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Night Life





 

The Dramatics carried on the legacy of strong Detroit soul after Motown’s departure,  combining powerful vocals with a dynamic stage presence to become of the most exciting groups of the 1970s. 

Formed in 1962, they were originally known as the Dynamics with a lineup of Rob Davis, Larry Reed, Larry Demps, Ron Banks, Robert Ellington, and Elbert Wilkens.  After a series of unsuccessful singles, Ellington left and they changed their name to the Dramatics.  Shortly after recording the minor hit “All Because Of You” in 1967, the first of many personnel changes happened when Reed and Davis were replaced by William Howard and Willie Ford.

The next four years were uneventful for the group, until their creative guru Don Davis signed them to the Stax subsidiary Volt and recorded the Tony Hester composition “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get.”   The song exploded up the charts, reaching number three. When the follow up single, “Get Up And Get Down” also cracked the top ten, it confirmed that the Dramatics had arrived.
  

Their popularity reached an apex with "In The Rain," a ballad that hit number one and became a standard.   But despite the positive momentum, the identity of the group was about to be thrown into flux yet again.  In a series of moves that would make the Temptations jealous, the Dramatics switched up the lineup in 1973 as lead singer Howard decided to leave and Larry “LJ” Reynolds, another Don Davis protégé, was inserted into the lineup.  Lenny Mayes was also drafted in as a replacement for Ellington, who formed a different group of Dramatics and began touring.  All this confusion led to numerous lawsuits and the renaming of the original group to Ron Banks and the Dramatics.

Stax was bankrupt by 1975, and the Dramatics landed at ABC Records. Their releases never quite captured the spark of the Stax years, but they were a consistent presence on the charts.  The highlights of this era include “Shake It Well,” “Be My Girl,” “Me and Mrs. Jones” and “Welcome Back Home.” The 1977 song “Ocean Of Thoughts And Dreams” was sampled for Destiny’s Child “Girl.”

By the 1980s the end was in sight for the Dramatics.  Reynolds went solo in 1981 and

Banks split after New Directions, effectively disbanding the group, although they would reform off and on until the present day.  Banks’ 1983 album Super Bad is highly collectable. 


Dramatics' Deepest Grooves

Whatcha See Is Watcha Get (Volt, 1972)

A Dramatic Experience (Volt, 1973)


Dramatically Yours
(Volt, 1974)


The Dells vs. The Dramatics
(Cadet, 1974)
What should have been a classic meeting of two of soul's greatest vocal groups often fails to reach its potential.
 

Drama V (ABC, 1975)


The Dramatic Jackpot
(ABC, 1975)


Joy Ride
(ABC, 1977)


Shake It Well
(ABC, 1977)


Do What You Wanna Do
(ABC, 1978)

Anytime, Anyplace (MCA, 1979)


The Dramatic Way
(MCA, 1980)


10 1/2 (MCA, 1980)


New Dimension
(Capitol, 1982)


Ultimate Collection (Hip-O, 2000)
Opens with the biggest Stax hits but mainly focuses on the ABC/MCA years.

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