Been a hot minute since we went full on mainstream with a 'masterclass' collection but I've been leaning towards the sweet soul and the magic of early Motwown as of late, so thought I'd take a moment to talk about the real Detroit muscle behind the infamous hit factory ... sir Smokey Robinson not only gave Gordy the idea to start his own record label, Robinson wrote for and produced most of the labels roster -- and of course, wrote for, produced and performed with The Miracles -- providing most of labels earliest hits, one way or the other. And Robinson continued to be a hit making machine in all three capacities with consistency for well over a decade and against all odds, re-established himself as a solo artist after his cherished time with The Miracles. Robinson was also upper management for Motwown for over 25 years and has been cited by countless musical 'greats' as one of the most influential artists of all time. A true living legend!
The group that would go on to became The Miracles was first formed in 1955 by five teenage friends from Detroit, Michigan, under the name The Five Chimes. Three of the founding members, Smokey Robinson, Warren "Pete" Moore, and Ronnie White, had been singing together since they each were around the age of eleven. The group, influenced by acts such as Billy Ward and His Dominoes and Nolan Strong & the Diablos, featured Clarence Dawson and James Grice in the original lineup. All of the group's original members attended Northern High School in Detroit but after Dawson quit the group and Grice dropped out to get married, they were replaced by Emerson "Sonny" Rogers and his cousin Bobby and changed their name to The Matadors. Coincidentally, both Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers were born in the same hospital on the same date (February 19, 1940), despite not actually meeting each other until they were fifteen. In 1957, Sonny Rogers left to join the United States Army and Claudette Rogers, his sister, who had been singing with the sister group the Matadorettes, joined them shortly afterwards, and in 1958, the group officially became The Miracles. Following nearly two years of courtship, Smokey and Claudette married in November 1959. The group auditioned for Brunswick Records in front of Alonzo Tucker (an original member of The Midnighters who had since left the group to join Jackie Wilson's management team), Nat Tarnopol (Jackie Wilson's manager) and one of the label's staff songwriters, Berry Gordy, who remained quiet during the audition. Tucker was unimpressed by the audition, stating that because there was The Platters that "there couldn't be two groups in America like that with a woman in the group." After the Tarnopol and Tucker rejection, Gordy followed them and soon agreed to work with the group after discovering Robinson's notebook full of songs he had written and having been impressed with Robinson's singing voice. Gordy recorded their first single, "Got A Job", an answer song to The Silhouettes' "Get A Job" in January 1958. Gordy shortly thereafter struck a deal with George Goldner's End Records to distribute the single. Before the song was released, the group changed their name to The Miracles, taking it from the moniker "Miracletones", with the "'Tones" taken out. After earning only $3.19 for his production success, Gordy was told by Robinson to form his own label, which Gordy did, forming Tamla Records in 1959. One of their first Tamla singles, the ballad "Bad Girl", became The Miracles' first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop chart that October when it was licensed to and issued nationally by Chess Records. The next Miracles song, "It", was credited to Ron & Bill, in a duet between White and Robinson, and was released on Tamla and nationally picked by Chess subsidiary Argo Records. Following a dismal reception at the Apollo Theater in 1959, Robinson recruited guitarist Marv Tarplin to join them on a few touring dates after Tarplin played with the Primettes (later the Supremes), with Tarplin officially joining The Miracles shortly afterwards. This addition was the final element in making The Miracles' "classic lineup" complete.
