The Way It Was When I Started

While searching for an article dating all the way back to 1971 (when I was 5 years old…smile!) for a friend/reader, it dawned on me just long I have had privilege of writing a column.

“Reflections” — a perfect name for a column, adapted from the title of one of the Supremes’ many hits — has been officially running since 1970. Nearly four decades! And it’s still a pleasure to write, never drudgery, not even for a minute.

I thought it would be fun to take a look at what was going on in entertainment — especially music — during those early years.

Can you dig it?

(Okay, I know that was lame, but I just had to say it!)

AFTER A very long, complicated and bitter legal battle, Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland left Motown and formed their own record company, Invictus, with headquarters in downtown Detroit, the Cadillac Tower building to be exact.

For a few years Invictus was hot, turning out hits one after another by artists such as Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, the Honey Cone, 100 Proof Aged in Soul, Faming Ember and Laura Lee. But the company tried to do too much too soon, and by the end of the decade had folded.

At Motown, Holland-Dozier-Holland, of course, had written hundreds of major hit songs, especially for the Supremes, the Four Tops and Martha & the Vandellas.

DONNIE SIMPSON was the most popular and polished of all of WJLB’s Soul Teen Reporters. It came as no surprise when the station soon hired him. He called himself “the Luv Bug.” He went on to become a radio superstar in Washington, D.C. In addition, he became the host of the popular “Video Soul” program that aired on BET.

Flip Wilson had the hottest show on television. It was “must” watching for millions. No one will ever forget Wilson’s sassy “Geraldine” character, who introduced the slogan, “What you see is what you get.” It was also Wilson who gave us “The devil made me do it.”

Wilson even made the cover of Time magazine.

Nicholas Hood III, now pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ, played in an outstanding Cass Tech-based band called the Seven Sounds. So did Spencer Barefield, who continues to be one of Metro Detroit’s most active musicians.

WCHB-AM had a big talent show at the Fox Theater every year. It offered further proof of how much talent could be found in the Motor City area. In the earlier years of the competition (in the ’60s), first prize was a contract with Motown Record Corp.

Fans remember contest winner Carolyn Crawford and the three fine singles she recorded for Motown, “Forget About Me,” “When Someone’s Good to You” and the one that made the national Top 40, “My Smile Is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down).” One of the most popular clubs on Detroit’s east side was Ben’s Hi Chaparral, on Gratiot. I remember seeing the Spinners perform there (they had not yet made it really big). Dennis Edwards of the Temptations stopped by to see the show that night.

Meanwhile, the legendary 20 Grand, on 14th and W. Warren, was in its last days. I became old enough for admittance in time to catch a few shows — Martha Reeves & the Vandellas (Sandra Tilley and Lois Reeves at that time), the Four Tops, David Ruffin.

BLACK MOVIES were pulling in droves of moviegoers. Many of these films came up short artistically — some were downright embarrassing — but it was still a good thing to see so many Black actors, actresses,
directors, film composers, producers, screenplay writers, etc. working regularly.

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