We told the first part of the Contours’ story in “Dance With The Contours”, taking it up to the point where, in late 1964, the group members conspired to strike for more pay and better working conditions. Motown got wind of this plan, did a deal with lead singer Billy Gordon and let the other Contours go. “Just A Little Misunderstanding” (an apt description of that event, perhaps) takes the story on from here.
A new team of Contours – Alvin English, Jerry Green and Council Gay – were recruited, although English didn’t last long and original member Sylvester Potts was re-enlisted to take his place. The group continued to score hits, with ‘Can You Jerk Like Me’ and ‘First I Look At The Purse’, and had a sure-fire follow-up in the can with ‘Baby Hit And Run’ when Billy Gordon got in trouble with the law and was ousted from the group. Ex-Falcon Joe Stubbs took his place.
Stubbs stayed long enough to cut one single with the group, ‘Just A Little Misunderstanding’, then he too was gone, to join the Originals. His place was taken by Dennis Edwards, who’d been talent-spotted performing in a Detroit club by two of the Temptations. With Edwards on lead, the Contours had one more single, ‘It’s So Hard Being A Loser’, before the relationship began to unravel; Edwards was beginning to record material as a solo artist as well as under the Contours name, and the group seems to have ceased to exist around the beginning of 1968. A few months later, Edwards was invited to replace David Ruffin in the Temptations.
This collection showcases the voices of Billy Gordon, Joe Stubbs and Dennis Edwards, as well as a fourth Contour, Jerry Green, who could sing like Gordon and performed his hits in the group’s stage act. Green’s take on ‘Baby Hit And Run’, long attributed to producer William Weatherspoon, debuts here. Also making its first appearance on this collection – along with 12 more previously unissued Contours and Dennis Edwards tracks – is the remake of ‘First I Look At The Purse’. Evidently Motown didn’t like their first attempt, but when they heard this one, they decided to release the original anyway. See if you agree with their judgment.
These recordings, all from 1965-1968, represent what most fans believe to be Motown’s heyday, when writers, producers, arrangers and performers were at the peak of their powers. Every track was cut in Motown’s “Snakepit”, the studio at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, and all feature the legendary Funk Brothers.
By Keith Hughes