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The Dramatics
The Dramatics, with Willie Ford 2nd from the left, our cover picture of Soul Express printed issue 1/2000

A TRIBUTE TO WILLIE FORD

  The 28th of May in 2019 we heard the sad news: the bass singer of the Dramatics and the leader of the “other” Dramatics for the past 7 years, Mr. Willie Ford, has passed.

  The very first line-up of the Dramatics in 1962 consisted of Elbert Wilkins, Ron Banks, Larry Reed, Larry Demps and Roderick Davis (bass singer at that point).  They were first known as the Sensations before turning into the Dramatics, but they never called themselves the Dynamics.  Rod quit in 1970 and was replaced in by Willie Ford, who had earlier sung with the Capitols of the Cool Jerk fame in the late 1960s.

  Willie Lee Ford was born on July the 10th in 1950 in Detroit.  Willie: “I had a couple of uncles that sang and played in church, and that’s where I got my start from.  I was singing in a church choir.  Jackie Wilson, James Brown, the Temptations, the Miracles and quite naturally - by me living in Detroit - Motown was a great influence and had a great impact on me wanting to do entertainment.”

  After singles on Wingate and Sport, the Dramatics hit big with the producer Don Davis and songwriter/arranger Tony Hester on Volt Records in the early 1970s with such huge hits as Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get, In the Rain, and Hey You! Get off My Mountain.  Please have a look at our detailed discography not only on the Dramatics, but also on L.J. Reynolds, Ron Banks, Jeannie Reynolds and Five Special at https://www.soulexpress.net/dramatics_discography.htm.

  One of the key persons to success, Tony Hester, passed away the 10th of October in 1980.  Willie: “Tony was a very mild-mannered person – nothing bad that I can say about him other than he just got caught up in the drug epidemic.  One thing I can say about him is that he was a very talented writer.  We thought of him as the sixth member of the Dramatics, because everything that he wrote was just like it was tailor-made for the Dramatics.”

  On the ABC label in the latter half of the 1970s, the Dramatics scored with such hits as Me and Mrs. Jones, You’re Fooling You, Be My Girl, I Can’t Get over You, Shake It Well and still on MCA in 1980 Welcome Back Home.  In 1975 they recorded together with the Dells (Love Is Missing from Our Lives).  Willie: “The Dells – very good friends of ours.  We call them our uncles.  Don Davis came up with that idea, and it turned out to be a very good idea.”

In 1982 the group went to a 5-year hiatus.  Willie: “Everybody just got tired.  I think it was one of the things that helped us to be in motion.  I think it was a well-needed time for everyone to get their head together, just release some of the pressure that we had been under, because this is a very devious occupation – not as easy as people think it is.”  In 1986 they reunited.  Willie: “I had moved out to California.  Wee Gee, Lenny Mayes and L.J. – they were out there.  Basically the only one, who was here, was Ron.  We tried to get Ron to move to L.A., but he just didn’t want to do it.  We started talking, everybody agreed that we would come back to Detroit, do the reunion tour and start all over again.  During those years I was just working.  I got me several jobs.  I was driving a truck, cabs, I worked for minimum wage – whatever I had to do to live.”

  In the 1980s there were many changes in the line-up with such gentlemen as Bo Henderson, Craig Jones, Steve Boyd joining the group for a certain period, and Winzell Kelly becoming a permanent member.  Elbridge Bryant, however, was never a member, as stated in some sources.  The group kept on recording fine albums for such labels as Fantasy, Stax, Volt, Life and Groovesville, but their last significant milestone was the song called Doggy Dogg World on Snoop Dogg’s platinum album Doggy Style in 1993. 

  Ron Banks died in March 2010 and two years later Willie Ford quit and formed his own Dramatics.  You can read both L.J. Reynolds’ and Willie’s comments on that incident at https://www.soulexpress.net/deep2_2012.htm#dramatics.  

R.I.P. Willie Lee Ford!

© Heikki Suosalo



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