Category: motown

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The Four Tops playing basketball in New York City, 1965.

R.I.P. Tammi Terrell  (April 29, 1945 – March 16, 1970)

Tammi Terrell was a Motown songstress best known for her duets with Marvin Gaye. They released 3 albums together:

United (1967), You’re All I Need (1968), and Easy (1969). Tammi released her only solo album Irresistible in 1969. 

Tammi was discovered by Luther Dixon at 15 and signed to Wand Records in 1960. By 17, she was signed to James Brown’s Try Me label. He wrote her first charting single “I Cried,” which he later reused for his 1966 hit “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.” She became involved in an abusive relationship with James, and left him while they were on the road after he beat her for not watching his entire performance.

Tammi enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in pre-med for two years before signing with Motown Records on her 20th birthday in 1965. She opened for the Temptations and began dating the lead singer David Ruffin. This relationship was also abusive, but she accepted a marriage proposal from David. She later discovered that he already had a wife and children as well as another girlfriend. Tammi ended their relationship after he hit her in the head with his motorcycle helmet.

In 1966, Tammi recorded the future classic “All I Do (Is Think About You),” written by a teenaged Stevie Wonder. Her version wasn’t released until 2010 on the compilation album Come On and See Me: The Complete Solo Collection.

In 1967, Tammi achieved success when she was partnered with Marvin Gaye. Their first recording “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” was a hit on the charts, followed by many hit more hit records, including “Your Precious Love” “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You,” “If This World Were Mine,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “What You Gave Me,” and “The Onion Song.” Their last single together, “California Soul,” was released after Tammi succumbed to brain cancer at the age of 24 in 1970.

In 2015, it was announced that Kat Graham was cast to portray Tammi in a biopic about her life, but the project has been shelved.

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The Supremes at EMI Records in London, 1967.

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The Jackson 5 rehearsing for The Bob Hope Show in 1973.

Founding member of The Supremes, Florence Ballard, promo photos for ABC Records in 1968

Florence Ballard was born in Detroit on June 30, 1943,

the ninth of fifteen children. She was friends with doo-wop trio The Primes (two of whom would later form The Temptations). When the group’s manager decided to create a sister act called The Primettes, he made Florence its founding member. She recruited Mary Wilson, Diane Ross, and Betty McGlown to form the quartet in 1958. Soon after, Florence was raped at knife point by a high school basketball player. She went into seclusion for a while and dropped out of high school, but eventually rejoined The Primettes. 

By 1960, they signed to Berry Gordy’s Tamla Records (later Motown) and were relaunched as The Supremes. Their first few singles didn’t chart and they were jokingly referred to as “the no-hit Supremes.” Finally, they topped the charts with “Where Did Our Love Go” in 1964. Their next four singles all reached No. 1 and within a year The Supremes were international stars. But there was tension in the group because Berry Gordy considered Diane (now going by Diana) the star. He was having an affair with Diana and gave her all the songs to sing lead. Florence became depressed and struggled with her weight and alcohol. She began missing shows and recording dates.

Berry Gordy groomed another singer, Cindy Birdsong, to replace her. After Florence got drunk before a show at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in 1967, she was kicked out of the group and sent back to Detroit. For her tenure with The Supremes which included ten No. 1 singles, she was given a one-time payment of $139,804. As part of the agreement, she wasn’t allowed to promote herself as a former Supreme or even mention any association with Motown Records. 

Florence tried to launch a solo career, but after her two singles failed to chart in 1968, ABC Records shelved her album.

She married Thomas Chapman, they had three children between 1968 and 1971. Her husband was reportedly abusive and he left her in 1971.

Florence ended up on welfare and her house was foreclosed. She sued Motown for royalties but lost. Now at rock bottom, Florence entered rehab. Her situation improved when she won an insurance settlement and was able to buy house for her family in 1975. Florence reconciled with her husband and returned to singing. She was attempting to revive her career when she died from cardiac arrest (caused by a blood clot) at 32 years old on February 21, 1976.