In 1960, the Miracles reached the charts with "Way Over There", their second national hit, which Robinson wrote and based on the Isley Brothers' "Shout". Later that year, The Miracles released "Shop Around", backed with "Who's Lovin' You", which became the group's first smash hit, reaching number one on the R&B charts, number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and number one on the Cash Box Magazine "Top 100" Pop Chart, and was the first Motown single to sell a million copies. Both sides of this record became classics, and standards for R&B and rock musicians alike for several decades afterwards. As a result of this success, The Miracles became the first Motown act to appear on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" on December 27, 1960. The Miracles had modest success with their next few singles, including "Ain't It Baby", "Mighty Good Lovin'", "Brokenhearted" and "Everybody's Gotta Pay Some Dues", as 1961 continued. During this early period, the group suffered some problems as Robinson caught Asian Flu and had to be bedded for a month, leaving wife Claudette Robinson to lead The Miracles on tour until he recovered. Claudette herself had her share of problems, having suffered her first miscarriage that occurred after a car accident and Pete Moore was drafted to serve in the United States Army. The group's next charted successes included "What's So Good About Goodbye", and the string-laden "I'll Try Something New". The group reached the top ten again with "You've Really Got A Hold On Me" in 1962, featuring lead vocals by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers. This song actually began life as the "B" side to the group's intended "A" side, "Happy Landing", but the nation's Dee Jays flipped the song over, because they liked "Hold On Me" better. The Miracles hit the top ten still a third time the following year with the Holland-Dozier-Holland-written-and-produced song "Mickey's Monkey". The group's exciting live performances were so well received, they were often referred to as "The Showstoppers". The Miracles' success paved the way for all future Motown stars, and as Motown's first group, they would serve as the prototype for all other Motown groups to follow. The Miracles had become a national sensation, and their success catapulted them to the position of Motown's top-selling act, making them headliners at the nationwide Motortown Revue package touring shows, which showcased Motown artists, and that started around late 1962. The Miracles were also the first Motown act to receive coaching and instruction from famed choreographer Cholly Atkins, who had previously worked with Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Cadillacs, and future Motown act Gladys Knight & The Pips. (Bobby Rogers, The Miracles' best dancer, did choreography for the group prior to Atkins' arrival). Through his association with The Miracles, Atkins came into Motown at their insistence, and soon became the official in-house choreographer for all of the company's acts, including The Temptations, The Marvelettes, The Four Tops, The Contours, Martha & The Vandellas, and The Supremes. In addition to penning their own material, Miracles Robinson, White, Rogers, Tarplin, and Moore wrote for many of their labelmates as well. Motown hits written, but not recorded, by members of The Miracles include songs for The Temptations ("The Way You Do The Things You Do", "My Girl", "Don't Look Back", "Since I Lost My Baby", "It's Growing", "Get Ready", "My Baby"), Mary Wells ("My Guy", "The One Who Really Loves You", "What Love Has Joined Together", "Two Lovers"), Marvin Gaye ("I'll Be Doggone", "Ain't That Peculiar", "One More Heartache"), The Marvelettes ("Don't Mess With Bill", "My Baby Must Be A Magician", "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game"), The Contours ("First I Look At The Purse), and Brenda Holloway ("When I'm Gone"). Unlike other Motown artists, whose songs were written for them by staff songwriters, The Miracles were one of the few Motown acts that composed their own songs, adding to the group's already impressive reputation. Around 1964, Smokey Robinson became Motown's vice president, while the other members of The Miracles also began to work staff jobs with the company. Smokey and Claudette Robinson made plans to begin a family, but the rough life of touring caused Claudette to have several miscarriages. In early 1964, Claudette decided to retire from the road and remain at home in Detroit after another miscarriage, her sixth. From this point on, Claudette did not tour with The Miracles or appear in any official group photographs or on television, although she remained as a non-touring member of The Miracles, and continued to sing backup with the group in the studio until 1972. After Claudette Robinson's departure, the remaining Miracles appeared on The T.A.M.I. Show, a landmark 1964 concert film released by American International Pictures that included performances by numerous popular rock and roll and R&B musicians from the United States and England, filmed and recorded live at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on October 28 and 29, 1964. This film had theatrical release in theatres across the United States, and also included performances by fellow Motown artists The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, along with Chuck Berry, Lesley Gore, The Beach Boys, Rolling Stones, and James Brown & The Famous Flames. The Miracles' performance was one of the show's highlights, called "athletically electrifying" by critics. Hit singles that year included "That's What Love Is Made Of" and "I Like It Like That". In early 