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  1. #1

    Switching Lead Singers

    A thread on the Marvelettes got me thinking: are there any other Motown groups that
    a) had multiple lead singers or
    b) switched lead duties from one member to another

    In the case of the Marvelettes, Gladys seemed to have taken most leads up until around 1964. After that, they were mostly Wanda.

    As far as the Supremes, Flo only had one lead single; Diana took the rest until she left in 1970. A case might be made for the 70's Supremes around the time of the "Touch" album, when Mary started taking some leads, through the MSS lp.

    Of course then there's the Temptations, who had several lead singers. But other than that, it seems like all the other groups were one lead, and the rest background?

  2. #2
    That was pretty much it. There was a period where the post-Smokey Miracles had more than just Billy Griffin singing lead but it was always with him singing. Same with Four Tops who, afaik, never had a full lead vocal from another member that wasn't Levi.

    Even amongst the groups with multiple lead singers, the Temptations stood out because each member could sing a lead if they wanted.

  3. #3
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    The Contours had Billy Gordon, Joe Stubbs, Dennis Edwards as lead singers, and, I believe that Joe Billingslea, and Sylvester Potts and Jerry Green, lead on a few songs.
    The Originals had Joe Stubbs, Freddie Gorman, C.P. Spencer, and Hank Dixon.

    The Majestics had Johnny Mitchell and Richard Street, The Monitors had Richard Street and Sandra Fagin. The Elgins had Saundra Edwards, Johnny Dawson, and Yvonne Vernee Allen.

    The Satintones had Chico Leverett, James Ellis, and Vernon Williams.

    The Four Tops had Levi Stubbs and Obie Benson.

    The Del-Phi's/Vells had Gloria Williamson and Martha Reeves.

    The Marvelettes also had Ann Bogan (not mentioned above).

    The Miracles Had Smokey Robinson and Claudette Rogers.

    The Spinners had Bobbie Smith and G.C. Cameron and Henry Fambrough sang lead on a few songs. Phillipe Wynne joined After Motown.

  4. #4
    I believe the Tops switched occasionally between Levi, Lawrence and Obie. And throughout Flo's tenure with the Supremes, aside from "Popcorn", Diana was the singles lead but every year through Flo's exit, the girls switched lead singers and/or shared leads in the studio from time to time. Sandra Tilley recorded a lead with the Velvelettes. In addition to Smokey and Claudette trading leads, Bobby and Ronnie also sang lead sometimes too.

  5. #5
    The miracles first single without smokey was a shared lead. I think Ron did do part of Night Life. As for the 70’s Supremes Starting with the New Ways album they started sharing the leafs.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    As for the 70’s Supremes Starting with the New Ways album they started sharing the leafs.
    Yeah, yeah BG, we figured they probably smoked marijuana, but did they share leads?

  7. #7
    Other than their solo lps did the Pips share any leads with Gladys?

  8. #8
    Typo lol damn autocorrect lol.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    Other than their solo lps did the Pips share any leads with Gladys?
    yes they did. Friendship train, their versions of cloud nine and everybody is a star. Also bubba and William had silos on the imagination album.

  10. #10
    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the Jackson 5

  11. #11
    And before Ran points it out with another post I did , I meant solos curse ye autocorrect

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    yes they did. Friendship train, their versions of cloud nine and everybody is a star. Also bubba and William had silos on the imagination album.
    The guys also had a solo on GIRL TALK on the ALL IN A KNIGHT'S WORK album. And one of the guys (either Bubba or William) did the lead on THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD on their STANDING OVATION album.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    Yeah, yeah BG, we figured they probably smoked marijuana, but did they share leads?
    Mary forgot to write that she, Cindy and Jean played puff puff pass lol

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned the Jackson 5
    The J5 was mostly a group effort anyways. I mean all five brothers shared leads in one way or another during their six years at the label. EVERYONE who is a Jackson 5/Jackson family/MJ fan knows that.

