K-Chuck Radio: Motown like you’ve never heard it before

Guys and gals, today I’m bringing you some of the rarest, most unique tracks out there from the Motown Records vaults.  Some of them are early recordings from your favorite artists and groups, some of them are radically altered versions, and some – well, I’ll just let you hear them.

As much as Motown was a super-powered record company for nearly 50 years, there were tracks that often fell through the cracks – they didn’t sell, or the artists moved on to bigger and better things.

Like, for example, how would you like to hear the Supremes in their earliest iteration as a doo-wop girl group?  Yeah?  With a Smokey Robinson track, no less?  here they are, with the song “Who’s Loving You” – which probably would have been a better fit for the Marvelettes, but we’ll talk about that later.

If you only know the Motown group The Contours from their classic hit “Do You Love Me,” you would be surprised that their show-stopping track in concert was this number, “First I Look At The Purse.”  Yeah, I was surprised, too.

Here’s a remixed version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” that contains the strings, the bass, the Andantes background vocals … but no Marvin Gaye.  Ooh.  Amazing what some enterprising young YouTuber can do by cross-phasing out Marvin Gaye’s vocals…

You’re probably familiar with Stevie Wonder’s song “Fingertips (Part 2)” – but did you know there was also a “Part 1” to the track?  Here are the two parts, soldered back together.

It was also not unusual for Motown to record foreign-language versions of their biggest hits – especially for the European and Latin markets.  For example, how cool is it to hear Stevie Wonder singing “My Cherie Amor” in Spanish?

And how about David Ruffin of the Temptations burning through a German version of “My Girl” – although, at some point in the song, he basically gives up and starts singing the song in English…

Here’s a really cool hidden track – apparently this singer, Abdullah (born Joseph McLean), released one single on Motown.  And why the A-side, “Why Them Why Me,” is kinda languid, this B-side “I Comma Zimba Zio (Here I Stand The Mighty One)” is quite awesome.  Legend has it that the singer had a dispute with Motown brass and was eventually released from the label, with only this one tantalizing track remaining.

This Motown 45 by producer Frank Wilson, “Do I Love You (Indeed I Do),” initially only existed as a series of test 45.  One of the test pressings got pirated out of the Motown vaults, found its way to England, and became a #1 hit in all the dance clubs.

And that’s not the oddest thing about this record.  Apparently Frank Wilson wanted to make this song a big hit, so he wiped his OWN vocals off the record, brought in Motown singer Chris Clark to re-record the lyrics, and tried to release this as a single.  It flopped again.  Oh well…

You know that Motown’s house band, the Funk Brothers, are the backbone of nearly every Motown hit in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  But what if I told you that at one point in time, Motown tried releasing their music on its own 45’s?  Here they are, credited as “Earl Van Dyke and the Motown Brass,” with their instrumental stomper “6 x 6.”

Here’s a kicker.  This is Motown singer T.G. Sheppard, with his #1 hit “Devil in the Bottle.”  That’s #1 country/western hit “Devil in the Bottle.”  See, Motown at one point in time tried to enter the country music market, with their Melodyland imprint.  And T.G. Sheppard was one of their success stories on that label.

I’m going to throw one more Motown track into the mix, this one from the early 1980’s.  This was Motown’s answer to rap music, as singer-rapper Gary Byrd participated in a Stevie Wonder 10-minute jam called ‘The Crown.”  Big, big hit in the UK, but since Motown never provided an edit shorter than 10 minutes in the USA, it never hit the Top 40 charts.

Oh yeah … one more.  This was Motown’s tentative excursion into New Wave music, with the San Francisco group Tiggi Clay.  It’s a decent song in and of itself, but I just remember this being pressed on Motown’s subsidiary label Morocco – as in “Motown Rock Co.”  Gotcha.

There you go – some rare and unique Motown music – on your cool source for cool music, K-Chuck Radio!