Johnny Angel's Ginchy Stuff

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Feature Friday: Jazz to Soul to Pop to success ... Four Tops!

Posted on May 22, 2020 at 10:10 AM

Good day Ginchers,

It's a Super-Star Feature Friday ... from Jazz to Soul to Pop to Success ... The Four Tops!  One of the Nuts and bolts groups of Motown during it's "Sounds of Young America" sweep of the Nation was the Four Tops.  However, before signing with Motown in 1963 the group recorded for many labels such as Chess, Red Top, Riverside and Columbia.  They began their singing career in High School, Levi Stubbs and Duke Fakir attending Pershing High School and Obie Benson and Lawrence Payton attending Northern High.  They were convinced by friends to sing toghether at a Birthday Party and decided to form a singing group called the Four Aims.  To avoid confusion with the Ames Brothers (popular at that time) they changed their name in 1956 to the Four Tops.  Their first records were Jazz oriented with a big band sound backing them, this sound grew into a more soulful sound for the times and in the early 60's carring over to their Motown days.  In 1964 Berry Gordy assigned his main song writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to the Four Tops and took an instrumental track and molded into an American Pop song with the Tops called "Baby I Need Your Loving".  Move over Pop/Soul world and enter the Four Tops!  Over the years of performing I had the honors of working with the Four Tops and to become friends with the great Levi Stubbs.  Our first time in a major Concert with the Tops, they invited Bubba and I to join them on stage for their Finale', as you can imagine a memory for life!  I had the pleasure of sitting with Levi Stubbs back stage a few times and talking about the early days of Motown and especially his love for singing the old Jazz Standards.  One of the greatest videos I ever watched was the Four Tops standing around a piano played by Aretha Franklin ... the result was one of the greatest music performances I have ever experienced.  The most amazing fact about the Four Tops was that from 1953 until 1997 the Tops never had a single personnel change unlike most of the famous Motown groups.  In 1997 Lawrence died from Liver Cancer but Levi, Obie and Duke carried on their tradition as a trio calling themselves ... "The Tops".  Today, only Duke Fakir carries on the great Tradition of the Four Tops.  As I look through my binders full of memories of the days I got to meet, work with and friend so many of the great music Icons of my lifetime, I realize how lucky I am to have all these wonderful memories.  Many of these music Icons have gone on to Rock and Roll Heaven but their legacy lives on.  Till tomorrow stay safe, stay healthy, help a neighbor when you can ... and, GOD Bless!


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