," "You're My Driving Wheel," "Love I Never Knew You Could Feel So Good," "I Don't Want To Be Tied Down,” and “I’m Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking”, which was their biggest hit. On June 12, 1977, in London, England, The Supremes performed their final performance. After the break up, Payne and Greene recorded 1979's Partners which focused on the writing and singing talents of both artists.

In 1982, Payne released her first solo hit, "I'm Not In Love.” The Altair Records recording featured Payne’s sister Freda, Mary Wilson, and Edmund Sylvers singing background. This success led to the recording of Payne’s 1984 single, "One Night Only" (from Dreamgirls) for Megatone Records. In 1986, Payne and the late Ronnie Phillips formed Former Ladies of the Supremes (FLOS), which at various times included Cindy Birdsong, Jean Terrell, Freddie Pool, Sundray Tucker and Lynda Laurence. In 2000, along with Lynda Laurence, Payne was a part of “Diana Ross’ Return to Love Tour”. Payne, who has also written two musicals and a number of screenplays and songs, has toured Europe and Asia extensively with the FLOS and performed on special occasions with her sister, Freda.

Accession Number

A2005.236

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/7/2005

Last Name

Payne

Maker Category
Schools

Central High School

Caroline Crossman Elementary School

Harry B. Hutchins Intermediate School

Crosman Alternative High School

Michigan State University

First Name

Scherrie

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

PAY04

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Birth Date

11/4/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Short Description

Motown singer and songwriter Scherrie Payne (1944 - ) was the last lead singer of The Supremes, in addition to having a successful career as a solo artist.

Employment

Invictus Records

Motown

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:14132,153:14516,158:31165,378:35330,435:36010,445:42458,491:43304,502:44056,511:45090,532:45466,537:46030,546:49042,572:49735,582:57204,813:58359,826:65751,959:66213,966:80185,1197:80575,1207:81875,1223:82200,1229:84540,1278:88427,1285:88822,1291:89612,1317:95695,1424:108195,1624:113646,1760:118890,1785:125694,1907:127710,1989:128298,1997:139919,2154:145025,2259:147992,2323:148406,2330:148682,2335:149027,2341:154720,2378:158882,2427:160130,2465:163250,2517:167819,2600:172343,2644:177394,2680:181390,2740:182062,2749:182902,2760:185716,2791:186236,2797:191956,2855:194140,2890:194556,2895:207292,3039:207796,3049:210127,3113:214600,3273:215104,3282:215734,3294:219594,3319:220058,3324:231970,3533:259210,3939$0,0:4446,96:7410,147:8190,159:8502,164:8814,169:19743,362:24415,453:25437,475:26751,489:27554,502:29233,541:32007,605:33029,621:36168,685:36752,694:47956,829:48964,846:52860,863:55533,912:56181,921:56748,932:58854,972:77630,1278:80138,1322:80670,1330:93603,1466:113136,1708:113368,1713:113600,1718:113832,1723:115050,1765:117660,1830:121990,1844:122310,1849:128710,1984:131270,2018:131830,2035:132230,2041:137270,2056:138056,2064:149764,2226:165360,2367:166215,2381:171380,2434:189904,2631:190236,2636:196308,2701:196932,2711:198960,2757:199584,2766:200208,2775:200754,2784:201846,2802:202548,2808:202860,2813:203406,2821:204810,2853:211110,2941:211460,2948:217340,3069:221890,3176:222450,3185:223290,3204:223920,3219:224340,3226:232466,3299:233200,3307
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Scherrie Payne's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Scherrie Payne lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Scherrie Payne describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Scherrie Payne describes her mother's upbringing in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Scherrie Payne describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Scherrie Payne describes her father's upbringing in Asheville, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Scherrie Payne relates how her father moved to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Scherrie Payne describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Scherrie Payne describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Scherrie Payne describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Scherrie Payne describes her childhood personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Scherrie Payne describes her experiences at Detroit's Crosman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Scherrie Payne describes her favorite childhood activities

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Scherrie Payne recalls the start of her sister, HistoryMaker Freda Payne's, music career

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Scherrie Payne reflects on why she did not sing with her sister, HistoryMaker Freda Payne

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Scherrie Payne recalls her ambitions while at Detroit's Central High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Scherrie Payne recalls her experiences at Michigan State University

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Scherrie Payne reflects on civil rights activism at Michigan State University

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Scherrie Payne recalls close friendships from Michigan State University

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Scherrie Payne describes her favorite teachers at Detroit's Central High School

