84. The Temptations

The Temptations are a vocal group from Detroit, Michigan. The group’s evolution is complicated; the original five band members were all performing in various groups by the late fifties, and in 1961 were signed to a contract by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy. They had limited success for the next couple of years, but their popularity grew after replacing Elbridge “Al” Bryant with David Ruffin. Over the next decade, the Temptations had an impressive string of hit songs that included four #1 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. There’s a tragic side to the group’s history, as several of the group’s best known performers lived shortened lives due to illness, or problems with consumption. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989.

Temptations

The Temptations’ Biography on Wikipedia

Eddie Kendricks (1939-1992), tenor, falsetto
Otis Williams (b. 1941), baritone
Melvin Franklin (1942-1995), bass
Paul Williams (1939-1973), baritone, choreographer
David Ruffin (1941-1991), tenor

Dennis Edwards (b. 1943), tenor

The Funk Brothers (1959-1972), Motown Records house band

Thad and Richard

“Of course there are a lot of other things that have kept us close all these years, but our love of the Temptations certainly is near the top of the list.

My enjoyment of the Temptations, and R&B/soul music in general started in the late sixties. Just as the Beatles and the British Invasion took hold for so many music lovers, Motown music, the “Sound of Young America”, captured me. The Temptations were probably the top vocal group in the history of rhythm and blues. Between 1965 and 1989, the Motown quintet had 43 top 10 singles on Billboard’s R&B chart, 14 making Number One. The group’s personnel changes and problems are well chronicled in group leader Otis Williams’ book and mini-series, but the Temptations still perform today with Williams the catalyst.

Amazon.com Link to “Temptations, Updated” by Otis Williams

The best remembered quintet were David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Otis Williams. All are now deceased except for Otis. Athletic, stylish, and smooth dancers, the Temptations epitomized what we in those days thought was cool. Starched shirts, cufflinks, fancy outfits, Motown did an excellent job presenting the group to the world.

We were in 9th grade when “I Wish It Would Rain” came out. As youngsters, we did not understand the real meaning of the song. As four sport athletes, we were running middle distance events in track. Although we liked the meets, practice (running laps and sprints) was boring. So as we ran around the track we sang the song literally wanting it to rain and cancel the practice. The wonderful lead singer, David Ruffin, was “fired” from the group shortly after this song came out and was replaced by the talented Dennis Edwards. I also loved the B-side of the 45, “I Truly, Truly Believe.”

Roger Penzabene (1944-1967), lyricist

Another favorite was in 1971 when “Just My Imagination” came out. Eddie Kendricks was the lead singer and his falsetto voice was just magnificent. Thad and I literally wore out the 45 record playing it over and over, just a lovely ballad. Ironically, it was Eddie’s last song with the group. As part of the times, the Temptations drifted from the smooth Smokey Robinson written hits to a more psychedelic soul sound behind Norman Whitfield. Kendricks was displeased with this change in direction.

However, we still loved the Temptations and we listen to them to this day. Several groups mimicked the Temps style in the seventies: the Dramatics, the Stylistics, the Chi-Lites, and the Manhattans among them. We enjoy those groups as well.

I appreciate John giving me the chance to write about the Temptations. We have been friends for 35 years and have shared many musical and non-musical interests. One of my favorite experiences was seeing game 4 of the 2002 World Series together, which I will never forget. And I was very honored and humbled to be John’s best man at his wedding.”

— Richard Supan

Stan Mason

I graduated high school at a young age, and waited a year before beginning college, to be ready to try out for the college basketball team. By then, I had known Richard for about a year. He is a few years older, and was working as an assistant coach for our crosstown rival high school. During my year off, he invited me to play on his adult league basketball team. It was good for me, learning to play with good adult players while barely seventeen years old.

I enjoyed playing basketball with big guys. I had a playmaker’s mentality, a distributor of the ball, and prided myself on setting up other players to score. Since high school, I’ve always been one of the little guys, though at six feet one I’m a relatively tall person. For the longest time I had trouble reconciling that fact, feeling small, then looking around a room and seeing I’m one of the biggest people. But in basketball, always one of the little guys. It altered my perspective.

It was difficult recruiting big guys to play in the top adult leagues. That year we played with Stan Mason, who had played for Cornell University. Stan was six feet, six inches tall, a decent player and a very smart man, who majored in physics or some related field. In one game (against a team with former professional player Charles Lowery), we had the ball, down one point with a few seconds left. Rich threw up a long desperation shot with a couple seconds left, at which point Stan ran over to Rich and started yelling at him. Unbeknownst to either of them, the referee called a foul under the basket, a phantom call against the player who had me boxed out for the rebound. They put me on the line and I made both free throws, and we won the game 71-70.

