You would need a road map or a flow chart to keep up with all the changes that occurred over the years to the group, The Temptations. The five guys who were called The Temptations at the time “My Girl” was a hit were Eddie Kendricks, Paul and Otis Williams (not related, in fact Otis’ real name is Otis Miles,) David Ruffin, and Melvin Franklin. Lead singer changed from song to song, but for “My Girl,” Ruffin did the honors.
The five guys came from various areas of the country. Ruffin was born in 1941 in the town of Whynot, Mississippi. Singing in church choirs when he was young gave him the experience he needed to make a career from it. He moved to Detroit when he was sixteen and in 1957, met Berry Gordy who would later create Motown Records. Kendricks was born in 1939 in Union Springs, Alabama. His family moved to Birmingham where he met Paul Williams and the two became best friends. They sang together in a group called The Cavaliers. Desiring more exposure, they eventually wound up in Detroit where they called themselves The Primes. The Primes were successful enough (although they never recorded) that they created a female spinoff of the group called The Primettes who later became the Supremes (see earlier article on the Supremes.)
Paul Williams was born in 1939 in Birmingham, Alabama and started singing at a young age, before meeting Eddie Kendricks. Otis Williams was born Otis Miles in 1941 in Texarkana, Texas and when he was just a toddler, his mother left him with his grandparents to raise. The mother moved to Detroit and when Otis was ten years old, he moved to Detroit to join his mother. He sang in many different groups until the late Fifties, when he joined the Primes.
Melvin Franklin was born David English in Birmingham, Alabama in 1942. In a story very similar to Otis Williams, David’s mother left him in Alabama when he was a child and also moved to Detroit. When David was ten, he moved to Detroit to join his mother (just like Otis.) His mother’s name was Rose and she married a fellow named Willard Franklin. David took Franklin’s name and became Melvin Franklin. In 1958, he met Otis Williams in high school and the two became friends. Melvin was a bass singer and loved the color blue. He was given the nickname of “Blue” from his mates in the group. In March, 1961, he joined with the other four to become part of the Temptations.
Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin are the only Temptations who never left the group. The Temptations changed personnel frequently over the years, but always keeping the same sound that they were famous for.
“My Girl” was written by Smokey Robinson as an answer song to Mary Wells, “My Guy.” Smokey had heard Ruffin sing at a concert and wanted to write the perfect song for his voice. The result was “My Girl” which became the signature song of the Temptations over the years, no matter who was singing.
“My Girl” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on January 16, 1965 at number 76 and on March 6, it hit number one. It stayed there for one week. The Temptations would have three more number one songs and charted consistently until 1975. They are still active today, although only Otis Williams is still alive.