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Scherrie Payne describes majoring in medical technology at Michigan State University

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Scherrie Payne describes her early awareness of The Supremes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Scherrie Payne describes the beginning of her music career with the Glass House

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Scherrie Payne recalls touring with the Glass House

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Scherrie Payne describes singing backup for Charo

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Scherrie Payne describes joining The Supremes

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Scherrie Payne recalls The Supremes' tour to South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Scherrie Payne recalls performing in apartheid era South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Scherrie Payne recalls her career after The Supremes broke up

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Scherrie Payne describes performing with the Former Ladies of the Supremes

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Scherrie Payne recalls the Return to Love Tour in 2000

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Scherrie Payne describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Scherrie Payne reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Scherrie Payne reflects upon her legacy and describes her screenplays

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Scherrie Payne reflects upon her family life

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Scherrie Payne describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Scherrie Payne narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

6$8

DATitle
Scherrie Payne recalls touring with the Glass House
Scherrie Payne describes joining The Supremes
Transcript
How long did Glass House stay together?$$Well, let's see, '69 [1969], and I think around 1972 or maybe the end of '72 [1972], Ty Hunter left us. And he went with the group called The Originals, 'Baby I'm For Real,' 'The Bells.' And of course we were all devastated. I loved Ty, loved Ty. And in fact Ty passed away in February of 1982 I believe. And I'm the only surviving member of the Glass House. Larry Mitchell died probably about ten years ago. And Pearl Jones, the other female singer and musician died, I think it was last year, of cancer. So, I'm the only surviving member. But Ty left in '71 [1971] I think, and then we got a couple other replacements in the group. But then the group went on to Motown [Motown Records, Detroit, Michigan]. Invictus [Invictus Records, Detroit, Michigan] wasn't really doing anything for us. We put out a couple more albums. And so then I--we were hardly working. So, at one point I went on the road as a backup singer behind Charo. And Caroline Crawford, who was a local singer in Detroit [Michigan] who's fabulous in her own right, she was already singing behind Charo, and she got me the gig with her, and we went on the road and came out here. In fact, Charo was still married to Xavier Cugat, and we rehearsed at his house, their house. And I went on the road--$$Now, well, wait a minute. Let me backtrack just a little bit.$$Okay.$$Now, did you go on the road with Glass House and perform?$$Yeah. We went to the Apollo at least twice. In fact, there was one story when we were at the Apollo backstage, and on the bill with us was I think the Chairmen of the Board, all the Invictus acts--Chairmen of the Board, the Parliament-Funkadelic with George Clinton; I think the Barrino Brothers, who I understand are uncles to Fantasia Barrino, who was the 'American Idol' winner. Let's see who else was on the show? The Honey Cone. We had a big show, I can't remember who else was on the show. Oh, the 8th Day, who also had a million seller with Invictus. Our group was the only one that didn't get a million seller, I don't know why. But anyway, Ty Hunter and I are standing in the wings watching the Parliament-Funkadelic act. And in between--you know, we did like five shows a day. It was like up the stairs, down the stairs, bam, bam, bam, starting at twelve noon until late at night. But in between shows George Clinton had gone and shaved his head, and came out in a diaper (laughter), in a diaper with his head shaved. And they just thought that was hilarious. And I remember Ty and I--you know, they were probably smoking that weed, that probably inspired him. But anyway, Ty and I stood in the wings watching George in this diaper with his head shaved. And I remember distinctly shaking my head saying, "He is going nowhere." (Laughter) Have I eaten those words many times over. I mean, he's like an icon. More power to him (laughter).$$Yeah, he was the leader of the Funkadelic.$$Yeah, that's right, that's right. Well, see back then I was such a--like those who would try to like smoke weed in my car--they called me Grandma, Grandma Scherrie [HistoryMaker Scherrie Payne]. Because I think that's the part I take after my mother [Charcle Hickman Farley], very conservative. And I was strictly against any kind of dope or anything like that. And I remember one time--Freda [HistoryMaker Freda Payne] won't admit it--but Freda's roommate in New York wrote to my mother, I think. And she said, "Freda came in and her eyes were red," and she was concerned. And I remember distinctly going to the kitchen, and mama was sitting there crying and reading this letter. And I said, "What's wrong?" And she showed the letter to me, and we both sat there and started crying (laughter), because we thought Freda had gotten into dope, because she had smoked some weed (laughter). Oh, she's going to kill me. Did she tell that?$$I'm not telling.$$(Laughter.)$And that's when I got a call one day. I was over to Walter [Walter Gaines] and Barbara Gaines' house. Walter sings with The Originals still, and they are my very best friends in life. And my mother [Charcle Hickman Farley] called me and said, "[HistoryMaker] Mary Wilson from The Supremes just called you." And I said, "What?" And she wanted me to call her back, and I called her back. As it turned out, Lamont Dozier, who was my boyfriend at the time, had come out to California on business for himself, and he had run into Mary at a party. And she told him that Jean Terrell, who had taken Diana Ross' place had just left the group, and she was looking for a replacement, and could he recommend anyone. And so of course he recommended me. And so she wanted me to send some things out--pictures and so on and so forth, which I did--and recordings. And when she called back, I think it was a Thursday, Thursday night. In fact I was over to Walt and Barb's then again. And she said that she wanted me to come out to California. I said, "Okay, okay, sure." I said, "When?" She said, "Saturday." I said, "Saturday? Two days?" (Laughter) So anyway, I did it, I got it together. When I got home, I started thinking when I told my mother the good news, "I can't do this." "Are you kidding, The Supremes, the biggest female act?" "Am I crazy? I can't do this." And my mother gave me a big pep talk. She said, "I believe in you. You can do it." So Saturday, Walt's brother and sister-in-law took me to the airport, Herbert [Herbert Gaines] and Ruthie Gaines. And that was in October of 1973, and I've been out here ever since. Cindy Birdsong picked me up at the airport. Because she had just come back into the group because Lynda Laurence had just left, who had taken her place prior to that, and Cindy came back. And we went straight to Mary's house, suitcases and all, and started rehearsing. Because we had a gig--which I didn't know until I got there--the following Saturday I think in New Mexico for their state fair. And the rest is history.$$So, you're singing the lead for The Supremes at this point?$$Um-hm.$$Yeah. So you had to sing all the old songs?$$Um-hm.$$And in addition to, I guess, some new ones?$$Yeah.$$What new records did you make with The Supremes?$$Let's see. 'I'm Gonna Let my Heart Do the Walking,' that was a big seller in the discos for us. Let's see what else. 'He's My Man,' which was big in the clubs, especially the gay clubs. I think I did three or four albums with The Supremes. And I think Motown [Motown Records, Detroit, Michigan] could have done more. Had they done more, then we would have had bigger and more hits, and the group would not have the demise that it did. There were some internal problems with the management, and I think that greatly attributed to the demise of the group. And finally Mary decided she was going to go solo, and removed herself from the group, which was fine. And we were going to continue on, Susaye Greene and myself. And then Motown finally--I think the edict came down from Diana, that's what I was told. I don't know if that's true or not--that since there was no original member left in the group, that it should just be retired. So at the end of '77 [1977], that's when the group was retired.