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    And before Ran points it out with another post I did , I meant solos curse ye autocorrect
    LOL Autocorrect was cursed the day it was invented.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    The J5 was mostly a group effort anyways. I mean all five brothers shared leads in one way or another during their six years at the label. EVERYONE who is a Jackson 5/Jackson family/MJ fan knows that.
    I wouldn't say mostly a group effort. Rumor has it that Tito and Marlon spent very little time in the studio. But BG is correct to mention the J5 since Mike, Jermaine and Jackie traded leads or lead parts throughout.

  17. #17
    The Originals also shared leads.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I wouldn't say mostly a group effort. Rumor has it that Tito and Marlon spent very little time in the studio. But BG is correct to mention the J5 since Mike, Jermaine and Jackie traded leads or lead parts throughout.
    There may be some truth to Tito and Marlon not having a lot of time in the studio (especially Marlon since I did see pics of Tito in the studio with MJ, Jermaine and Jackie). I think they mainly used MJ, Jermaine and Jackie for lead and background vocals. Like they have them record lead parts and then add backgrounds later in the day. That's how they recorded I Want You Back. I don't think Tito or Marlon was on it at all. Tito WAS on ABC though. Marlon has a BRIEF solo in I Bet You from ABC but he's so indistinguishable you forget he's on it since MJ and Jermaine take it over from the others. Marlon didn't begin to have a heavy vocal presence until the later years. Especially on the album track Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing on Get It Together.

  19. #19
    Marlon also is spotlighted on Corner of the Sky. Interesting that he and Tito weren't utilized much in the studio. The background vocals sound fuller though than just 3 singers, wonder if the added some studio singers

    While these certainly don't amount to full shared leads over a period of time, I do find these to be interesting shared group leads:

    Too many fish in the sea - all four girls on the chorus
    Breathtaking Guy - all three sups on chorus

    Also it's interesting to note the uneven amount of shared vocals in a group. Otis has significantly less lead lines songs like Psychedelic Shack and I Can't Get Next To You than the rest of the group.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    There may be some truth to Tito and Marlon not having a lot of time in the studio (especially Marlon since I did see pics of Tito in the studio with MJ, Jermaine and Jackie). I think they mainly used MJ, Jermaine and Jackie for lead and background vocals. Like they have them record lead parts and then add backgrounds later in the day. That's how they recorded I Want You Back. I don't think Tito or Marlon was on it at all. Tito WAS on ABC though. Marlon has a BRIEF solo in I Bet You from ABC but he's so indistinguishable you forget he's on it since MJ and Jermaine take it over from the others. Marlon didn't begin to have a heavy vocal presence until the later years. Especially on the album track Mama I Gotta Brand New Thing on Get It Together.
    Definitely as the group continued on it became a more group effort, especially at Epic. IMO Tito wasn't a singer, so I never think of him in those terms. I think Marlon developed into one, which is why his presence (vocally) became more noticeable as the years went on.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Marlon also is spotlighted on Corner of the Sky. Interesting that he and Tito weren't utilized much in the studio. The background vocals sound fuller though than just 3 singers, wonder if the added some studio singers
    I think it's been said that sometimes Hal Davis joined the kids on backing vocals, but for the most part I can usually easily pick out that Michael, Jackie and Jermaine are harmonizing together on backing vocals.

  22. #22
    I might sound out of place but...
    I can’t help myself... and being a bit provocative ...

    Clarence Paul was also lead singer on a Contours track.

    Valerie Simpson and Tammi Terrell shared and switched the leads on the Marvin and Tammi duets.

    The Andantes shared the leads with Ann Bogan

    Also, Stevie Wonder, without being a group, switched leads wit the likes of Syreeta, Wonderlove or Kimberly Brewer on his own releases.

    And we must not forget the Commodores.

