The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford made some recordings in 2017. And, that Willie Ford had the intention of releasing these was made clear, among other things in this interview.
After Willie Ford had made his transition last year, we connected with Tony Green, who was hired to do these recordings, to ask how they are kept safe.
Perhaps we hadn’t expected Mr. Green to respond, but he indeed did, and was most jovial and patient with us in a very long conversation, that included many a thing and also lead to a nice article here, suggested by Green, but the information about the Dramatics recordings never fell out during any of all this.
We do understand. Green – a long time member of The Dramatics' backing band, in the 70s and 80s, has been helping many out with a lot in Detroit, and was a given individual for Willie Ford to turn to with recording ambitions. Green also has a very large ‘’vault’’ with a lot of music. But. But! Very little of it is probably with an act with a fifty year long career and thirty-five something hits. The Dramatics however is such an act! And Willie Ford was an original member of The Dramatics, who was part of their massive breakthrough, with their hits "What You See Is What You Get" and "In The Rain". Willie Ford was part of this act for five full decades! And these Dramatics recordings are in the vault of Tony Green. As we also understand it, someone who hires someone else for recordings is the legal owner of the recordings (see the 6th paragraph). So, maybe "old" compadres don't think about the legalese too much, at times, between each other, but now that Willie Ford is no longer here, and this is work that he in fact left behind, his rights concerning work that he did is a thing. And further, where it comes to The Dramatics specifically, legally working out what is what in terms of rights is not of unknown importance to anyone involved with this act. There are different sides here.
Tony Green has put Dramatics’ sounds to collages of clips from the internet on YouTube. It is definitely our opinion that these recordings are too important to be handled like that.
Yes, it is a challenge to release music in this day and age. But these recordings deserve their proper release, probably after some editing by a top-notch producer and editor. There would no doubt be an interest in Dramatics’ recordings, and for people to finally, for example, at long last hear Willie Ford sing longer solos, which he does on some of these cuts. It is unbelievable that Willie Ford didn’t lead on more songs than he did with The Dramatics. He had a unique bass voice, that truly was something few other acts could begin to match, and if you are shrewd as a music maker you sometimes go with what you have that no one else can top.
What was a little worrying during our conversations with Tony Green, was, that at one point we sent him a clip where The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford performed the single that they did release, a couple of years prior, ‘’Victoria’’, which was on a link on Fox2 (fox2detroit.com/mornings/54099142-video) – and that this clip disappeared from the link the day after we had sent it to Green. It was the most peculiar coincidence. It had obviously been up for a couple of years. It was a couple of years old. We asked about this, but there was no reply as to this.
Our original sending of the clip, inside our getting back to it for the clip disappearing
What that link looks since
There is little doubt that the loyal soul music fans out there would cherish the recordings with The Dramatics featuring Willie Ford.
We have reached out to Tony Green again, before writing this piece, asking for his comments if he cared to share them, but Green has chosen not to respond.
A lot of the music that’s out today says nothing to me.
I went from singing in the church choir to producing.
I’m happy if I make other people happy.
As iconic as basslines get: Tony T. Money Green's work on "Gin & Juice" with Snoop Dogg
SOME THINGS ON THE YEARS WITH THE DRAMATICS
(Editor’s note: If you are new to The Dramatics you may want to check out some Dramatics’ basics to get the most out of this segment… and we strongly recommend that you check out some Dramatics’ basics and familiarize yourself, if so…because you have been missing out if you are new to The Dramatics. We get straight into things, mostly into things in the 1970s, in this text, which is a treat for those who know their Dramatics!)
L.J. Reynolds, Tony Green, Ron Banks
What it smelled like inside United Sound? OMG. Behind George it smelled of funk. They took the funk seriously and didn’t wash. And cocaine. It smelled of booty and cocaine. Around us it smelled of weed.
It looked a little like a spaceship. There was a studio to the side when you came in through the door and then eight steps down there was the main studio. It was huge. The big old board lit up. It felt like you made it when you stepped in there, just being there. Sometimes when the sessions ran late I took a snooze under those steps.
They want to move that building to the parking lot. Once they start moving things they move other things too.
It happened that we recorded in other places.
United Sound, Detroit
I came to the studio making deliveries… I was 17 and it turned out that I had a band. Surprise! So they came to see a show, and thought that we were good – and that was the start of my journey with The Dramatics. It was Ron who got me in the band.
I didn’t work with Tony Hester but I saw him work, and he really really couldn’t sing. He would say ‘’Here Ron – can you do this part?’’ and then there would be some type of noise coming out of him.
He really was the best writer for The Dramatics, and people got jealous of him for his talent. There was so much talent going down the drain with the loss of him, and The Dramatics were lost for what to do.
