For the band known for the single "Angel Baby", see Rosie and the Originals. For groups with similar names, see Original (disambiguation) Bands
The Originals, often called "Motown's best-kept secret", were a successful Motown R&B and soul group during the late 1960s and the 1970s, most notable for the hits "Baby, I'm For Real", "The Bells" and the disco classic "Down To Love Town". Formed in 1966, the group originally consisted of bass singer Freddie Gorman, baritone (and the group's founder) Walter Gaines, and tenors C. P. Spencer and Hank Dixon (and briefly Joe Stubbs). Ty Hunter replaced Spencer when he left to go solo in the early 1970s. They had all previously sung in other Detroit groups, Spencer having been an original member of The (Detroit) Spinners and Hunter having sung with The Supremes member Scherrie Payne in the group Glass House.
Spencer, Gaines, Hunter, and Dixon (at one time or another) were also members of The Voice Masters. As a member of the Holland–Dozier–Gorman writing-production team (before Holland–Dozier–Holland), Gorman (as a mailman) was one of the co-writers of Motown's first number 1 pop hit "Please Mr. Postman", recorded by The Marvelettes. In 1964 The Beatles released their version and in 1975 The Carpenters took it to number 1 again. This was the second time in pop history that a song had reached number 1 twice as "The Twist" by Chubby Checker, reached number 1 in both 1960 and 1961. In 2006, "Please Mr. Postman" was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
The group found success in the latter half of the 1960s as background singers for recordings by artists such as Jimmy Ruffin's "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted", Stevie Wonder's "For Once in My Life" and "Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday", David Ruffin's "My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)", Marvin Gaye's "Chained" and "Just to Keep You Satisfied", Edwin Starr's "War" and "25 Miles", and many more. Much like The Andantes, Motown's in-house female backing group, The Originals feature on countless Motown recordings but were never credited for doing so.
The Originals recorded lots of their own material for Motown but saw only one single release before 1969. A cover of Leadbelly's "Goodnight Irene" was released in 1966, backed with "Need Your Lovin" (both featuring Joe Stubbs on lead) but failed to chart. They recorded the song "Suspicion" in 1966 but it was never released as a single. It has, despite this, become a Northern Soul classic. The track has since been featured on many of their compilation albums, and many Northern Soul compilations. The group saw the release of two more singles, "We've Got A Way Out Of Love" and "Green Grow The Lilacs" that failed to chart, in 1969.
The Originals found their biggest commercial success under the guidance of Marvin Gaye, who co-wrote and produced two of the group's biggest singles, "Baby, I'm For Real" (1969) and "The Bells" (1970). This latter disc sold more than one million copies and received a gold disc awarded by the R.I.A.A.. Both songs became seminal soul music recordings, and both songs have since been covered: 1990s R&B group After 7 re-recorded "Baby, I'm For Real" and made it a hit again in 1992, while another 1990s R&B group Color Me Badd re-recorded "The Bells" for one of their albums. The release of Originals singles remained constant throughout the early 1970s, also chartings proved lower and more sporadic.
1970 saw two album releases, and four singles, all of which were Top 20 R&B Hits. Chart appearances then became less frequent, with only two appearances on any US charts between 1971 and 1975. The group nevertheless recorded enough material for several album releases, and a total of 8 albums were released during their tenure at Motown.
The group went on to have more modest success in both the soul and disco fields near the end of the decade, including "Down To Love Town", a #1 dance chart hit. Nevertheless, the songs they made with Marvin Gaye are arguably their most memorable and notable. Spencer returned briefly in the late 1970s but after the death of Ty Hunter, on February 24, 1981, the group ceased recording and broke up about a year later. The group had left Motown in 1977, releasing two albums for Columbia and their last ever album for the independent label Phase II. They later recorded for Ian Levine's Motor-city Records. The group recorded a song entitled "Take The Only Way Out" (scheduled for release as MOTC 111), and individual members (including former member Joe Stubbs) also made some solo recordings. The group duetted with former Motown label mates The Supremes for one single, "Back By Popular Demand" in 1991, as well.
Joe Stubbs, brother of Four Tops lead Levi Stubbs, died on February 5, 1998. He had been with the group for about six months in the mid-1960s, as well as been a member of The Falcons, The Contours and 100 Proof (Aged In Soul). C. P. Spencer died on October 20, 2004, and group's spokesman Freddie Gorman followed on June 13, 2006. Walter Gaines died January 17, 2012, after a long illness. Dixon is now the only surviving, and active, founding member of the original group