By Lola Rossi
Get ready Motown Fans, this Friday, January 15, 2016, The Four Tops and The Temptations take the stage in The Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino at 8 p.m.
“The thing about and The Temptations and The Four Tops, is that it’s the perfect contrast of groups. The type of material we sing, they don’t sing and vice versa,” said Lawrence Payton, Jr., a second generation member of The Four Tops. “Their whole approach to the stage and the songs they’ve recorded in the past and the present, are totally different then the songs we would record. But the level of talent in both groups is apparent. It makes for an exciting show.”
Abdul “Duke” Fakir is the sole surviving member of the original Four Tops. They were together for over 40 years, without a personnel change. They were notable for having Levi Stubbs, a baritone, as their lead singer, while other groups were fronted by a tenor. The Band Members include: Fakir, who has been a Four Top for over 60 years; Payton, Jr., Ronnie McNeir and Harold “Spike De-Leon” Bonhart, replacing Theo Peoples who was part of the Four Tops after Lawrence Payton died in 1997.
“We’re gonna do all of your favorite songs. Sometimes we do a Tribute to the original three guys, who aren’t here anymore.” (His father, Lawrence Payton; Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Stubbs) “When we don’t do a tribute, Duke sings a solo, and he never does a solo, so it’s quite exciting when he does that in a show.” In addition to performing some of their chart topping hits like “I Can’t Help Myself” and “Reach Out I’ll Be There”, according to Payton Jr., included in the show will be some Broadway favorites; “Mack the Knife” by Bobby Darin; and a beautiful arrangement of “In The Still Of The Night”.
As a child growing up in a house filled with great musical talent, Payton, Jr. recalls, “My Father was a very creative guy. He did most of the vocal arrangements for the group and a lot of the groups for Motown. There was a constant flow of Entertainers, I just knew them as Dad’s friends, it was normal to me.” However, when he went to school, he realized who his Father was to the world. “On my fifth birthday, my Dad says, ‘Come on we’re gonna have a party’ and I was like, okay Dad. He gets me and we go to the place where we were having the party. It was like a camp with small town houses, filled with a bunch of Entertainers who all came to our town house for the party.” Laughing as he remembered the day, “It was me and Duke’s daughter; we were the only two children at the party with all the grown ups. It was fun, we had food, cake, and they all sang, it was really, really, really nice.”
One of eleven children, three of his sisters sing. “They all sing like nightingales and are very, very talented. They have tremendous ears for music, they arrange their harmonies, and are creative. If they were all boys, we would have a group.” Other members of the family are also involved in the music business, including his children, who are prolific songwriters. His Father’s cousin, Billy Roquel Davis, who wrote under the name of Terran DeCarlo, and Berry Gordy were song writing partners and wrote a lot of songs for Jackie Wilson, who was a cousin of Levi Stubbs. Wilson was also related to Payton, Jr. through his Great Uncle who married Wilson’s Mother.
Payton, Jr. would travel with his Father and the band during the summer and worked behind the scenes as he got older. Following in his Father’s footsteps, Payton, Jr. made his name as a songwriter, musician, arranger and producer for The Four Tops and other performers. In late 2004 and 2005, they recorded an album of American Jazz and Pop Classics with the Original Four Tops, less his Father. During the recording of the 14th song “If I Had You,” Benson became ill and passed away on July 1, 2005. They haven’t released the CD yet, because they are replacing some of the lead vocals with Spike and other Entertainers singing lead and also duets, but it’s too soon to mention their names. Two of the songs; “Shakey” and “The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me” were written by Payton, Jr. and Simone Vitale, who are also producing the project.
From February through May, they are headed to the recording studio and will simultaneously work on the 2005 CD, titled Round Midnight, and an all Original CD with music that will define the Four Tops today. “Someone Just Passed This Way” is one of the original songs being recorded by Payton, Jr. in tribute to his Father.
“I call the Temptations ‘Athletic Singers.’ They sing, they dance, they jump around and spin. I can’t wait to see the show with the new line-up.” said Payton, Jr. With more than 55 years, performing to sold-out Concerts throughout the world, The Temptations are still going strong. Their hits, “My Girl”, “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and “Get Ready” are only a few of their Top-40 hits. The Original Founding Members were: Otis Williams, who is the only surviving original member of the Temptations performing; Elbridge “Al” Bryant; Melvin Franklin; Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams, all who are no longer with us.
The new line-up is Williams; Ron Tyson, the longest performing member of the Temptations since the original group; Terry Weeks; Willie Green, one of the new members from Las Vegas and Larry Braggs, who performed as lead vocalist with Tower of Power for 15 years, left and started his own band called The Ol’ Sole Club, and now is the newest Temptation member.
I highly recommend going on YouTube and watching Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. During the show, The Temptations are announced to perform and then The Four Tops come on the stage to sing. Then what is referred to “The Battle” was born. Both groups had so much fun, switching up with each other’s songs. It was great and they have done that several times, but not for this concert.
People talk about Rap, the lyrics are questionable, but the music is mostly sampled from other music and turned into Hip-Hop. “It all comes back to Music In Schools. When I grew up, we took music classes with any instrument we wanted to play. Do you know how much that helped? We need to start doing things for ourselves. I was taking my nine year old Son to school one day, and when we got into the car, he turned on the Rap station. After about 5 minutes, I changed the channel to an easy listening station. When he was getting out of the car, he said to me, ‘You know what Dad? When you had that Rap on, it was making me all nervous and hyper. When you changed the channel, the music you had on, made me mellow and feel calm and relaxed’. That was very profound, and I realized how powerful and healing music is to the world. It’s very Spiritual when used the right way.”