1965, the group released Motown Records' first double album, The Miracles Greatest Hits from The Beginning, which was a success on Billboard's Pop and R&B Album Charts. Also in 1965, The Miracles released their landmark Top 10 album, Going To A Go-Go, under the new group name of Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. This album launched four top 20 singles into the Billboard Hot 100, including the landmark million-selling Grammy Hall of Fame single, "The Tracks Of My Tears", "Ooo Baby Baby", "Going To A Go-Go" and "My Girl Has Gone", all of which became top ten R&B hit singles as well. During this period, their music had also made its way abroad, influencing several British groups along the way. The effects of this influence soon became even more pronounced when The Beatles, The Hollies, The Zombies, The Who, and Rolling Stones all began recording covers of Miracles hits. Members of The Beatles, in particular, publicly stated that the music of The Miracles had greatly influenced their own. Around this time, the group had begun performing in nightclubs and other high-profile venues after years on the Chitlin' Circuit. According to an Ebony article on the group, the group began grossing $150,000 a year due to royalties and personal investments. They also were making between $100,000 and $250,000 for nightly shows. In addition, The Miracles appeared on many of the popular variety television programs of the period, including The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig!, Hullabaloo, American Bandstand, Where The Action Is, The Mike Douglas Show, The Andy Williams Show, Teen Town, Hollywood A Go-Go, Upbeat and Britain's Ready Steady Go!. The Miracles' success continued with several hits including "(Come 'Round Here) I'm The One You Need", "More Love", "Special Occasion", "If You Can Want", and the Top 10 hit "I Second That Emotion". Around this time, the group was starting to be billed as Smokey Robinson & The Miracles on several of their albums. The name change did not appear on their singles until the release of "The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage", a Top 20 hit released in 1967. On that song's flipside was the tune "Come Spy With Me". The Miracles sang the original theme to the 1967 20th Century Fox film of the same name. The year 1968 brought a second "greatest hits" collection, The Miracles Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, which was the group's second Top 10 album, which featured the most popular singles from their successful Going To A Go-Go, Away We A Go-Go and Make It Happen albums of the 1965–67 period. Also in 1968, the group released their hit album Special Occasion which spawned 3 more Top 40 singles, including the smash "If You Can Want", which the group performed on their first appearance on CBS' The Ed Sullivan Show, at the time considered television's top talent and entertainment showcase. However, due to constant changes in the music industry and Motown, by 1969, Smokey Robinson sought to leave The Miracles and the stage, to settle for continued work as Motown's vice president as well as become more of a family man to his wife Claudette and their children. The year 1969 had brought a second Ed Sullivan Show appearance for the group, singing their then-current singles "Doggone Right", and their hit cover of Dion's "Abraham, Martin and John". Robinson's departure plans however, were thwarted after the group's 1969 song "Baby Baby Don't Cry" hit the Billboard Pop Top 10, and when The Miracles' 1967 song, "The Tears Of A Clown", (their fourth Grammy Hall of Fame-inducted hit) was released as a single in 1970, it became a number-one hit in the UK. It was subsequently released in the US, where it duplicated its UK success, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Chart and selling over 3 million copies. As a result, the Miracles became hotter than ever, and Robinson decided to stay with the group for another two years. In 1970, the group were given their own ABC television special, The Smokey Robinson Show, which starred The Miracles, with guest stars The Supremes, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Fran Jeffries. In 1971, they scored one more top 20 hit with 1971's "I Don't Blame You At All". In 1972, Robinson made good on his promise to leave The Miracles, starting a six-month tour which ended in July 1972 at Washington, D.C., later introducing Billy Griffin as his official replacement. This series of final live Miracles concerts with Robinson was released by Motown on the double album Smokey Robinson & The Miracles: 1957–1972 (Tamla TS320). About that final tour, Miracle Pete Moore stated: "We had 12 farewell engagements playing to sold-out houses. It was amazing." Also released that year was the group's final studio album with Smokey, Flying High Together, with its ironic lead single "We've Come Too Far To End It Now" reaching the Billboard R&B Top Ten (their 23rd visit to the Top Ten of that chart). After Smokey's retirement, Billy Griffin was introduced to national television audiences on NBC's The Midnight Special, on an episode guest-starring The Miracles and hosted by Smokey Robinson, broadcast on July 13, 1973. Claudette Robinson completely retired from the group when Smokey finally stepped down, and within a year, Marv Tarplin also left. The remaining Miracles, with Billy Griffin, re-emerged with the critically acclaimed album, Renaissance – their first without Smokey Robinson on lead vocals, which included the Marvin Gaye composition, "I Love You Secretly", "What Is A Heart Good For" (the intended first single), and the charting single,"Don't Let It End (Til You Let It Begin)".