Tony Hester & the original Dramatics in the studio
LJ and Ron lead the band rehearsals. Ron could say things like ‘’Go to the round! Go to the round...’’. So I told the band to go to the change. That was what he meant in Ron Banks’ language.
Ron was the charismatic one. So many times when we were in places people would call out ‘’ – Hey Ron Banks’’, ‘’ – What’s up, Ron Banks?’’.
LJ would really rehearse. He can play four-five instruments, and at times I practiced with LJ every day – every day. LJ liked that and we could translate that to the band and know that we would have a hell of a show.
LJ and Ron were often arguing wanting different things. But our rehearsals were very serious rehearsals because we wanted to deliver good shows. The dance rehearsals were different rehearsals and the band got to see it at the end.
During the first years we traveled in a Trailways bus. It was a 50-seater. The group would sit in the front. The band would sit in the back. Tony Anthony, our bus-driver, got us anywhere and could handle anything. It said The Dramatics on the side, so people looked at the bus.
We slept on that bus, and you either stretched your legs across the isle or slept cramped sitting up. This is why I have arthritis now.
Once the group flew to California and the band went on the bus – and didn’t make the show. The Dramatics are great but people didn’t really want to hear the acapella show. They realized that they needed the band, that we were as important for the show to happen as they were.
After “Be My Girl” everything changed. We got treated a lot better. The group started flying places and we got two buses with beds and living rooms.
Normally we would do shows from Thursdays through Saturdays. In California we would do shows every night of the week, and two shows a night.
Our manager Forest Hamilton did the show bookings.
The Dramatics live in Houston...
The Dramatics had two roadies who carried our luggage and one valet, Andre Barber.
Usually we did shows with other groups so there wasn’t much backline to set up, as it was already there. The roadies carried our instruments.
Sometimes LJ and Ron were at the soundchecks, sometimes the whole group was there.
LJ was always going to make sure that the show would be kicking ass. We knew that we would kick ass.
The set-lists changed a lot in the beginning. At the time of the Dramatics’ reunion we kept the same show for two years. That was when Wee Gee was back for a while. I do the same thing now. I have had the same show for four years, and you work on perfecting it.
New York was a hard place to tour at times. They didn’t like us there. We played something and after we did nobody clapped. We broke New York with “Be My Girl”. It changed there after that and they started to like us.
I was in this band for a long time, and others who were include Anthony Booker and Dewayne Lomax, though maybe no one was in the band for as long as I was.
The Dramatics "Welcome Back Home" co-written by Tony Green
I wrote songs with Ron and LJ.
I couldn’t write lyrics but you can always count on me for a bass-line to build on.
We wrote songs in the basement of Ron’s house. Ron could get a little worried at times. He wasn’t a great lyricist but he really could sing.
LJ could really write and produce songs. He’s very talented and plays drums, piano, did everything himself.
The other group members didn’t show an interest in writing songs, but Lenny would sometimes show up when songs were written because he wanted to make sure that he would be singing on them.
When we did Do What You Want To Do we were on the cutting edge of a new sound, going into synthesizers. We lucked out and people liked it. It was their first gold album. Many of their albums are of course gold by now…
A LITTLE ON T MONEY MAKING THE SWITCH TO CALI
Dr. Dre, Tony Green
I got The Dramatics in the studio with Dr. Dre, and after that other soul groups came running to me asking if I could do the same thing for them – but I really couldn’t. The Dramatics were streetwise enough to do a record with Snoop Dogg, it might not have worked with another group.
I got more people from Detroit in that studio though. George Clinton of course, but also Ricky Rouse and Butch Small. Working with Dr. Dre I got a band in. That was new, because they hadn’t had one before.
The day Dre hired me was a good day.
He never had a musician of caliber in before. I didn’t tell him. I didn’t want to seem old.
He gave me drumlines and I put basslines on top. My bass was the groundwork. That was a song.Everybody added things on top of that.
It’s hard to tell me what to play. I’ma give you what you want. Just give me a beat. I played the bass for 52 years now, I’ll give you what you want.
Tony Green, Snoop Dogg
Everybody loves Snoop Dogg for his twangy little voice. He had it when he was young and he has it now. People also love him because he’s a real nice guy. He carries himself like a superstar and he always did.
His work process was that Dre had the music laid out for him, then Snoop would take all day to write for it. He did not rush his writing. He came up with something good so you are glad that you did the waiting.
They did a lot of things that were new and innovative at the time, such as the singing-rapping.
It’s good that you hear that the bassline on “Gin & Juice” is slightly off! That means that you have a good ear…
What happened was that I had just gotten the bass out of the bass bag and I wanted to tune up. Dre said don’t. I said that ‘- I’m a professional and I have to tune up’. Dre said ‘- If you tune up you’re fired’.
That bassline proves that there is no right and wrong in music.
I play the bass upside down. My father (William Austin - a well known bassist, editor’s comment) told me to put it down. I thought that he was hating on me, but later he said that he sure was glad that I didn’t listen to him.