Stan was still hot after the game. Rich invited him back to his apartment to have a few drinks and play cards. Rich started playing Temptations records, and by the end of the evening, Stan was all choked up, saying how the records reminded him of his hometown St. Louis, and growing up.

I used Google to search for Stan Mason, a “where are they now?” exercise I sometimes attempt. I couldn’t track him down, but came across a 1973 Sports Illustrated article about the demise of Cornell basketball during the era in which Stan played.

“Low In Cuyuga Waters”, by Jim Kaplan, Sports lllustrated, February 26, 1973

The Stray Cat Assembles His Team

After college, I returned to the Bay Area, unfulfilled from my basketball experiences in Davis, and resumed playing in the local adult leagues. I was a better, more confident player, and before long I rejected the teams I was playing with, and started assembling my own teams. I’d pay the entry fee and uniform costs up front, then try to recuperate the expenses as best I could. But I got to choose who I played with. I called Rich, and we started putting a team together.

As a young man, Rich could really jump. In his prime, Rich was six foot one and perhaps two hundred and twenty pounds, a basketball player built like a linebacker, with powerful thighs that enabled him to dunk a ball with ease. His unusual size and shape made the transition to major college basketball difficult. After junior college, Rich focused on his studies while lighting up the adult leagues in the evenings. He had a skill you can’t teach; he jumped so high you couldn’t block his shot. I might add it was a skill he embraced.

Over the next couple years, we built a very good team. Always a rotating cast of characters, three of the most notable players were Ralph Howe, Ernie “Bucky” Scott, and Dean Abt. Rich had coached Ralph and Bucky in high school, and Dean played with me at U.C. Davis. All five of us were good enough to compete at the college level, but each left organized basketball somewhat unfulfilled. Bucky and I were well-rounded, unselfish guards; surrounding ourselves with the three big, talented scorers, we were tough to beat.

In our post-college prime, we played eighty or ninety games a year, and would lose maybe ten times. We participated in the Santa Clara County championship tournament twice, winning once and losing the final game the following year. My fondest memory is winning the Foothill College summer league, beating all twelve junior college teams, prompting one coach to complain about the level of competition his team faced. We were good offensive players, but that summer we were most notable for stifling defense, rarely allowing teams to score more than 55 points. Our 12-2 record beat our crosstown rivals, the De Anza Junior College “Alumni” team, whose 11-3 record included three losses to junior college teams, while beating us both times.

Vance Walberg and Our Crosstown Rivals

The De Anza Alumni was led by their sensational 6’3″ guards Mike Gregory and coach Vance Walberg, now famous for his development of the AASAA (Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack) offense in use by hundreds of basketball programs nationwide:

Vance Walberg, Innovator, developer of the AASAA Offense

The De Anza Alumni were quick, small and aggressive. In essence, they played without a post player. Vance’s strong, six foot, three inch younger brother Keith would usually play center. They were fast and they could all shoot. They were our rivals for years, and the games between the two teams were inspired affairs, though they would usually beat us. I have a great sense of pride following Vance Walberg’s career, and knowing the beginnings of his offensive basketball philosophy were taking shape then. A few years ago, when Vance was still coaching in Fresno, I passed through town to watch his team play. One night in late 2005, we spent a few hours after practice catching up, a very nice evening.

These are among my most cherished memories. Run, compete and play, then head to the local pizza parlor to wind down and reminisce over pizza and beer. Now I am old, my knees and feet fragile, and I can’t run anymore, but I wouldn’t have traded these experiences for anything in the world.

The Temptations Songs:

My Girl, The Temptations ✭✭✭✭
Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me), The Temptations ✭✭✭✭
Papa Was A Rolling Stone, The Temptations ✭✭✭✭
I Wish It Would Rain, The Temptations ✭✭✭✭

Cloud Nine, The Temptations ✭✭✭
Psychedelic Shack, The Temptations ✭✭✭
Since I Lost My Baby, The Temptations ✭✭✭

I Can’t Get Next To You, The Temptations ✭✭
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me, The Temptations ✭✭
Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today), The Temptations ✭✭
Get Ready, The Temptations ✭✭
The Way You Do The Things You Do, The Temptations ✭✭
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg, The Temptations ✭✭
(I Know) I’m Losing You, The Temptations ✭✭
Beauty Is Only Skin Deep, The Temptations ✭✭

Hey Girl (I Like Your Style), The Temptations
You’re My Everything, The Temptations
Masterpiece, The Temptations
I Want A Love I Can See, The Temptations
Runaway Child, Running Wild, The Temptations
It’s Growing, The Temptations

Related Songs:

(I Know) I’m Losing You, Rod Stewart ✭✭

Get Ready, Rare Earth ✭✭✭

Papa Was A Rolling Stone, The Pioneers ✭✭✭

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