Martha Reeves

Martha Reeves, the earthy alto voice of Martha and the Vandellas, was born July 18, 1941, in Eufaula, Alabama. The eldest of eleven children, Reeves moved with her parents to Detroit, Michigan, before she was a year old. Reeves attended Russell Elementary School where Emily Wagstaff taught her vocals. A cheerleader who loved composition and music, Reeves studied voice with Abraham Silver at Northeastern High School. She was chosen to sing Bach’s Aria and she competed in talent shows. After graduating in 1959, Reeves worked in sales while performing with Rosalind Ashford and Annette Sterling as the Del-Phis and solo as Martha LaVille.

In 1961, William “Mickey” Stevenson, head of the Artists and Repertoire department for Motown Records, noticed Reeves at Detroit’s Twenty Grand Club. Reeves, along with Ashford and Sterling, sang back up for Marvin Gaye’s hits, “Stubborn Kind of Fellow” and “Hitch Hike” in 1962. In 1963, Berry Gordy signed the three to a recording contract as Martha and the Vandellas. Named by Reeves for Van Dyke Street and Della Reese, her favorite singer, the group’s first hit was “Come and Get These Memories”. The million selling “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” led a string of hits, including 1964’s “Dancing in the Streets”, “Nowhere to Run”, “Quicksand”, “My Baby Loves Me”, “I’m Ready for Love” and 1967’s “Jimmy Mack” and “Honey Chile”. Though they toured the United States and Europe to the acclaim of millions, they were the first group released by Motown when the company moved its operation to California in 1971. In 1974, Reeves sang for the film Willie Dynamite. That same year, her solo album for MCA, Martha Reeves, set a record for production costs, but did not match her earlier success.

