Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Contours, The

Most famous for their song “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance),”The Contours formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1959 when Billy Gordon and Joe Billingslea, part of a group called the Majestics, decided to form their own group and placed a newspaper ad to find new members. Billy Hoggs answered the ad and brought along neighbor Billy Rollins. The group first took the name The Blenders, but renamed themselves The Contours after the recording studio, Flick and Contour Records. Hubert Johnson joined the group in 1960, making it a quintet.

The group had an unsuccessful audition for Motown’s Berry Gordy, but when Hubert Johnson asked his cousin, sensation Jackie Wilson, to put in a good word, a second audition led to a seven-year contract in 1961 However, their first few singles, including “Whole Lotta Woman,” did not do very well. 

While waiting for their first hit, Leroy Fair, who had replaced Billy Rollins, was unable to handle the choreography, and was replaced by Bennie Reeves (brother of Martha Reeves). When Reeves was called to serve in the U.S. Navy he was replaced by Sylvester Potts. Huey Davis joined the group as guitarist in 1961.

In 1962, Berry Gordy created the Gordy label and signed The Contours. That summer they recorded “Do You Love Me,” which became an instant hit. The track was originally intended for The Temptations, however they were not present on the day it was to be recorded. Other hits such as “Shake Sherry,” and “Can You Do It.” followed.

Creative differences with Motown in 1964 caused Billingslea, Hoggs, Potts and Johnson to quit. Motown took the remaining member, Billy Gordon, and added three new singers, Council Gay, Jerry Green and Alvin English, changing the group to a quartet. Their new single, “Can You Jerk Like Me?” featured a song from the old group, “The Day When She Needed Me,” on the flip side. The biggest hit of the new Contours was a 1965 song co-written by Smokey Robinson, “First I look at the Purse.” The years following were a revolving door of old members returning to the group and new ones, such as Joe Stubbs, brother of Four Tops’ Levi Stubbs, joining.

In 1988 there was a large revival of the song “Do You Love Me” when it was featured in the hit movie, Dirty Dancingstarring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. The song once again topped charts and it reinvigorated The Contours as a touring act. They have been inducted into the Doo-Wopp Hall of Fame of America, the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, and nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010.



Concert poster displaying The Contours

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