© 2024 WBGO
Discover Jazz...Anywhere, Anytime, on Any Device.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Rhythm Revue Spotlight on singer and songwriter Otis Williams, a founding member of The Temptations

The Temptations
The Temptations

There aren't that many vocal groups still performing that can trace their beginnings back to the days of soda shop doo-wop. A union of two vocal groups from the 1950s resulted in one of the most successful and enduring harmony bands in the entire history of R&B.

In the late ‘50s, a Detroit group called The Distants recorded a song that was co-written by producer Johnnie Mae Matthews and a young singer and songwriter named Otis Williams. The song was called “Come On” and it was a minor hit in the Motor City area.

Otis Williams and bandmate Elbridge Bryant, along with bass singer Melvin Franklin, joined up with another group, The Primes, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams. This new group signed on with a young Detroit record label, a newcomer on the music scene called Motown. The group eventually called themselves The Temptations.

The Temptations’ original lineup consisted of Otis Williams, Eddie Kendricks, Elbridge Bryant, who would later be replaced by David Ruffin, Paul Williams, the original lead singer and also not related to Otis, and bass singer Melvin Franklin.

 The earliest Temptations records, which were gathered on the first album, Meet the Temptations, reveal a young group struggling to find the sound that would blend their doo-wop and gospel roots with the new soul groove that was becoming the dominant style of music of 1960s R&B. Once David Ruffin was in the group, the hits started coming.

The Temptations still perform to this day. Founder Otis Williams is the only surviving member of the original group. Otis was born October 30, 1941, in Texarkana, Texas. 

Listen above.


Recommended tracks by the early (original) Temptations

 “Slow Down Heart”
“Farewell My Love”
“Your Wonderful Love”
“I Want a Love I Can See”
“(You Can) Depend on Me”

[You Can] Depend On Me

Deep cut

"Always" by The Distants


Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)


Felix Hernandez started his career as a producer and radio journalist while in college. In the 1980’s, Felix independently produced the award-winning radio series BluesStage, which had a 6 year run on over 200 NPR stations. He also worked extensively as a journalist with WBEZ in Chicago, and NPR.