A living legend: Otis Williams and 'The Temptations' roll into Shippensburg

2012-02-16T08:17:00Z 2012-02-17T20:57:24Z A living legend: Otis Williams and 'The Temptations' roll into ShippensburgBy Allison Hagerman, Sentinel Reporter The Sentinel
February 16, 2012 8:17 am  • 

Not many people can be called a "living legend," but Otis Williams is definitely one of the few.

The last original member of the music group "The Temptations" still living, Williams is continuing to sing his way into the hearts of millions of people worldwide.

On Thursday, Feb. 23, Williams and the current "Temptations" will perform at the H. Ric Luhrs Performing Arts Center on the Shippensburg University campus at 8 p.m.

But despite Williams' fame with "The Temptations" and the group's many hits over the years, including "My Girl" and "I Can't Get Next You," he remains thankful about where his career has taken him.

Born on Oct. 30, 1941, in Texarkana, Texas, Williams said he was only a "little shorty doo-wop in Texas" when he began singing in church. Otis' mother later took him to Detroit to live with her and his stepfather. It was there that Williams saw rock and roll shows coming to the Fox Theatre, including Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

Williams said that when he saw Lymon and the "control" he had on more than 5,000 people at a concert, he said "that's what I want to do."

Williams would later become part of a singing group called "The Distants," who recorded "Come On/Always" on Specialty Records in 1959.

"The Distants" would later reorganize, calling themselves "The Elgins," and audition for record producer Berry Gordy in 1960. Gordy signed them, but the group was asked to change their name.

"The Temptations," most notably consisting of the "classic five" of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, were born.

In 1964, "The Way You Do The Things You Do" made No. 11 on the Top 20 list, with "My Girl" taking No. 1 in 1965 and selling more than a million copies.

Williams said "My Girl" is still his favorite "Temptations" song to this day, since it is basically the group's "anthem."

But how was it for him when he first heard his singing on the radio?

"It was exhilarating," Williams said. "It was a wonderful feeling and it still is today."

One particular event that Williams remembers took place in Mississippi, when Archie Manning was the quarterback at the University of Mississippi. Several black fans were ignoring their assigned seat numbers on their tickets at a concert, because everyone wanted to sit close to the stage to see the group, Williams said.

When the white ticket-holders came to the front looking for their seats, a fight nearly broke out between black and white fans.

It was Williams and fellow "Temptations" member Eddie Kendricks who went onstage and asked people to take their rightful seats. And they did.

Williams said it was amazing that as just "upstart entertainers," the fans "listened to them" and they "stopped a possible fight."

"Music. It transcends barriers," Williams said.

No matter what the group's power over fans, Williams said he still gets nervous before shows though, even after decades on the stage.

"You never get complacent and take it for granted," Williams said, noting that the group is left alone to mentally prepare before shows.

And "The Temptations," now made up of Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Joe Herndon and Bruce Williamson, still do a lot of shows. Or in Williams' words, they are "busier than a blind dog in a meat market."

That's part of what has kept Williams going over the years.

"I love it. When you sum it up, I enjoy it. I'm enjoying it still," he said.

When asked what it feels like to have molded the face of the music industry, Williams was humble.

"It's a great feeling," he said. "Man, I never would imagine that when we started singing. It's great."

And more is still in store for Williams and "The Temptations."

Some considerations are being given to taking the story of "The Temptations" to Broadway, he said.

"That's the amazing thing about show business. You never know what may happen," Williams said. "You know, the sky's the limit."

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(4) Comments

  1. gtrpkr
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    gtrpkr - January 19, 2015 9:48 am
    Jersey Girl..........Thursday February 23rd Otis and Temptations will be rolling into...
  2. gtrpkr
    Report Abuse
    gtrpkr - January 19, 2015 9:47 am
    Otis! my man
  3. Jersey Girl
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    Jersey Girl - September 07, 2014 8:12 am
    Did this happen already or is it in the future? I would like to go. Can't tell by this article since it was written Feb 2012. Please let me know. Thanks, marie
  4. Zippy D Dudah
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    Zippy D Dudah - March 29, 2013 8:59 am
    "Wait'll Otis sees us...he LOVES us!!!"
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