    😛

    JB

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Also it's interesting to note the uneven amount of shared vocals in a group. Otis has significantly less lead lines songs like Psychedelic Shack and I Can't Get Next To You than the rest of the group.
    I think that's because he was the Cindy Birdsong of the group. He worked well in the harmony but wasn't much of a lead singer. Sometimes I wondered why he always kept a job as a member of a singing group even prior to the Tempts, but if I'm not mistaken he was always the member of a group he started, never being asked to join someone's existing group. It's been a million years since I read his book so I could be wrong, but that's the way I remember it.

    I did think he did a decent job with "This Girl's In Love With You". And I do mean "decent".

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by jbpintus View Post
    I might sound out of place but...
    I can’t help myself... and being a bit provocative ...

    Clarence Paul was also lead singer on a Contours track.

    Valerie Simpson and Tammi Terrell shared and switched the leads on the Marvin and Tammi duets.

    The Andantes shared the leads with Ann Bogan

    Also, Stevie Wonder, without being a group, switched leads wit the likes of Syreeta, Wonderlove or Kimberly Brewer on his own releases.

    And we must not forget the Commodores.



    JB
    Commodores definitely belong on the list. But following your lead on the extreme responses to the original question ( ), Rosalind Ashford was a member of the Vandellas but also sang with the Marvelettes on "Silly Boy".

  25. #25
    In the Tops, Lawrence had a handful of full-track leads. As said, all the Originals sang lead, so you've got to add Walter Gaines and Ty Hunter to their roster of leads.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by luke View Post
    Other than their solo lps did the Pips share any leads with Gladys?
    On "Friendship Train", William Guest had a solo line in the middle of the song "We got to start today to make a brighter day for all children"....

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by RanRan79 View Post
    I think that's because he was the Cindy Birdsong of the group. He worked well in the harmony but wasn't much of a lead singer. Sometimes I wondered why he always kept a job as a member of a singing group even prior to the Tempts, but if I'm not mistaken he was always the member of a group he started, never being asked to join someone's existing group. It's been a million years since I read his book so I could be wrong, but that's the way I remember it.

    I did think he did a decent job with "This Girl's In Love With You". And I do mean "decent".
    Hey RanRan, "decent" is exactly how I would describe Otis as a lead singer... I'm not a massive fan of his voice as lead, however, spoken interludes are definitely his THANG! Otis' voice totally make I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "Stay" even more brilliant. And I do like it when he gets a line here and there, it spices up the song a bit more, like in "Psychedelic Shack".

  28. #28
    The group Switch use to switch up lead singers with Bobby DeBarge and Phillip Ingram.

  29. #29
    You could mention The Undisputed Truth here as well... while Joe Harris was the group's main lead singer most other members did get a lead or two... at Motown Billie Calvin, Brenda Evans, Tyrone Barkley and Vee McDonald all got full leads...

  30. #30
    DeBarge...

  31. #31
    I forgot about Switch. Underrated group. Had the DeBarge boys not been so mentally screwed up, they would've been better.

    The Undisputed Truth definitely were a GROUP, don't think there was a designated lead vocalist in that one.

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Hey RanRan, "decent" is exactly how I would describe Otis as a lead singer... I'm not a massive fan of his voice as lead, however, spoken interludes are definitely his THANG! Otis' voice totally make I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and "Stay" even more brilliant. And I do like it when he gets a line here and there, it spices up the song a bit more, like in "Psychedelic Shack".
    Right. People discovered Otis was a smooth "rapper" so he found his shtick there.

  33. #33
    Didn't the Dynamic Superiors trade off leads every once in a while ?

  34. #34
    Boyz to Men ?

  35. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by midnightman View Post
    The Undisputed Truth definitely were a GROUP, don't think there was a designated lead vocalist in that one.
    Yea I agree midnight, although as the member who stayed with the group throughout its existence I kinda count Joe as the ‘main’ lead singer... if you know what I mean...

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by TomatoTom123 View Post
    Yea I agree midnight, although as the member who stayed with the group throughout its existence I kinda count Joe as the ‘main’ lead singer... if you know what I mean...
    Haha I know exactly what you mean.

    Guess you're gonna always have groups that have singers that are like "I'M the lead!" Lol blame it on human nature, I guess.

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