This gig was in 1966. Steve Mancha’s record was on the Groovesville label - he later had a superb 45 on Groove City that was credited to The Hollidays.

No Greater Love

When I interviewed Don Davis, I asked him how Edwin Starr came to be on “I’ll Love You Forever”. He said Mr. Wingate had wanted a more powerful vocal delivery. Yet when Rick Pack interviewed Edwin Starr for Soul Survivor magazine in the mid-80s, Edwin stated:

“There was no such group as the Holidays at the time. I got tricked into doing that. I went by the studio one night and producer Don Davis said, ‘Edwin, great to see you. Will you show these guys how to sing this song?’ A couple of weeks later, I hear ‘I’ll Love You Forever’ on the radio and I thought they must have got some other guys to sing it. Then I realized the voice coming out of the radio was mine! At the end, the DJ announced the group’s name as The Holidays. I thought, The Holidays! Who the hell are they?”

Maurice strongly contests Edwin’s version, maintaining that the group and Edwin had got to know each other well during their time at Golden World. But regardless of how it happened, the fact that Edwin Starr’s vocal dominates The Holidays’ recording is something that still – understandably - galls Maurice to this day:

“The thing that bothered me the most was Edwin’s voice is on the record, and it’s now number one in every city that it’s released in. And they decide the first show is at the Apollo Theater. This is the most critique place in music; the greatest in the world have come through there.”

Tony Gray
“No Greater Love”


It was certainly going to be a baptism by fire, as they lacked experience performing live. Nevertheless, the quartet headed straight to New York and quickly got their stage act together, going on to ride the wave of success as “I’ll Love You Forever” floated up to number 7 in Billboard’s chart. Appearing at the premier venues around the States, it was now The Holidays – not Edwin Starr – that was hot property and the group needed a follow-up 45.

Maurice sang lead on the similar sounding “No Greater Love”, which was released just a month before Motown boss Berry Gordy bought Golden World’s studio. It was the last record released on the label. That was in September ’66 and the group’s potential chart-climber was subsequently shelved.

The now popular Holidays were wondered what to do next. Motown had got J.J. Barnes and Edwin Starr’s contracts, along with Golden World’s studio and publishing. Should the group go down to Hitsville? The group was split. Tony:

“We came into Detroit from the Howard Theater (Chicago) and went over to the company. Joanne knocked on the glass when we came in and she was on the phone. She was talking to Berry Gordy… I got on the phone and he said, ‘Tony (Maurice), before you say no, listen to what I’m gonna say. If you and your group were with Motown, I’ll Love You Forever would be number one in the world.’ He said, ‘You come over to Motown, I personally will show you the works over here.’”

“Butch and I were content not going to Motown… we were clean; we didn’t want to be around drugs. And we didn’t want to be put in nobody’s can. Eddie and Robert wanted to go to Motown. I was the oldest and the decision to go to Motown or not was going to be mine, so I made it. I told him no.” It was a decision that divided the group and it wasn’t long before they went their separate ways.

Here’s a bit of record collecting trivia: Like Edwin Starr’s Ric-Tic hits, The Holidays’ “I’ll Love You Forever” was released over in the UK on the Polydor label. After Motown got Golden World and Edwin, his records continued to be pressed and sold – in fact they were perennial favorites in the North of England. However, The Holidays’ 45 was immediately deleted and is consequently now a rare record: a shiny Golden World copy usually sells for just $15 dollars, while a clean one on British Polydor would fetch around $400.

Ever since Tony arrived in Detroit in ‘65, The Debonaires had been part of his life: from first hearing their “Eenie Meenie”, to seeing a photo of the girls pinned on the wall of Golden World’s studio, to subsequently meeting the group and singing background on various sessions. And the one that caught his eye was Elsie Baker.

Elsie had started out singing with The Stereophonics in 1963, but had left before they recorded anything to join The Debonaires. Once she had teamed up with Joyce Vincent and Dorothy Garland in ‘64, the trio auditioned and signed with Golden World. Elsie:

“The next thing we know, we’re on a jet plane to New York, recording our song there – ‘Please Don’t Say We’re Through’. And we were still in high school when ‘Eenie, Meenie, Gypsaleenie’ came out.”

Recorded at Golden World’s new studio, “Eenie Meenie” was released in August of ’65, which was when Maurice heard it on the radio. Maurice:

“Before I met her (Elsie), I had told seven people at Golden World – from a picture on the wall - who my wife was going to be. And I didn’t even know who she was. When I met her, I told her that. And in ’67 we got married and we’ve been married ever since.”

They both sang on numerous recording sessions at Golden World and United Sound and below are a few of the gems: “It Won’t Hurt” is actually Eddie Levert with The Holidays – not the O’Jays.

It’s probably the fact that The Holidays sang on so many sessions at Golden World, for J. J. Barnes, Edwin Starr and Steve Mancha, that made people think these singers were part of the group. But that wasn’t the case.

Maurice Tony Gray of The Holidays and Elsie Baker of The Debonaires got married in 1967. These are just a few of the many great 45s they sang on. Tony Hester’s 45 was also released on the Karate label.


Researched and written by Graham Finch


This website is dedicated to Detroit, Soul Music, 45 RPM, Northern Soul and the great Motown era of Detroit Musics. It covers the Holidays, Golden World, Tamla, Wheelsville, Robert West, Darrell Banks, Johnnie Mae Matthews, Rose Battiste, Tera Shirma, Fred Bridges, Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Edwin Starr, Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey, Bob Babbitt, James Jamerson, Twisted Wheel, Wiggan Casino and many more Detroit Souls topics.