Detroit Groups 3/19/2004(updated)
Information on these pages is provided for the purpose of promoting greater understanding and appreciation for vocal group harmony. Copyright 1998-2004. All Rights Reserved. Property of Nikki Gustafson & Jim Dunn. Not to be duplicated, reproduced or otherwise used without permission.
The Satintones -continued from previous page
Before the Satintones , Jim Ellis sang with a group called the Five Sounds . With this group, Ellis wrote and recorded "You're The Greatest Gift Of All" b/w "Chalypso Baby" released on the NYC based Deb label in 1958. The record is now quite rare and commands a price of several hundred dollars in collectors circles. The Five Sounds were made up of:
Jim Ellis (lead)
Albert Ellis (Jim's brother)
Gerald "Buzzy" Smith
Ellis was known for his smooth melodious voice, doing the lead on the majority of the Satintones "ballads". However, Ellis states he DID sing lead on Motor City contrary to the Goldmine article showing that Chico did lead on this. Ellis also sang lead on My Beloved, A Love That Can Never Be, Angel, and Tomorrow and Always ( an answer song to the Shirelles Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow).
Robert Bateman, as a Motown composer, co-wrote Please Mr. Postman and Playboy which were recorded by the Marvelettes, and Jamie which was a hit for Eddie Holland in 1962. Bateman was also active in engineering for Motown in their early days.
Vernon Williams sang with an RnB group called the Royal Holidays * prior to singing with the Satintones. He sang lead on the Satintones' I Know How It Feels in 1961. After the Satintones, he later sang lead and recorded with the Pyramids *, and then joined the Four Sonics.
* See previous article "Royal Holidays - Pyramids"
Most of the members of the Satintones backed up several single artists, as part of an "ad hoc" studio group called the Rayber Voices (Rayber coming from Ray, Berrys wife, and Ber rys name combined). The Rayber Voices were merely any singers around at the time when a "solo" artist was recording - they were then drafted to sing the backup vocals !
Satintones' records today are considered quite rare in their original form, ranging in the $100 to $600 price range, and some of them have been booted over the years.
At the time of the initial writing this article, most of the members were still alive: Jim, Robert, Chico, & Vernon lived in or near the Detroit area; Sonny lives in the Chicago area. Chico is now living in Georgia and on March 11, 2004 Vernon Williams passed away after a lengthy illness.
The Satintones US releases create an interesting task for collectors. Not only are they rare but two of their records were pressed in multpiple versions. "My Beloved" was issued with and without strings. "A Love That Can Never Be" was released with two different flip sides "Angel" and "Tomorrow And Always". And to add to the fun in making your collection complete, "Tomorrow And Always" is shown in Jeff Kreiter's "Group Collector's Record Price Guide" as being issued in one version with a male lead (Jim Ellis) and another with a female lead ( ?????? ). Neither Ellis nor Williams were aware of a female lead version being recorded, nor have we been able to confirm the existence of one with any of the collectors we have checked with. We are also aware of a version with a "duet " lead (Thanks to Mitch Rosalsky & Dennis Ostrom for getting us a tape of this) . We sent a copy of this version to Jim Ellis who believes it's an overdub, with him doing the 2nd lead part. Vernon Williams recollects rehearsing the song with the group, with him singing the 2nd (higher) part to Jim Ellis' lead, but doesn't recall recording it . Based on the rawer quality of this version to the "solo" Ellis lead version, and the recollections of both Ellis and Williams, we're inclined to think that the "duet" version was the result of a rehearsal session being taped without the full awareness of the group members at the time. Additionally, we feel that the reference to a female lead was actually meant to cite the "duet" version. The Satintones US recordings are:
Tamla 54026 1960 Motor City b/w Going To The Hop
Motown 1000 1960 My Beloved b/w Sugar Daddy ( no strings)
Motown 1000 1960 My Beloved b/w Sugar Daddy ( with strings)
Motown 1006 1960 A Love That Can Never Be b/w Angel
Motown 1006 1960 A Love That Can Never Be b/w Tomorrow & Always (male lead)
Motown 1006 1960 A Love That Can Never Be b/w Tomorrow & Always (duet lead )
Motown 1010 1961 My Kind Of Love b/w I Know How It Feels
Motown 1020 1961 Zing Went The Strings b/w Faded Letter
Following are unreleased Satintones tracks, listing title, writer's credits and recording dates where known. Special thanks to Andy Rix in England for providing us with this information.
BABY DOLL (Janie Bradford, Robert Bateman) 09/61
BECAUSE I LOVE YOU (B. Holland,R. Bateman, V. Williams, C. Scott) 04/61 & 09/61 ( two versions)
BOOGIE WOOGIE HEART (Berry Gordy) 09/61 (two versions)
CONTINENTAL STRUT (B. Holland, R. Bateman, W. Mitchell) 09/60
DO YOU FEEL THE SAME (?) 04/61 & 09/61
EVEN THOUGH (?) 09/60
FOOT STOMPING TIME (Berry Gordy) 09/61
GROOVY TRACK (?) 09/61
HUNGRY HENRY (B. Gordy, W. Sanders, V. Williams, R. Bateman) 09/60 & 09/61 (two versions)
I'LL STAY WITH YOU (?) 04/61
LIVING IN A MEMORY ( B.Holland, R.Bateman,V.Williams, C. Scott) 04/61 & 09/62
MY LOVE FOR YOU (B.Holland, R.Bateman,J.Bradford) 04/61 & 09/61
ROB PETER TO PAY PAUL (J. Bradford, R.Wylie,Sammy Mack) 09/60 & 09/61
SHOO-DOO (Faye Hale, W. Stevenson) ?
THE FEELING IS SO FINE (W. Robinson, B. Gordy) 09/60 & 09/61
YOU CAN'T BEAT MY LOVIN' (C. Leverett, B.Gordy) 02/61
YOU CAST A SPELL ON ME (B. Gordy, J.Bradford) 09/60 & 09/61
YOU DON'T KNOW IT (B. Holland, Bateman, Williams) 09/61
YOU'D MAKE A FINE SON-IN-LAW (B.Gordy) 09/60 & 09/61
YOUNG GIRL (Williams, Gordy) 02/61 & 09/61
YOUR SWEET LOVE ( Harold Edwards, B. Holland, Bateman) 09/61
Williams recalls that the Satintones recorded material that was only released overseas (not in the States) in the late 60s; Among these songs were: Hungry Heart, I Cant Replace My Old Love & Every Little Thing You Do .
(l-r Chico Leverett, Sonny Sanders, James Ellis, Robert Bateman, Vernon Williams)
Photo courtesy of James Ellis
In 1990 the Satintones came back together to record once more, this time doing both new original material as well as remaking a number of Motown songs for Ian Levine, a British producer. These were released in the USA on the Motor City label on "The Best Of Motor City Series".
(l-r Vernon Williams, Sonny Sanders, Chico Leverett, Robert Bateman, James Ellis)
CD Cover photo courtesy of Charlie Horner
Recorded at that time were: "Half A Man" , "Shake Me, Wake Me", "It's A Rough World" and "Perfect Combination". Will the Satintones return to the studio again ? We certainly hope so.
Nikki & Jim
Thanks to Jim Ellis, Chico Leverett, and Vernon Williams for providing information and pictures used in this article.