Meanwhile, after a year of retirement, Robinson announced his comeback with the release of the eponymous Smokey album, in 1973. Joined again by Marv Tarplin, the album included the Miracles tribute song, "Sweet Harmony" and the hit ballad "Baby Come Close". In 1974, Robinson's second album, Pure Smokey, was released but failed to produce hits. Robinson struggled to compete with his former collaborators Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and former Temptations member Eddie Kendricks, as all three had multiple hit singles during this period. Former Beatle George Harrison featured the track "Pure Smokey" on his 1976 album Thirty Three & 1/3 as a tribute to Robinson. (Harrison's fellow Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney were also fans of Robinson's songwriting and the group covered "You Really Gotta Hold On Me" on their second UK album With the Beatles and US album The Beatles' Second Album, respectively). Robinson answered his critics the following year with A Quiet Storm, released in 1975. The album launched three singles – the number-one R&B hit "Baby That's Backatcha", "The Agony & The Ecstasy" and "Quiet Storm". However, Robinson's solo career suffered from his work as Motown's vice president, and his own music took the backseat. As a result, several albums including Smokey's Family Robinson, Deep In My Soul, Love Breeze and Smokin, saw poor promotion and subsequently received bad reviews. During this stretch Billy Griffin's Miracles were still riding high off the success of "Do It Baby" and doubling down with the back to back LP's Don't Cha Love It and City Of Angels -- from which the single "Love Machine" reached number-one on the Hot 100 in early 1976, The Miracles' first since "Tears Of A Clown", and later sold over 4.5 million copies. The Miracles, who had long been written off by the music industry, had proven that they could have big hits without Robinson. Despite this success, however, in 1976, The Miracles' relationship with Motown imploded during contract renewals after their contract with the label had expired. When Motown, then going through a contract issue with Stevie Wonder, advised the group to wait "six months" to discuss a new contract, the group took on an offer to sign with Columbia Records, signing with them in 1977. The group immediately had problems after signing with Columbia, starting with the release of their first Columbia single, "Spy For Brotherhood". Expecting controversy from the single as well as possible threats from the FBI, Columbia pulled the song from the airwaves. The group failed to have a hit during their short Columbia run and in 1978, Pete Moore decided to retire from the road while Billy Griffin wanted to return to his solo career, leading to the group to disband. That same year Marv Tarplin presented Smokey with a tune he had composed on his guitar. Robinson later wrote the lyrics that became his first solo top ten Pop single, "Cruisin'". The song hit number one in Cash Box and peaked at number four on the Billboard Hot 100. It also became his first solo number one in New Zealand. Robinson would follow a similar approach with his next album, Warm Thoughts, which produced another top 40 hit, "Let Me Be The Clock", though it did not repeat the success of "Cruisin'". In 1981, Robinson topped the charts again with another sensual ballad, "Being With You", which was another number one hit in Cash Box and peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It also hit number one in the UK Singles Chart, becoming his most successful single to date. The Gold-plus parent album sparked a partnership with George Tobin and with Tobin, Robinson released his next several Motown albums, Yes It's You Lady, which produced the hits, "Tell Me Tomorrow", "Touch The Sky" and "Essar". In 1983, Robinson teamed up with fellow Motown label mate Rick James recording the R&B ballad, "Ebony Eyes". In 1980, Ronnie White and Bobby Rogers decided to carry on with The Miracles as a touring unit replacing Pete Moore and Billy Griffin with Dave Finley and Carl Cotton, which carried on for three years as "The New Miracles". This version of the Miracles was short-lived though after White decided to retire from show business following the death of his wife Earlyn, who died from breast cancer in 1983, disbanding the group again. Around this same time, most of the original Miracles including Smokey Robinson and Claudette Robinson as well as Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin, and Bobby Rogers reunited to perform a medley of their songs on the 1983 NBC television special, Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever. Ron White was attending his wife Earlyn's funeral around this time, and