Performing in 1983’s Motown 25th Anniversary Special and numerous other television shows and concert tours, Reeves is also featured in the film, Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Reeves’ 2004 album is titled Home to You.

Accession Number

A2005.022

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/20/2005

Last Name

Reeves

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Russell Elementary School

Northeastern High School

First Name

Martha

Birth City, State, Country

Eufaula

HM ID

REE03

Favorite Season

July 18 (Her Birthday)

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rio De Janiero During Carnivale

Favorite Quote

Lord have mercy.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Michigan

Birth Date

7/18/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Detroit

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Tomatoes

Short Description

Motown singer Martha Reeves (1941 - ) was the lead singer of the musical group Martha and the Vandellas, which recorded several hits for Motown Records, including "Dancing in the Streets”, “Nowhere to Run”, “Quicksand”, “My Baby Loves Me”, “I’m Ready for Love” and 1967’s “Jimmy Mack.”

Employment

Stanley Home Products

Citywide Cleaners

Motown Records

MCA Records

Arista Records

Universal Studios

Itch Records

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Martha Reeves interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Martha Reeves's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Martha Reeves recounts her mother's background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Martha Reeves remembers her father's musical talent

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Martha Reeves recalls her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Martha Reeves shares stories from her family's past

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Martha Reeves discusses her parents' courtship and life in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Martha Reeves describes her father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Martha Reeves talks about family life during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Martha Reeves recalls her early passion to become a singer

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Martha Reeves shares memories of her childhood in Detroit

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Martha Reeves remembers experiences in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Martha Reeves describes her personality as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Martha Reeves recounts her early involvement in music

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Martha Reeves lists her childhood musical idols

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Martha Reeves discusses her various jobs after high school

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Martha Reeves details her introduction into the entertainment business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Martha Reeves recalls the first Martha and the Vandellas recordings

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Martha Reeves remembers her first hit single

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Martha Reeves discusses radio stations that helped popularize her music

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Martha Reeves comments on backing musicians that recorded with her

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Martha Reeves shares her thoughts on becoming an internationally-known performer

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Martha Reeves explains her choice to make more danceable music

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Martha Reeves shares how she continues to produce her signature sound

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Martha Reeves laments the demise of Motown

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Martha Reeves recounts her career after her contract with Motown

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Martha Reeves discusses mentoring young artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Martha Reeves explains how Motown artists were trained

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Martha Reeves recalls Maxine Powell's influence on Motown

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Martha Reeves comments on popular music of today

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Martha Reeves discusses her current relationship to Detroit

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Martha Reeves shares her hopes for the black community

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Martha Reeves reflects on her career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Martha Reeves describes her family's reaction to her success

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Martha Reeves shares how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

