Otis Williams

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Otis Williams
Otis Williams.jpg
Background information
Birth nameOtis Miles Jr.
Born (1941-10-30) October 30, 1941 (age 79)
Texarkana, Texas, U.S.
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
Years active1958–present
Associated actsThe Temptations

Otis Williams (born Otis Miles Jr.; October 30, 1941) is an American baritone singer.[1][2] Nicknamed "Big Daddy", he is occasionally also a songwriter and a record producer.

Williams is the founder and last surviving original member of the Motown vocal group The Temptations,[1] a group in which he continues to perform; he also owns the rights to the Temptations name.

Early life[edit]

Williams was born Otis Miles, Jr.[2][3] in Texarkana, Texas to Otis Miles and Hazel Louise Williams. The couple separated shortly after their son's birth.[2] While he was still a toddler, his mother married and moved to Detroit, Michigan, leaving the younger Otis Miles to be raised by both of his grandmothers in Texarkana.[2] Hazel Williams moved her son to Detroit when he was ten years old, where he lived with his mother and his stepfather.[2]


Becoming interested in music as a teenager, Otis Miles, Jr. adopted his mother's maiden name for his stage name, and as Otis Williams put together a number of singing groups. These groups included Otis Williams and the Siberians, the El Domingoes, and the Distants. In 1959, The Distants scored a local hit, co-written by Williams and their manager/producer Johnnie Mae Matthews, called "Come On", with lead vocals by Richard Street. Future Distants recordings were not as successful, and after an offer from Berry Gordy of Motown Records, Williams and his friends/bandmates Elbridge "Al" Bryant and Melvin Franklin quit the Distants. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams from The Primes later joined Williams, Bryant, and Franklin to create the Elgins, who signed to Motown in March 1961 as "The Temptations".

The Temptations became one of the most successful acts in soul music over the course of nearly five decades, during which singers such as David Ruffin, Dennis Edwards, former Distant Richard Street, Damon Harris, Ron Tyson, Ali-Ollie Woodson, Theo Peoples, Ray Davis and former Spinners singer G.C. Cameron have all been members. The group's lineup changes were so frequent, stressful and troublesome that Williams and Melvin Franklin promised each other they would never quit the group. Franklin would remain in the group until 1994, when he became physically incapable of continuing. Franklin died on February 23, 1995, leaving Otis Williams, then 53, as the last surviving original member of the quintet.

Williams is the co-author, with Patricia Romanowski, of Temptations, a 1988 book that served as both his autobiography and a history of the group. Ten years later, the book was adapted into a NBC television miniseries The Temptations. Williams was portrayed by actor Charles Malik Whitfield.

Although he has served the longest tenure in the Temptations, Williams rarely sings lead, focusing instead on his role as the group's leader and organizer, and as the background "baritone in the middle". The Smokey Robinson and Eddie Kendricks written track "Don't Send Me Away" from the LP The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul (1967), the intro on the early group song "Check Yourself" (1961), most notably, "This Guy's in Love with You" from the albums Live at London's Talk of the Town and Diana Ross & The Supremes Join the Temptations and the Norman Whitfield-penned tune "I Ain't Got Nothing" from 1972's All Directions are rare showcases for Williams singing lead. Williams has provided non-singing (spoken word) contributions to some Temptation songs, including "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" (1968, a hit duet with Diana Ross and Eddie Kendricks sharing the lead vocals), "I'm the Exception to the Rule", in which he shares leads with both Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards, during the opening verse of "Masterpiece" (1973) and "For Your Love", which is done in a medley with "You Send Me" (led by Ali-Ollie Woodsen) on the For Lovers Only album (1995).

In 1989, Otis Williams was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Temptations. Williams received an honorary doctorate from Stillman College in May 2006.

Personal life[edit]

Williams married Josephine Rogers in 1961;[4][5] the couple's son, Otis Lamont, was born the same year.[4][5] He and Josephine divorced in 1964. Otis Lamont Williams was a construction worker who died from falling off a building in a workplace accident in Detroit in 1983.[6]

Williams was engaged to Patti LaBelle. She ended the engagement when he asked her to quit music and become a housewife.

Williams was married to Ann Cain from 1967 to 1973.[7] He married his third wife, Arleata "Goldie" Williams (née Carter), in 1983.[8] Arleata Williams' daughter Elan Carter became 1994's Playboy's Playmate of the Month for June 1994.[9]

In popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: The Temptations". AllMusic. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  2. ^ a b c d e Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 7–9
  3. ^ Higgins, Chester (April 1971 – February 22, 2013). "The Temptations". Ebony. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  4. ^ a b Williams, Otis and Romanowski, Patricia (1988, updated 2002). Temptations. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square. ISBN 0-8154-1218-5. pg. 52–53
  5. ^ a b "RUFFIN-STEINBACK v. dePASSE (UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT)" (PDF). September 28, 2001. Retrieved February 17, 2013.
  6. ^ Williams and Romanowski (1988, updated 2002), pp. 214–15
  7. ^ Williams and Romanowski (1988, updated 2002), pg. 122–123
  8. ^ Ribowsky, Mark (2010). Ain't Too Proud to Beg: The Troubled Lives and Endearing Soul of the Temptations. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 263
  9. ^ [1] Archived March 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Review Roundup: AIN'T TOO PROUD - The Temptations Musical - at Berkeley Repertory Theatre". Broadwayworld.com.

External links[edit]