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Vintage R&B Concert Posters

  1. Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – November 16, 1954
  2. Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – June 10, 1959
  3. Oakland Auditorium (Oakland, California) – February 8, 1963
  4. Exhibition Garden (Vancouver, B.C., Canada) – June 26, 1964
  5. Wilmer’s Park (Brandywine, Maryland) – July 25, 1965
  6. Veterans Memorial Auditorium (Columbus, Ohio) – October 25, 1965
  7. Carr’s Beach (Annapolis, Maryland) – June 26, 1966
  8. Civic Auditorium (Knoxville, Tennessee) – March 31, 1967
  9. Shelby County Fairgrounds (Shelbina, Missouri) – July 27, 1968
  10. Norfolk Arena (Norfolk, Virginia) – November 22, 1969

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Tammi Terrell (1966)

Known for her duets with Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell was born Thomasina Montgomery on

April 29, 1945 in Philadelphia. Her younger sister says Tammi was raped by three boys when she only 11 years old. In 1960, she signed to a record label where she recorded a couple of singles. She left that label to sign on with James Brown where she began singing back up in his revue. Even though she was only 17, Tammi became sexually involved

in a

abusive

relationship with James who was almost 30. One night on the road Tammi left him after getting mercilessly beaten. In 1963, her first charting single “I Cried” reached #99 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Frustrated with her failure, she decided to quit the music business and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania where she spent the next two years as a pre-med major. 

In 1965, on her 20th birthday, she signed on with Berry Gordy who changed her professional name to Tammi Terrell. During the Motown Revue tour which she opened for The Temptations, Tammi began a volatile relationship with the lead singer David Ruffin. In 1966, David surprised her with a marriage proposal. However, Tammi was devastated once she discovered that he had a wife, three children and another girlfriend in Detroit. This led to them having public fights. It is claimed that Ruffin hit

Tammi

with a hammer and a machete, though these claims were denied by

Tammi’s family.

Earl Van Dyke, leader of Motown’s Funk Brothers band, recalled David beating up Tammi in the Hitsville building.

Her sister Ludie Montgomery also confirmed a story that Tammi was hit in the face by Ruffin’s motorcycle helmet, leading to the end of their relationship in 1967.

In 1967 Tammi began recording with Marvin Gaye, they a close platonic relationship and the duo released a string of hits including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Your Precious Love”. While performing live with Marvin at Hampden-Sydney College she collapsed and was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Following the surgery in 1970, Tammi slipped into a coma and died on March 16, just weeks before her 25th birthday.

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Vintage R&B Concert Posters

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – November 6, 1956

W.C. Taylor High School (Warrenton, Virginia) – March 8, 1962

Toldeo Sports Arena (Toledo, Ohio) – November 5, 1963

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – June 21, 1965

Cinnamon Cider (Long Beach, California) – August 18, 1965

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – September 20, 1965

Apollo Theatre (Harlem, New York) – February 11, 1967

Civic Auditorium (Knoxville, Tennessee) – November 25, 1967

Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, North Carolina) – June 9, 1968

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Tammi Terrell performing at the University of Michigan in 1967.

Young, beautiful, vivacious, musically talented Tammi Terrell appeared to have a bright future in the music business in 1967, when she appeared at the University of Michigan’s Hill Auditorium with the Motown Revue. After surviving abusive relationships with James Brown and David Ruffin, she made a series of top 40 duet hits with Marvin Gaye. Sadly, Tammi was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1967, which she succumbed to at the age of 24 in 1970.

(Photos by Tom Copi)

Vintage R&B Concert Posters

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – November 6, 1956

W.C. Taylor High School (Warrenton, Virginia) – March 8, 1962

Toldeo Sports Arena (Toledo, Ohio) – November 5, 1963

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – June 21, 1965

Cinnamon Cider (Long Beach, California) – August 18, 1965

Memorial Auditorium (Chattanooga, Tennessee) – September 20, 1965

Apollo Theatre (Harlem, New York) – February 11, 1967

Civic Auditorium (Knoxville, Tennessee) – November 25, 1967

Greensboro Coliseum (Greensboro, North Carolina) – June 9, 1968