1$1

DATitle
Martha Reeves recalls the first Martha and the Vandellas recordings
Martha Reeves explains how Motown artists were trained
Transcript
Now are you telling us this--you're right--?$$Yeah, I'm in, I'm in the, in the A & R [Artists and Repertoire] department minding my own business answering the phone and this was like three months into my employment. I worked nine months as a secretary. And this panic was stricken at the front door. "The union man's coming! The union man's coming! Martha, go in the studio and sing this song." "What song?" "Sing this song." "What's the name of it?" "I have to let him, let him go," and he sings a little bit of it for me. So I have to go and place myself on the mike. They play the music and the union man takes his time so I have to sing it maybe one or two times to get to know it. And, this is all because Berry [Gordy] had been given rules that he could not record any music unless there was an artist on the microphone. And the union man made a surprise visit trying to catch Berry off guard. Maybe they'll shut him down or maybe, you know, just catch him off so he could fine him or some kind of way involve the union. And, I did a good job--to the point where when Berry heard it he said put this out on her. She sounds good on it.$$Okay, so that was, so that record came out as the first--.$$Yes, it did, called "I'll Have to Let Him Go."$$--as Martha Reeves.$$Martha Reev-, Martha and the Vandellas.$$Martha and the Vandellas, okay. So the backup singers were there.$$I had called Rosalind [Ashford] and then had--and Gloria [Williamson] in to sing behind this drummer. My boss, Mickey [William Stevenson], had told me that they were going to record this drummer who was on the list maybe fourth down. And, he had been going on the road playing for Smokey Robinson. And, he was always disguised. He would wear a hat on his head, pipe in his mouth, glasses on his eyes, even had a beard one time. And he didn't know him, but when Mickey said he was going to record him we were all surprised. So I called The Andantes--Jackie Hicks, Louvain Demps, Marlene Barrow, who were the regular girls that sang behind everybody, and they were in Chicago [Illinois]. They weren't supposed to be in Chicago. They were supposed to be at Motown's beck and call 'cause they were under contract. So instead of busting my girls, I called in people that I knew I could sing with, the Del-Phi's--Rosalind Holmes, Annette [Beard] Helton, and Gloria Williamson. Gloria Williamson decided in the first of negotiations that she don't, didn't want to be on Motown, that she ne-, was going to keep her job with the city. So she didn't continue us, with us when the group changed to the Vandellas. But as Del-Phi's we sang behind Marvin Gaye, "A Stubborn Kinda Fellow," in the days of four tracks. That was all the singers were recorded at the same time on one mike. When this man pulled that hat off of his head, those glasses off his eyes, and that pipe out of his mouth, we looked at somebody who was as fine to me as any movie star could ever be. He even reminded me a little bit of Sam Cooke, who I met briefly before he was killed--very good-looking young man. And he could really sing. We didn't know he was a s-, I didn't know he was a singer. I just thought he was a drummer, session drummer. And then Marvin Gaye was discovered. Couple months later he married Berry's sister, Anna.$$Okay. And we heard Marvin Gaye the drummer first.$$(Simultaneously) Yes, he was. Yes, he--he, he was a drummer at Motown because he could do that, he could play drums. But he came there with Harvey Fuqua to be a singer. He just had to wait his turn to sing.$$Okay. So tell me about the Vandellas now. I mean, the--okay, now who are the other two and how did--you knew them from the Del-Phi's?$$Yes, they were the Del-Phi's.$$Okay.$$And when we came to--when I called them to do the session with Marvin Gaye, which was my job to call the different artists and the singers, Mickey liked our harmony right away and considered us as artists for the company right away.$Can you tell us some more detail about how, how the Motown look and attitude and all that was formed by Mrs. [Maxine] Powell and the other people that worked with the, the artist?$$The first girls' group that I remember meeting at Hitsville was The Marvelettes. And they had a record called 'Mr. Postman' that went to number one immediately. They were chosen from a, from a talent show in Inkster [Michigan]. They were the winners. And the prize to WCHB's contest was a recording contract with Motown Records. And when they went on the road the first time Mrs. Edwards traveled with them and found out that there's a lot of things that artists need to know before you just expose them to other countries and, and different cultures. And when they returned Berry [Gordy] said, well, we'll get some people to train them. And the first thing they did was hire chaperones. These were lovely ladies who'd--Bernice Morrison was my mentor. They would simply would tell us things like etiquette, you know, protocol and keep us kind of calmed down in gatherings and make sure that none of the men took advantage because that was something very, very dangerous to do--have young ladies traveling with different older men and married men. And so we had to have some sort of control taken. And after the chaperones Mrs. Edwards realized there should be more. And Berry said there's, there's someone who has done this before who could probably show them how. And he hired Maurice King. Maurice King taught us to sing ballads and to work the Twenty Grand and to go from the R & B [rhythm and blues] to the standards, graciously--vocally to be able to sing songs like "All the Way" and "People" and then come back and sing our hits and, and have shows that were interesting and, and entertaining--to increase our boundaries. Then the idea came that we should not just do the street dances 'cause The Temptations were the dancin-est people you ever saw and their choreography was made up by Paul Williams. And The Marvelettes could really, really dance and they made up their own routines. But Berry wanted it smoother. They wanted it, us to go to Broadway. He wanted us to play the Copacabana. He wanted us to be on the 'Ed Sullivan Show.' So he hired [Charles] Cholly Atkins from vaudeville. And Cholly, who had previously worked with Gladys Knight and the Pips and had them already in that state--they were the smoothest R & B group out on the road. He wanted more of that style, so they hired the man who was responsible for Gladys Knight and the Pips being that grateful, graceful, and that was Cholly Atkins, himself, of Cole and Atkins dance team from vaudeville. And then Maurice King hired Johnny Allen who played very, very good keyboard to sit with us--two- to three-hour sessions and teach us songs, teach us the proper way to vocalize. And the--there's an art with two-part harmony background singing 'cause usually a background is three parts. But he taught us the art of singing with two parts and blending the third voice around the vocals. And all of that was necessary. But when we weren't on the road, we were in the studio. There was always a session going on--always something or some instruction that you had to catch up with and to be a part of when you were not on the road.