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Heard on CultureShift

In The Groove with Temptations Founding Member Otis Williams

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Image credit: Chyna Photography

The legendary Motown artist looks back on how performing music helped him through difficult times in his life.

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On this edition of “In The Groove,” WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter speaks with Otis Williams, the founding member of the Temptations who is also the last surviving original member. 

In The Groove” is CultureShift’s series that talks with creatives from all walks of life about the music that has influenced them the most over the years.

Seeing those great rock n’ roll shows that came to Detroit to the Fox Theatre, I was so impressed. Seven years later, my group The Temptations was at the Fox Theatre getting all that love and adulation.” - Otis Williams, Temptations 

From a kid growing up in Texas listening to gospel his grandmother played to moving to Detroit and discovering the sound of early rock ‘n’ roll, Williams breaks down three songs that have influenced him over the years, including the therapeutic nature of performing his own music live.

Click on the player above to hear legendary Motown artist Otis Williams’ “In the Groove,” and see excerpts below.

Early childhood: Gospel

I was raised by two grandmothers, down in Texas. Grandmothers back then, and probably now, are steeped in gospel,” Williams says. ”I was listening to Mahalia Jackson and the great gospel groups.”


Move to Detroit: Early rock n’ roll

My folks took me to Detroit when I was about 11 or 12-years-old, and that’s when rock n’ roll was really in its infancy,” says Williams. He cites Bo Diddley, Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers, The Cadillacs and Ruth Brown as influences. ”Seeing those great rock n’ roll shows that came to Detroit to the Fox Theatre, I was so impressed. Seven years later, my group the Temptations was at the Fox Theatre getting all that love and adulation.” 

Singing those songs, I get caught up in it. I’m okay.”

Asked about music that got him through a tough period in his life, Williams calls back to personal loss in his family.

When I lost my mother and my son,” Williams says. “For me, the [Temptations] has been very therapeutic in the sense of, I was able to weather my hurt and loneliness through the cocoon of the Temptations, of what we were known for.”

It was the process of getting on stage and singing the classics that brings him catharsis. 

Singing those songs, I get caught up in it. I’m okay.”

Wake-up music

I go for Jon Lucien,” Williams says about his wake-up music. ”Hey’s very tropical. It’s soothing, it’s relaxing.”

Quinn Klinefelter, Senior News Editor

Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.


Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is a host of CultureShift and longtime arts, culture and music reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @hoopingtonpost

CultureShift , Weekdays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. on WDET 101.9

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