Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Berry Gordy, Jr.)

Gordy 7005

No. 3      October 20, 1962

No. 11      January 4, 1988



“Now, ‘Do You Love Me’, let me tell ya, Berry Gordy told us, was intended for the Temptations,” said

Sylvester Potts, one of the still touring original Contours, in an exclusive interview.    “We were in,

rehearsing a song [with a then new and sixth member, guitarist Hugh Davis], ‘It Must Be Love’; it became

the B-side to something.    Berry was standing at the bottom of the stairs just watchin’ us go through this

song and he then interrups us and says, ‘Hey, I got a tune.    I was suppose to do it on the Temptations, but

they’re late, so I’m gonna try you guys.    It was  ‘Do You Love Me’.    Now, I think it was just a psych-thing,

though.    He was psychin’ us, makin’ us hungry for it, you know.    Think about it, can you imagine the

Tempts doing ‘Do You Love Me’?”


The appearance of the Contours’ golden gospel-ish gripper in the PATRICK SAWYZE flick Dirty Dancing

in 1988 returned their nostalgic name and the very recording to the nations top ten; a feat matched by only

a very few 45s, like Chubby Checker’s “Twist.”   Together consistently, in some form, since 1970, a charting

staple for the years between 1962-67, the initial Contours took shape in the late ’50s, in the Motor City.


“Joe Billingslea and Billy Gordon, the groups original lead singer, met in the service.  Billy’s gone now.    I

haven’t seen him in a long time.    He had a problem with, ah, drugs.    When they got out of the service they

had this group, the Majesties.    At the time, they were recording for a small company, Contour.    That’s

how we later came up with our name.

“They put out one single [“Hard Times” b/w “Teenage Gossip”], then they tried for Lu Pine Records; sang

’em some songs.    But, the label didn’t want to sign ’em, just to use one of their songs with the Falcons.

The guys said no, though.    Hubert Johnson was the next to join.    They changed their name to the

Blenders, for a while.    That’s when Billy Hogg and me joined.    I was the last one in.


“We became the Contours and went over to Motown, about 1960, and auditioned for Miss Ray and Berry

[Gordy, Jr.].    She was his second wife and had this group the Rayber Voices.    They’d do back-up on some

records.    BRIAN HOLLAND [a third of the famed  writing/production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland]

was in her group, too, for a while.    She liked us, but Berry didn’t.    He said, ‘Come back in a couple of

years,’ you know.


“We didn’t know Hubert was related to Jackie Wilson.    Hub said, ‘He’s my cousin.’    But, we said, ‘Ah

Jackie Wilson.    Yeah, sure, he’s your cousin.’    It turned out to be true.    So, we went over to Jackie’s

house. He was good friends with Berry.     They used to box together in the same stable, in the amateur

ring.   And Berry wrote a lot of early things for Jackie, like ‘Reet Petite’.    Anyway, we sang the same exact

songs that we had for Berry, for Jackie.    He jumped up, says, ‘Hold on, I got to make a phone call.’  When

he came back, he said, ‘Go back to Motown.’    We did and we did the same exact songs for Berry, again, and

he signed us to a contract.


“Whole Lotta Woman” was issued on Motown.   “It sold well locally, but our next one, ‘The Stretch’, man,

did nothin’!     Berry next moved us over to his new label [Gordy].     We did ‘Do You Love Me’; it hit [#3 on

the nations pop charts] and we became the very first act to break that label.    We even had the very first

album issued by the company.”


The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” topped the R&B listings.    The disk never charted in England, though

months later a cover version by Brian Poole & the Tremeloes made the U.K. top spot.   The tune saw chart-

action for the Dave Clark Five in 1964 (#11) and FREE’s Andy Frasier 20 years later (#84, 1984).


When the group came off the road to record their follow­ up, Gordy dreamed up, on the spot, in the studio,

“Shake Sherry” (#43); an intended topical take-off on the Four Seasons then world-topper, “Sherry.”

Every record–that’s e-v-e-r-y record–released thereafter (but one: “You Get Ugly”) made either Billboard’s

R&B or Pop charts; and all but one made both listings:    “Don’t Let Her Be Your Baby”, “Can You Do It,”

“Can You Jerk Like Me,” “That Day When She Needed Me,” “First I Look at the Purse,” “Just a Little

Misunderstanding,” and “It’s So Hard Being a Loser.”    Considering their chart-tracking very few singles–

only ten during a seven year period–were issued.    Potentially, three times as many could have been

offered fans.


“Yeah, they didn’t release as many singles on us.    We cut quite a few things.    They’re there in the can,

maybe 25-30 unreleased tracks.    Some of the things got put out in England, where a second lp was

issued,” said Potts.


“We wanted to show people that we could not only dance but that we could sing,”     Billingslea has told

researcher Dan Nooger.   “But Berry said the ballads were too pretty to release because the public wasn’t

ready for that from the Contours.      We were hot enough at the time that the public would have accepted

anything from us in that particular groove.”


“Like any other business that you’re in,” Potts said, “there’s politics.   Berry seemed to have his favorites,

who he keep puttin’ things out on constantly.    We only had a single or two a year, put out.    That’s almost

like not existing.     A lot of people thought we’d broken up, long before we did.    ‘How come no releases?’,

we’d be asked.      We were asking the same question and weren’t gettin’ any answers.”


Gordon was the first to leave, due to “drug problems”.    In 1964, Billingslea, Johnson, and Potts left.

Potts later returned.    Filling in were such new Contours as Council Gaye, Jerry Green, Joe Stubbs–the

brother to the Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs and formerly a member of the FALCONS and later a member of the

Originals and 100 PROOF AGED IN SOUL–and lastly Dennis Edwards.    The Contours officially disbanded

in 1966 as their last charting and last single, “It’s So Hard Being a Loser”  dropped off  the listing.

Edwards joined the Temptations, as a replacement for David Ruffin.


In 1970, Billingslea and Potts revived the group name.    Both have been a constant in the act since.

Although no further  recordings were ever issued–in the United States–the Contours have continued to

tour and to hope for that one more shot at success.    The inclusion of their seminal song in Dirty Dancing

proved more than any could have hoped.    Unfortunately, again, their label let them down.    To date, no

further Stateside recordings have  been issued.


“They didn’t do no follow-up on us.   Imagine, they just let it die after ‘Do You Love Me’ left the charts [for

the second time].   See, Motown was going through some transition.  It was bad timin’ for us, but once,

maybe, in a lifetime are ya gonna have a chance like this; you know, your very same record making the

charts twice.      They coulda put out an album of our unreleased stuff or put us back in the studio.    But

they were changing hands.   It’s too bad, really.  We needed a follow-up record, then.


“We’re feedin’ ourselves, though, and I hope we can continue for a long, long while.  We’re a little older

and a little slower, but tell ’em to check us out.   We still can shake ’em down.”


Besides Potts and Billinglea, the current  Contours  is comprised of Charles Davis, Arthur  Hinson, and

Daryl Munlee.   Billy Hoggs is now a minister.  Hugh Davis is said to be quietly working as a songwriter.

Billy Gordon married Georgeanna Tillman, of the Marvellettes.   Hubert Johnson died by his own hamd, on

July 11, 1981.


In 1989, the   group working with writer/producer  lan Levine recorded a new album for U.K. re lease-only;

Motorcity’s  Flashback.  “Face Up To the Fact” created a stir.