The Dramatics

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The Dramatics
OriginDetroit, Michigan, U.S.
Genres
Years active1964–present
Labels
Associated acts
Websitehttp://www.thedramatics.org
Members
  • L.J. Reynolds
  • Winzell Kelly
  • Leon Franklin
  • Donald Albert
Past members
  • Ron Banks
  • Larry "Squirrel" Demps
  • Willie Ford
  • William "Wee Gee" Howard
  • Elbert Wilkins
  • Lenny Mayes
  • Barrington "Bo" Henderson
  • Michael Brock
  • Larry Reed
  • Roderick Davis
  • Craig Jones
  • Steven Boyd
  • Harley K. Brown
  • Robert Ellington
  • James Mack Brown

The Dramatics are an American soul music vocal group, formed in Detroit, Michigan, in 1964. They are best known for their 1970s hit songs "In the Rain" and "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", both of which were Top 10 Pop hits,[1] as well as their later 1993 collaboration "Doggy Dogg World" with Snoop Dogg, a top 20 hit on the Billboard Rhythmic Top 40.

Career[edit]

The Dramatics, founded by Ron Banks, Larry Demps, Rod Davis, Elbert Wilkins and Larry Reed, originally formed in 1964 [2] [3][4] . Due to a typographical error they were called The Dynamics for a brief moment. Their first release in 1965 entitled "Bingo" was recorded for Wingate, a division of Golden World Records in Detroit, Michigan. By 1967, Motown had absorbed the entire Golden World Records operation. The Dramatics then moved to another local Detroit label, Sport Records, where they garnered their first minor hit single, "All Because of You." After becoming a victim in the July 1967 Algiers Motel incident, including the police killing of the group's valet Fred Temple, Reed and Davis eventually left the group, and were replaced by William Wee Gee Howard and Willie Ford in 1969 [5].

The Dramatics signed with Stax Records of Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, but moved on after one unsuccessful release,the 1969 Temptations-inspired tune "Your Love Was Strange" (Volt VOA 4029),written by group members Ron Banks, William "Wee Gee" Howard, and Elbert "Al" Wilkins, which got regional airplay,but never charted nationally.[6] (This song was later re-released as the "B" side to the hit,"Toast To The Fool" (Volt VOA 4082) three years later.[7] However, producer Don Davis re-signed them to Volt, a Stax subsidiary, in 1971 after the group teamed up with Detroit writer-producer, Tony Hester. They broke through with their first release recorded with Hester, "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get", which Hester offered them after seeing the group perform in a Detroit nightclub. The song went into the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 9 and climbing to number 3 in the R&B chart. [1] "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get" was awarded gold disc status by the R.I.A.A. in December 1971.[1]

Their members at this time were Ron Banks (who died of a heart attack on March 4, 2010, at the age of 58),[8] William "Wee Gee" Howard (who died of a heart attack on February 22, 2000, at the age of 49), Elbert Wilkins (who died of a heart attack on December 13, 1992, at the age of 45), Willie Ford (who died May 28, 2019, at the age of 68), and Larry Demps. These five members are often referred to as the original Dramatics, as they partially are different members to the founding members, two of which were not part of the group's breakthrough with a large audience. These five singers are the five singers that the larger audience first got to know as The Dramatics.

Shortly after the success of their first album, Howard and Wilkins left the group and formed their own version of The Dramatics, recording the single "No Rebate On Love" on Mainstream Records. They were replaced by Larry James "L.J." Reynolds and Leonard "Lenny" Mayes (who died of lung cancer on November 8, 2004, at the age of 53). At the urging of Don Davis and Stax Records, the original group changed its billing to "Ron Banks and the Dramatics". These two groups toured the concert circuit for four years before Banks' group won a court battle, when they bought Howard and Wilkins out and gained full access to the name.[9] Howard and Wilkins were forced to change the name of their group to "A Dramatic Experience". Banks, Demps and Ford then had the trademark rights to the name, and then extended that right to Mayes and Reynolds [10].

Through the 1970s, the group continued to have successful songs, including the Top 10 Pop, number 1 R&B hit, "In the Rain" in 1972, "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain" (number 5 R&B), "Me and Mrs Jones" (number 4 R&B), originally recorded by Billy Paul three years earlier, "Be My Girl" (number 3 R&B), and "Shake It Well" (number 4 R&B). "In the Rain" also reached number 5 on the Hot 100 pop chart and was their second million-seller.[1]

The group recorded for Don Davis' Groovesville and later Great Lakes music production companies during the 1970s, although the recordings appeared on several labels. The group moved from Volt in 1974 after three albums, releasing one album on Chess Records' subsidiary Cadet, sharing tracks with The Dells, who were also being produced by Davis at the time. The group then signed for ABC in 1975 and transferred five years later to MCA, after ABC closed following its buy-out by MCA. Many of the Dramatics' songs initially were written and produced by Tony Hester, including all the tracks on the first two Volt albums. Davis, then Banks and Reynolds took over production later in the 1970s and the early 1980s.

