Detroit Groups     01/28/2014 (updated)

Information on these pages is provided for the purpose of promoting greater understanding and appreciation for vocal group harmony. Copyright 1998-2006. All Rights Reserved. Property of Nikki Gustafson & Jim Dunn. Not to be duplicated, reproduced or otherwise used without permission.

The Satintones  

My Beloved

Before starting this article, I want to personally thank Jim Ellis of the Satintones for most of the information presented here (and then some). Some additional information was obtained from articles by Robert Pruter in Goldmine magazine - May, 1980, and Steve Towne in Goldmine - April, 1982.

Motor City                  Angel

The Satintones, one of the first groups to record on the Motown/Tamla labels sang together from 1959 to 1961.  The group during it's existence had two different lineups. The original group consisted of :

Jim Ellis (lead/second tenor)

Sonny Sanders (first tenor)

Charles “Chico” Leverett (lead/baritone)

Robert Bateman (bass).

Satintones 1st group

(L-R Jim Ellis, Sonny Sanders, Chico Leverett, Robert Bateman)

photo courtesy of Jim Ellis

Vernon Williams (second tenor) and Sammy Mack (second tenor) came in the group in 1961 when Chico left .  This made the configuration of the later or "2nd" group :

Jim Ellis (lead/second tenor)

Sonny Sanders (first tenor)

Vernon Williams (lead/second tenor)

Sammy Mack (second tenor)

Robert Bateman (bass).

( l -> r = Vernon Williams, Sonny Sanders, Jim Ellis, Sammy Mack, Robert Bateman)

I Know How It Feels                 Tomorrow & Always

The name Satintones was given by Sonny Sanders. Sanders has had a very complete involvement in the music both prior to and after his days with the Satintones. In 1955 Sonny began his recording career with Sax Kari & the Quailtones on “Tears of Love” b/w “Roxanna” for Josie.

He also sang  backup (as part of uncredited groups) for Mary Wells on “Bye Bye Baby”, Marv Johnson on “You got What It Takes” and Barrett Strong on “Money”, and more. As a Motown arranger, Sanders arranged many songs recorded by other artists, such as  the Reflections “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” and "Golden World" in l962, Edwin Starr - “Agent Double O Soul” on Ric Tic in l965, Jackie Wilson’s “Whispers” and “Higher and Higher” on Brunswick 1966/67, Young Holt Unlimited’s “Soulful Strut” on Brunswick 1968, Gene Chandler’s “This Bitter Earth” in 1969, and many more. He also sang with the soul group, the  Originals, but prior to their recording success.


Solid Sender

(label courtesy of Chico Leverett)

One of the most gifted members in the group is Charles “Chico” Leverett, who is credited with writing much of their material, including "My Beloved", "Sugar Daddy, Angel", "Motor City", "A Love That Can Never Be", and "Going To The Hop", all of which he also sang on.  But many fans of the music didn’t realize that Chico also recorded on his own. In 1960 Chico wrote and sang lead on a very catchy tune called “Solid Sender” b/w “I’ll Never Love Again”, released on a very early Tamla # 54024 label .


(label courtesy of Chico Leverett)

On the label, the group behind Chico is listed as the Rayber Voices of Detroit (see later info on Rayber Voices ). This particular group of Rayber Voices consisted of Robert Bateman (Satintones bass), Sonny Sanders (also from the Satintones), Brian Holland (who worked with the Satintones, but didn’t record with them), and Ranoma Liles Gordy (Berry Gordy’s ex-wife). These back-up singers do a great job of giving a full group sound to this recording, and Bateman’s bass is outstandingly noticeable on "Solid Sender". On the “I’ll Never Love Again” side, Chico leads on a wonderful ballad where the group is not quite as pronounced, but a great recording nonetheless. This 45, to our knowledge, has not been reissued, nor available on any albums or CDs. It is considered very rare in “collector’s circles”, and Chico himself believes that only a handful of them were actually released because of Gordy’s reluctance to promote any of the Satintones material.


But this is not the end for Chico - after the Satintones broke up (circa 1961), Chico moved to Reading, PA , where he lived for about 3 years. Chico still retained the desire to sing and create, so he used his writing talents, along with his singing talents, and wrote and arranged “Baby (Don’t Leave)” and “Work Work”. He sang the lead on both of these, and  recruited some of his pals from the area, who had not previously recorded, to back him up. Lo and behold, the songs were recorded and released on the King distributed Bethlehem label in 1963. Although this record is not considered to be nearly as rare as the Tamla recording, it is nonetheless not an easy record to come across, and again (to our knowledge) has not been released in any other format. Chico recalls the night he sang & recorded these songs, but since the people who were backing him up were just casual acquaintances, he unfortunately doesn’t recall their names. Chico continued to write & produce songs, such as “Rose” sung by Eddie Carroll on the Columbine label, (written by Chico), "Just the Way I Want Her To Be" b/w “Right On" (Wit’ It) recorded by Emanuel Laskey on the Music-Now label, where Chico was the Executive Producer, “Ain’t No Black & White In Music”, and “Slow Motion” recorded by the Dells, “Ooh You Put A Crush on Me” recorded by the Originals, and more.


Of special interest to us is a wonderful song he wrote called “My Home Town” which was beautifully sung and recorded by Jim Ellis (who is the smooth lead voice on most of the Satintones recordings, such as “Angel”, and also on “The Greatest Gift of All” recorded by the 5 Sounds on the Deb label in the mid 50s). It is our honest opinion that Jim Ellis has one of the smoothest, most melodious lead voices, right up there with other great R&B leads such as Willie Winfield & Rudy West ! Of possible interest to those who like trivia - the Pogo label on which “My Home Town” was recorded, was owned by Chico’s cousin, Joe Caldwell. Joe was once a leading basketball player for the Detroit Pistons ! With Joe’s label, Chico’s writing talent, Jim Ellis’s sweet lead voice, and a nice back up group called Motif, we have a really interesting recording ! Motif, a jazz group,  featured Earl Klugh on guitar (Earl would become known as a leading jazz guitar player in the late 70s and early 80s.)

Pogo Record

(Record from collection of Jim & Nikki, gift from Chico Leverett)

Chico’s musical talents might be partially hereditary, as his mother, Betty Leverett was a gospel singer in the 50’s, and although her group the Scott Singers did not record, they did tour through the United States with some other fine gospel groups, such as the Soul Stirrers.

scott sigers

The Scott Singers

(l-r Laney Thurman, Betty Leverett, Ruth Caldwell, Juanita Green, Marvene Bell, Pauline McLendon)

(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth "Betty" Leverett)

Betty, at age 86, was still singing for the Lord. In the early 90's she did a home recording of a song “Hush” with the New Bethel Church Choir. We are proud to have had the pleasure to have gotten to know both Chico and Betty via the telephone and letters, and personally in a recent visit to Detroit. On March 11, 2001 Betty Leverett joined the Heavenly Choir. Chico Leverett passed on Dec 5, 2013 at age 79.

Click here to continue with Satintones article

Go To:  Main Menu