Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


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Bobby Taylor and The Vancouvers


(Canadian Band of Motown Soul)

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In the mid 60’s Motown was fast becoming one of the most recognizable record labels in the world. At 2648 W. Grand Boulevard, nothing prepared you for the encounter. Young hungry aspirating neighborhood kids from various parts of Detroit, were reaching to be part of constellation that would
fulfill their destiny.



Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, the Temptations, the Supremes, the Contours, Stevie Wonder, the Marvelettes,Marvin Gaye, Mary Wells, the Four Tops, Martha & the Vandellas…..the famous roster that would define the sound of young America.


An underrated group that continue to define that sound, hailed from Canada, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers. Bobby Taylor was born on the 18th of February 1936 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His family moved to San Francisco, California where he later obtain a masters in music at UC-Berkeley and was also a junior middle-weight Olympic boxer.



Guitarist Tommy Chong was born on May 24, 1938 in Edmonton Alberta, Canada. At 14, he quit high school and formed a band called the Shades. Without much success, the band decided to move to San Francisco where he met Bobby and together they formed a group in tribute to where they were originated in Canada, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers.


Bobby served as the lead vocalist and producer, Tommy Chong and Wes Henderson as lead guitarists, Eddie Henderson on bass, Robbie King on keyboards, and Ted Lewis on drums. The group traveled parts of the West Coast until their return back to British Columbia. Tommy Chong’s family leased a parlor in Vancouver named the Elegant Parlor and they settled as the club’s house band.

The band featured an unknown guitarist named Jimi Hendrix whose grandparents and father were originally from Vancouver. He left to go to England in 1966. The grapevine began to spread about the Vancouvers as they were asked to open shows for great acts such as Frank Sinatra, the Temptations, and Diana Ross & the Supremes. In 1966, Motown founder, Berry Gordy and the Supremes went to see the group perform at the Parlor and was extremely impressed with their stage presence. He
signed them to Motown in 1967.



The Vancouvers team with Berry Gordy and producer / songwriter Frank Wilson to come up with new material. In 1968, Tommy Chong and songwriter Tom Baird (who later wrote hits for the blue-eyed soul group Rare Earth) compose tune inspired by the birth of Tommy's 3rd daughter, Precious Chong (March 1967) along with two other daughters by women of diversion backgrounds entitled, ' Does Your Mama Know About Me' b/w 'Fading Away'. Bobby Taylor hated the song and refused to record it until a tongue-chewing Berry Gordy convinced him that the song was a smash.



‘Does Your Mama Know About Me’ b/w ‘Fading Away’ released Tuesday, February 27, 1968 climbed to the No 5 position on Billboard's R&B singles the week ending Sat, June 1, 1968 becoming the second hit referring to interracial relationships to chart in the soul era. ' Storybook Children' b/w 'Really Together' recorded by Billy Vera and the late Judy Clay (penned by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera) was the
first. Gordy issued the Vancouvers second single, ‘I Am Your Man’ b/w ‘If You Let Her’ on June 27, 1968. The song hit No 40 R&B on Sept 28, 1968 for 6 weeks.



During the summer of 1968, a soul extravaganza took place at Chicago's Regal Theater on Friday July 12, 1968 featuring Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers, the Esquires, the Artistics, the Vibrations, Linda Jones and Marshall & the Chi-Lites. The opening act was a group of young brothers from Gary, Indiana called, the Jackson 5. Their popularity from winning various talent shows at the Apollo and the Regal was a critical break through for the kids and was asked to open shows in both major arenas. By this time, they were on the bill to promote their new release on Steeltown Records, 'Big Boy b/w 'You've Changed' and reportedly tore up the stage. Bobby Taylor's memories of that show were not fond ones as he and the Vancouvers wanted out of Chicago because they were robbed during the gig.


Bobby was so impressed with the group, he told their father Joe Jackson who managed the boys that after the show, he's taking them back to Detroit with him. Upon their arrival in Motor Town, Bobby tried to secure a deal with Berry's assistant Ralph Seltzer but Ralph was very laid back . Without hesitation, Bobby began filming the routines on the J-5. The now famous 8mm black & white footage shown on
the NBC 1983 variety show, 'Motown 25' is the actual film Bobby took.



Singer / songwriter the late Johnny Bristol flew to L.A. to Berry Gordy's residents and viewed him the film. Berry immediately called Bobby Taylor in the middle of the night told him to sign them up right away. Bobby's major discovery became overshadowed by the suggestion of Berry's new PR secretary, Suzanne De Passe, to let Diana Ross introduce the Jackson 5 on the Supremes' appearance on the popular ABC variety show, The Hollywood Palace' (Oct 1969).  Suzanne noted that adding Diana's name (who's about to embark on a solo career) would added luster to the boys rising stardom.


Marlon Jackson credits Bobby Taylor and Gladys Knight (who actually notify Motown first) the ones responsible for discovering the Jackson 5. Bobby produced the brothers on their debut LP,
 ‘Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5 (Dec 18, 1969) making him the first professional to work with the group. Michael’s heart felt rendition of the Miracles’ ‘1961 classic ‘Who’s Lovin’ You’ is one of Motown’s greatest cover sides and Bobby's greatest production.



In August 1968, Motown issued an LP entitled, ‘Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers’ (No 20 on the R&B LP charts). A masterpiece single entitled ‘Melinda’ b/w ‘It’s Growing’ written by Smokey Robinson, the late Al Cleveland and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Terry ‘Buzzy’ Johnson of the legendary Flamingos, hit No 20 R&B on Jan 4, 1969, the last charted single before the group disbanded in late 1968.

Tommy Chong would return back to Vancouver and open up a business with his family and meet Cheech Marin and become the successful comedy duo of Cheech & Chong in the 70’s. In 2006, Tommy was featured in the Fox hit series ‘That 70’s Show’ as the character ‘Leo’.

Bobby Taylor would pursue a solo career and cut sides for Gordy, V.I.P. (subsidiary for Motown) Mowest,  Sunflower, Tommy Z’s Records, Playboy and Philadelphia International Records. He released a solo LP entitled, ‘Taylor Made Soul’ in 1969. In 1988, he signed with Motor City Records and recruited former Motown acts to sign as well.


Bobby currently is still active in the business. In 2006, he performed in the U.K. singing unreleased material and still obtain a cult status. With 3 masterpiece hits and a great LP to their credit, Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers will go down in music history as one the great bands of Canadian/ Detroit
soul.



                                                                  Soulfully Yours,


                                                                   Mike Boone

                                                              (Chancellor of Soul)


                                                                    (Sept 2006)






Materials should not be used or altered without the expressed permission of the author, Mike Boone,

(Chancellor of Soul)



 

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