did not participate in the reunion. Following his reunion with the original Miracles on Motown 25, Robinson became dependent on cocaine, which affected his life and career and in 1986, Smokey's marriage with Claudette Robinson ended in divorce. In 1987, following this period of personal and professional issues, Robinson made a comeback with the album, One Heartbeat and the singles, "Just To See Her" and "One Heartbeat", which were Top 10 hits on Billboard's Pop, Soul, and Adult Contemporary charts. They were aided by popular music videos. "Just To See Her" won Robinson his first Grammy Award in 1988. The album became one of his most successful ever, selling over 900,000 copies in the United States alone. In the same year, Robinson released One Heartbeat, the UK group ABC released a tribute song, "When Smokey Sings". He was inducted as a solo artist to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988, later igniting controversy as the committee had inducted only Robinson and not members of his group, The Miracles, which Robinson was personally offended by. In 2012, however, the committee rectified the mistake announcing that the group would be inducted on their own merit. Though Robinson was not listed as an inductee, he was due to induct his former group at the ceremony in April 2012. After Motown was sold off to MCA in 1988, Robinson relinquished his position as vice president. Following the release of the album, Love Smokey, in 1990, Robinson left Motown for a deal with SBK Records in 1991. However, the album, Double Good Everything failed to chart. Robinson remained virtually quiet during the nineties (though he would make a notable cameo appearance in The Temptations 1998 miniseries), making a brief comeback in 1999 when he re-signed with Motown and issued the album, Intimate, which included the song "Easy To Love". In 2003, he once again split ties with Motown, releasing the gospel album, Food For The Soul on Liquid 8 Records in 2004. In 2004 Robinson sang the main title theme song "Colorful World" to the American children's animated series ToddWorld for Discovery Kids, TLC and Mike Young Productions. Two years later, Robinson released the standards album, Timeless Love, in 2006 on Universal Records. In 2009, he issued the album, Time Flies When You're Having Fun on his own label, Robso Records. It reached number 59 on the Billboard album chart, his highest showing since One Heartbeat. He subsequently released "Now And Then" in 2010, which peaked at number 131. Smokey & Friends was released in mid-August 2014. It was an album of duets, including ones with Elton John, Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. It reached number 12 on the Billboard album chart. Christmas Everyday was Robinson's first post-Miracles Christmas album, and was released on November 10, 2017. In 2018, he appeared on an episode of CMT Crossroads alongside country singer Cam, and he also appeared as a special guest on the Fox network's show Beat Shazam.
Baby Come Close of course is a monster-sized package despite containing absolutely no post-70s recordings. What we do have here is Smokey's 20 full length albums with The Miracles through to 1972 and 9 solo releases bringing us to 1979. The first half dozen are souced from high quality mono remasters, while the remaining twenty something are sourced from high quality stereo remasters. Additionally I've included a custom GGCollection in the chronology ... 'I Like It Like That [Alternate Stereo Mixes]' pulls from several previously issued collections to present every alternate stereo version of recordings that had originally been released by The Miracles in mono only (1961-1964). All those albums can found RIGHT HERE! And as per usual, I've also amassed a swath of material for a complete singles and rarities collection. Again, sourced almost entirely from remasters, this bundle contains the complete Miracles A's and B's through to 1972 in mono, Smokey's solo sides through to 1979 and it's interspersed with all the rarities from the Motown Unissued Series', the 35th Anniversary Collection, The Gold Collection, Ooh Baby Anthology and other various collections. And it's capped with a 45min interview/concert clip montage from 1980, in promotion of Smokey's Warm Thoughts LP (ironically not included in this collection). Get that one HERE! Finally, though twice-removed from Smokey Robinson, I've included the complete post-Smokey Miracles with Billy Griffin in an additional zip. This includes all eight LP's (six remastered), a Motown issued compilation and a customized complete singles and rarities collection by yours truly. Get it HERE! All files chronicled, cleanly tagged and mp3 @ 320kbs. Thanks to original uploaders, enjoy.