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That's What You're Doing to Me - Billy Ward and his Dominoes

The last post by the Contours has prompted a series of questions about the origins of Motown. Well, we've got to start somewhere, so we may as well start here. One of the pioneering black groups of the early 50's who laid down the template for modern r&b, and influenced the beginnings of rock 'n' roll and soul music, was Billy Ward and his Dominoes, here listed as the plain old Dominoes. These guys were gamechangers, combining elements of gospel, doo-wop and swing to come up with a truly rocking sound. Billy Ward hailed from California and was the leader, co-writing most of their songs with business partner Rose Marks with whom he managed the group. The crowning glory of the Dominoes, however, was lead singer Clyde McPhatter whose high tenor vocals in their many live performances earned him adoration all over America. They had hit after hit on the R&B charts (ie charts compiled from record sales from record sales in black neighbourhoods) and in the early fifties Clyde was touted as the best r&b singer in the US.

Check out his vocals on "That's What You're Doing to Me" from 1952 and you get a flavour of why:

"I wanna laugh

I wanna cry

I wanna live

Lord I want to die

can't you see

that's what you're doing to me?

I wanna leave

I wanna stay

I wanna fight

Lord I want to play

oh baby gees

that's what you're doing to me."

It's a great track, I hear you say, once you've caught your breath back from the dancing, but what's it got to do with Motown? Well, tune in tomorrow for the next instalment, and you'll find out. Meanwhile enjoy.

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