The world’s largest office building, as of 1921, was the massively stamped General Motors Corporation. Opposite of that is the Hotel St. Regis, which was the venue for the Fourth Detroit A Go Go. Three nights of live Detroit recording and performing artists from the 1960’s era.
Sunday October 30, 2022
I had no idea what was happening at 7 p.m., the final night of the three-day live event – the fourth Detroit A Go Go in the ballroom.
I had walked into “Slide Thru Sunday”! A DJ-driven hotel weekly party “for those who like to dress,” spilling out of the lobby bar! Beneath the St. Regis canopy, Fast Freddy Anderson (FFA)with friends were posing for a video. FFA organized his well-dressed companions for a quick series of shots. They were just too busy having fun.
Closer to the entrance I walked past a seated outpost of smoking Brits. They were members of this year’s invasion audience of 200+ Northern Soul Music fans, who had likely seen some of acts perform last year in England. A member kindly displayed my personal marketing card. All the Brits are devotees of 1960’s U.S. popular recordings (especially Detroit music producers) that were not initially aired on British Broadcast, until dance clubs started playing imported Motown and various contemporary labels. This was followed by live multi-artist performance tours and television appearances in the UK. Pop music was alive in England.
Loyalty brings these fans to Detroit to witness, on stage, these aging successful performing artists like Joe Bilingslea of the Contours, among whom they eagerly collect their recordings and images.
Sliding through the club audience, I met “AKA Lady Cool”. What can I say.
Later in the night, I shot FFA in a coordinated elaborate pink shoe outfit talking with recording artist Teddy Passion.
The Sunday line-up opened with Willie Kendrick (age 80) who began recording in 1963 Golden World Records. He was thrilled to perform in a sparking red outfit with matching shoes, and ended his set on one knee, taking a bow.
Willie was pleased to be assisted by two of the Ladeez off stage right.
The Reflections set, which was led by original lead singer Tony Micale, (age 80), went well. “(Just Like) Romeo and Juliet” was produced by Golden World Records on 12th St. in Detroit, and was picked up by powerhouse CKLW-AM DJ (Windsor, Ontario 50,000 kw).
From their debut on CKLW, The Reflections were big on the west coast, and then nationally. “The band members got greedy! We appeared in the film “Winter A Go Go” without credit,” Tony Macale told me. “I stayed in for only two years…. Later I started the act again”. This year marks their Farewell Tour.
The group reconfigured in 2010-2011. This set of the second generation of The Fantastic 4 was polished and sounded great.
Between performances, a very sweet, on-stage moment took place. Pat “Patsy” Lewis was honored for all her production coordination and on-stage performances over the years by producers Phil and Kim Dick.
The highlight of Sunday was J.J. Barnes (age 79), a soul singer best known for his 1967 hit song “Baby Please Come Back Home.” I understood he had been released from the hospital six hours prior to his last stage appearance. He died from complications nearly two months later, on December 10, 2022.
A note from Detroit A Go Go producer- Phil Dick: “I received a message a short while ago from his granddaughter to inform me that sadly JJ Barnes passed away a couple of hours ago. JJ was the undisputed King of Northern Soul. One of the greatest performers I have ever seen. His performance just a few short weeks before at Detroit A Go Go (shown in the pic) was absolutely wonderful. He was also one of the nicest guys I’ve known. RIP JJ Barnes. You certainly were a “Real Humdinger.”
Saturday October 29, 2022
“Shot Gun” opened the Saturday show, led by Marty Montgomery, capturing the shrill tenor saxophone of Junior Walker’s tune that just tore up the audience with the Ladeez Trio moving in motion.
The next set was Raydio . They performed with a polish and a bit of theatrics.
The Detroit Emeralds quartet set performed with their classic outfits and stage presence. A feature in the set was one tune featuring original member James Mitchell, Jr. (age 80).
Then I ran in to FFA again. An amazing outfit, as always.
The closing act was an example of classic Motown: The Contours. Sharp in their white outfits, they were an excellent example of stage performance that always looks like the group is truly having fun. They all smiled and breathed deeply. Led by original member Joe Bilingslea (age 86) the set closed with their signature pleading tune – “Do You Love Me” (1962 Motown #1 Billboard RB and #3 Hot 100) now delivered forcefully by Al Chisholm.(age 76+).
Friday, October 28, 2022 Detroit A Go Go
At age 82, Kim Westin saluted the band, honoring the background singers – The Laydeez, and moved stage center. She was loud and clear. “We are the music makers,” referring to her long career and the other artists on the same bill.
Carolyn Crawford (age 73) took the stage with a strong wind behind her. Her command of the audience was strong.
Pat “Patsy” Lewis (75) carried on the strong female presence with her noted Rhinstone glasses. She was a member of the background quartet “The Adorables,” which comprised of two sets of sisters. Joyce and Betty Winston and Dianne and Pat Lewis. They backed Motown artists for years, and later Pat, Diane and Betty were the backup singers for Issac Hayes, Hot Buttered Soul recordings and tours. Pat was Butter.
Again, FFA appeared in a stunning outfit that virtually glowed in the weak hall lights.
Will Hatcher (age 90) followed with a strong stage presence. He began his recording career (1962-1966) with tunes like “Who’s Got A Woman Like Mine” at Thelma Records. The Thelma label was formed by Hazel Coleman, mother of Thelma, first wife of Berry Gordy and mother of four children. Ouch!! Will Hatcher continues to produce new music. Learn more at: Wheelsvillemusic@yahoo.com.
Closing out the night was the ever-entertaining Spyder Turner. At age 76, he is loved by all whom he meets. The 1966 cover recording of “Stand By Me” ( #12 Billboard 100, #3 R&B) propelled him into a long recording career.
The performers at all Detroit A Go Go events are a small sampling of talent that came out of the Detroit, often trained in the Church, and greatly influenced by gospel quartet music. Early 1960’s new music styles invited young talents to connect with multiple record companies, all trying to take advantage of their talent, and market radio and retail distribution. A backup income was studio recording session work (3 hours), which paid around $60.00.
End of an Era
This may be the last Detroit A Go Go event inspired by a very devoted audience from England who have honored these 1960’s era Detroit artists – Often supporting them from complete obscurity. If the audience were not imported from England, the audience locally would be nearly void.
Many of the artists had limited recording histories and went on to have successful employment in manufacturing, hospitals, utilities, driving buses and cutting hair.
“Music, It’s Not What I Do. It’s Who I Am”. It’s written on the apartment wall of long-term performer …. Leroy Seabrooks (age 71). He was retired with a bum foot from the Fantastic Four and a previous member of The Contours. He shared some of his performance costumes as we chatted on February 10,2023 .
“50 years on my feet cutting hair and dancing on the weekend,” he said.
“I have been a barber since age 12. I watched the local barber and said, ‘I can do that.’ I proved it, and the barber gave me my first tools.” There were 24 boys on the block – Dyar St. in hometown Hamtramck. Each mom gave each kid a buck for a cut. I had to help support my mother.”
Leroy was joined by current Fantastic Four member Jerry Brooks (77). “We went to England last year. We were treated like we were the Temptations.”
Leroy Seabrooks died April 2, 2023.
To learn more, read the previous blog entries.