In 1982, the group moved to Capitol Records and made their first album without Don Davis, with Banks acting as producer. Only Banks, Ford and Mayes remained in the group. L.J. Reynolds left to go solo in 1981 and Larry Demps decided to go into teaching and spend more time with his family, after having joined the group's original line-up in 1964 with Banks. When Ron Banks also decided to try a solo career, the group disbanded for a few years, but re-formed in the mid-1980s, with Howard returning to join Reynolds, Mayes, Ford and Banks to record for Fantasy Records.

From 2012 there were two groups of The Dramatics. One group was lead by L.J. Reynolds, with Winzell Kelly, Leon Franklin, and Donald Albert. The other group, was lead by the original member of The Dramatics, Willie Ford, with Rick Littleton, Michael Brock, Douglas Gaddy and Gregory Finley [11], in 2017 long time member Paul Hill, of funk legend George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic band joined Willie Ford Dramatics. The Dramatics Featuring Willie Ford focused on staying true to The Dramatics' original and easily recognizable concept of five part harmonies and five dynamic lead voices in the group, at their shows. L.J. Reynolds' Dramatics massively featured the singing-talents of Mr. Reynolds and also included music from Reynolds' solo career at their shows. On September 24th 2018 L.J. Reynolds legally took the trademark rights to the name The Dramatics [12].

The Dramatics were officially inducted into the R&B Music Hall of Fame at Cleveland State University's Waetejen Auditorium on Saturday August 17, 2013.

The Dramatics are depicted centrally in the 2017, Kathryn Bigelow film Detroit, a dramatization of the Algiers Motel incident.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed The Dramatics among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[13]

Discography[edit]

Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales thresholds)
Record label
US
[14]
US
R&B

[14]
CAN
[15]
1971 Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get 20 5 Volt
1973 A Dramatic Experience 86 11
1974 The Dells Vs. The Dramatics 156 15 Cadet
Dramatically Yours [A] 36 Volt
1975 The Dramatic Jackpot [A] 31 9 89 ABC
Drama V 93 10
1976 Joy Ride 103 11
1977 Shake It Well 60 10
1978 Do What You Wanna Do 44 6 72
1979 Anytime, Anyplace 15
1980 10½ 61 14 MCA
The Dramatic Way 38
1982 New Dimension 40 Capitol
1986 Somewhere in Time (A Dramatic Reunion) Fantasy
1989 Positive State of Mind 80 Volt
1990 Stone Cold
1994 Mellow Drama Groovesville
1997 A Dramatic Christmas: The Very Best Christmas of All Fantasy
1999 If You Come Back to Me Volt
2002 Look Inside BBEG
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
  • A Album credited to Ron Banks & the Dramatics.

Live albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Best of the Dramatics (1974, Volt)
  • Be My Girl: Their Greatest Love Songs (1998, Hip-O)
  • Shake It Well: The Best of the Dramatics 1974-1980 (1998, MCA)
  • Say the Word: Their Greatest Love Songs, Vol. 2 (1999, Hip-O)
  • Ultimate Collection (2000, Hip-O)
  • 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of the Dramatics (2005, Hip-O)
  • The Very Best of the Dramatics (2007, Stax)
  • Greatest Slow Jams (2014, Stax)

DVDs[edit]

  • Biggest Hits Live (2009, Soul Concerts)

Singles[edit]

Year Single (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Peak chart positions Album
US
[14]
US
R&B

[14]
CAN
[15]
1963 "Toy Soldier"
b/w "Hello Summer"
Non-album tracks
1965 "Bingo"
b/w "Somewhere"
1966 "Inky Dinky Wang Dang Doo"
b/w "Baby I Need You"
1967 "All Because Of You"
b/w "If You Haven't Got Love"
43
1969 "Your Love Was Strange"
b/w "Since I've Been In Love"
1971 "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get"
b/w "Thankful For Your Love"
9 3 44 Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get
"Get Up and Get Down"
b/w "Fall In Love, Lady Love"
78 16
1972 "In the Rain"
b/w "(Gimme Some) Good Soul Music"
5 1 31
"Toast To The Fool"
b/w "Your Love Was Strange" (Non-album track)
67 18 Dramatically Yours
1973 "Hey You! Get Off My Mountain"
b/w "The Devil Is Dope"
43 5 A Dramatic Experience
"Fell For You"
b/w "Now You Got Me Loving You"
45 12
1974 "And I Panicked"
b/w "Beware Of The Man" (from A Dramatic Experience)
49 Dramatically Yours
"Choosing Up On You" / 30 The Dells VS. The Dramatics
"Door To Your Heart" 62 25
"Highway to Heaven" [B]
b/w "I Made Myself Lonely"
Dramatically Yours
"Don't Make Me No Promises" / 63 The Dells VS. The Dramatics
1975 "Tune Up" 74
"Me and Mrs. Jones" [B]
b/w "I Cried All The Way Home"
47 4 78 The Dramatic Jackpot
"Love Is Missing from Our Lives"
b/w "I'm In Love"
Both tracks with The Dells
46 The Dells VS. The Dramatics
"(I'm Going by) The Stars in Your Eyes" [B]
b/w "Trying To Get Over Losing You"
81 22 The Dramatic Jackpot
"No Rebate On Love"
b/w "Feel It"
26 Non-album tracks
"You're Fooling You"
b/w "I'll Make It So Good"
87 10 Drama V
1976 "Treat Me Like A Man"
b/w "I Was The Life Of The Party"
49
"Finger Fever"
b/w "Say The Word"
23 Joy Ride
"Be My Girl"
b/w "Richest Man Alive"
53 3 65
1977 "I Can't Get Over You"
b/w "Sundown Is Coming (Hold Back The Night)"
101 9 99
"Shake It Well"
b/w "That Heaven Kind Of Feeling"
76 4 Shake It Well
1978 "Ocean Of Thoughts and Dreams"
b/w "Come Inside"
106 17
"Stop Your Weeping"
b/w "California Sunshine"
22 Do What You Wanna Do
"Do What You Want To Do"
b/w "Jane"
56
"Why Do You Want To Do Me Wrong"
b/w "Yo' Love (Can Only Bring Me Happiness)
1979 "I Just Wanna Dance With You"
b/w "I've Got A Schoolboy Crush On You" (Non-album track)
35 Any Time Any Place
"That's My Favorite Song"
b/w "Bottom Line Woman"
40
1980 "Welcome Back Home"
b/w "A Marriage On Paper Only" (from Any Time Any Place)
9 10 1/2
"Be With The One You Love"
b/w "If You Feel Like You Wanna Dance, Dance"
79
"Get It"
b/w "Share Your Love With Me"
59 The Dramatic Way
"You're The Best Thing In My Life"
b/w "(We Need More) Loving Time"
26
1982 "Live It Up"
b/w "She's My Kind Of Girl"
40 New Dimension
"Treat Me Right"
b/w "Night Life"
62
1986 "Luv's Calling"
b/w "Dream Lady"
Somewhere In Time (A Dramatic Reunion)
"One Love Ago"
b/w "Dream Lady"
61
"When Love Is Over"
B-side unknown
1988 "Born to Be Wild"
b/w "Born To Be Wild" (Instrumental)
Non-album tracks
"We Are the Champions" (with Thomas Hearns)
b/w "We Are The Champions (Part 2)"
1989 "Bridge Over Troubled Water"
b/w "Please Say You'll Be Mine"
93 Positive State Of Mind
1990 "Ready 4 Love"
b/w "Just A Little Bit"
Stone Cold
1996 "Try Love Again"
CD single with various mixes
82 Non-album tracks
1997 "The Golden Horn"
b/w "All I Want For Christmas Is My Baby"
1998 "Saying Goodbye"
Release format unknown
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.
2015 "Victoria"

The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford

  • B Single credited to Ron Banks & the Dramatics.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 292 & 312. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  2. ^ "Ron Banks states what year The Dramatics were formed at 3:30 in this interview". youtube.com.
  3. ^ "Willie Ford states what year The Dramatics were formed at 5:05 in this interview". youtube.com.
  4. ^ "Dramatics - Unsung TV One 30 July 2017, stating who the founding members were". dailymotion.com.
  5. ^ "Dramatics - Unsung TV One 30 July 2017". dailymotion.com.
  6. ^ "Dramatics - Your Love Was Strange". 45cat.com. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  7. ^ "Dramatics - Toast To The Fool". 45cat.com. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  8. ^ McCollum, Brian (2010-03-04). "Dramatics founder Ron Banks dead at 58". Freep.com. Retrieved 4 March 2010.
  9. ^ Taylor, Marc (1996). A Touch of Classic Soul of The Early 1970s, p. 62. Aloiv Publishing, Jamaica, New York. ISBN 0-9652328-4-0.
  10. ^ "Dramatics - Unsung TV One 30 July 2017". dailymotion.com.
  11. ^ "A presentation of The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford in a newspaper article in New Pittsburgh Courier 2016-05-19". newpittsburghcourier.com.
  12. ^ "L.J. Reynolds claiming full ownership of the trademark The Dramatics September 24 2018 on his official Dramatics page". facebook.com.
  13. ^ Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d "US Charts > The Dramatics". Billboard. Retrieved 2013-03-31. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |magazine= (help)
  15. ^ a b "CAN Charts > The Dramatics". RPM. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  16. ^ "US Certifications > The Dramatics". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2013-03-31.

External links[edit]