Now my daughter turns things upside-down.
A BIT ABOUT THE PRESENT
I just signed a distribution deal with Universal.
I have a massive vault with unreleased material. I have so much great stuff that just never came out. That includes artists that just never were heard and people who did things behind the curtain. And my own material, in some cases my material that other people just took and put their name on it.
There is going to be good stuff coming out.
T Money Green and Roadwork's G Funk Review live in Detroit
TONY T MONEY GREEN is a successful and DMA-decorated bassist, composer, producer, band leader and the CEO for his label Hyped International Records – based in Detroit. After he formed his band the Roadwork Crew, in the early 70s, Green has contributed his bass magic to some of the most iconic music made in the last few decades. He is currently busy getting new and previously unreleased music to people’s ear-drums through a new distribution deal with Universal.
There is little doubt that The Dramatics is one of the greatest groups that ever worked in the music industry. Thirty plus something top ten hits, more appearances than anyone on Soul Train, went on for 48 something years, you can't even sum it up if you try - there is so much to find out about this group. And although it is in fact often times about numbers when we look at things, with music the proof is in the pudding too - and it can't even be fully described where the most deep and rich music is concerned. You could attempt to, and assign music theorists and poets for the task of describing the harmonic, melodic, rythmical, blended, rich, vast, deep sounds of the Dramatics, and they would be coming up short. The best music is indescribable. We don't have the faculties. We can wave about a bit and say SOMETHING about the music, but it will only ever be something in the midst of it ALL that could have been said had we had the vocabulary.
The Dramatics original members were Ron Banks, Larry Squirrel Demps, William Wee Gee Howard, Elbert Wilkins - and Willie Ford - all native Detroiters. The group was formed in the 60s and a trillion gazillion things happened since. And two weeks ago we had the heavy - heavy - news that Willie Ford has transitioned, and as these words are written this great contributor to music is being returned home.
Willie Ford's unique bass voice and stellar capabilities as a dancer is a combo that has made Willie Ford a true one-of-a-kind artistic presence for five decades in entertainment. He has projected the poise of someone who enjoys executing his profession to perfection on stage. He certainly is the very illustration of the gift of musical superbness that we know as The Dramatics. He was there for the creation of and massive break-through of this group, which is what most people associate with The Dramatics, and which was also the pinnacle of their chart success - and he was there for the full journey through all its twists and turns.
Willie Ford leaves a legacy of happiness to those hundreds of millions of lives that were and will be touched by what he gave of himself to the world. He is forever one of the personalities who make Detroiters extra proud to be Detroiters, and equally one of the legends who represent what music became at the very height of what has been the golden era of recorded music.
We so regret that we didn't get to hear more of him. We will always miss the solo album, and what it could have been. We can only sense what it could have been, and that's something else.
The end... Something feeling like the dignified & matured thing this legacy and five part harmony five lead singers' concept deserved. And you just look at that young crowd loving every second. Well done!
Thank you so much, Willie Ford, for what you have done for music, and enjoy that Heaven that loves to have you.
Small Note: Willie Ford recorded a song, titled ''Lie To You'', which is currently in the 'vault' of bassist Tony Green. Willie Ford sings straight through this cut. Supposedly this song belongs to the people who commissioned and paid for it, and it shouldn't be lost to the world.
(((Even smaller note that really doesn't belong here: To those of you who come to this page from a soul music site where it's linked - we have tried to change the somewhat faulty Dramatics' ''facts'' on that page to no avail. We managed to change ONE thing and are since thanked on that page whatever we tried to get across and even if we asked to be removed... Please check the intel presented to you in life...)))
To me music is my life and what I am driven to do. It is what I will be doing until I am under ground.
Even at the time when Aretha Franklin was really sick she was still working on an album.
There is never the last album.
Music is the air I breathe, the food I eat, and my gasoline that keeps me going.
L.J. Reynolds' new single "You and Me Together, Forever" off the forthcoming new solo album
I am just now releasing a new solo album, “You And Me”, featuring the single “You And Me Together, Forever”. It is a great record, one of the best I ever made. It was recorded in 2018 and will be out in a few weeks. It includes a remake of “Key To The World”, from my self-titled solo album, which has been a big hit in my solo career, and which the public demands to hear at The Dramatics’ gigs too. I am trying to top what I already did. You can always do anything even better. The new record also for example includes a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me”, where I have added to the lyrics. It is a line-dance product. My records are great stepping records. I have an extensive solo career that features solo albums and gospel albums, with songs such as “Touch Down”, which was a single from my album "Lovin Man" , and albums such as "Travelin" and “Tell Me You Will” . I for example covered Aretha Franklin’s “Call Me”, so she called me and said that I had asked her to. That was really funny! She sometimes also came out after that song at my concerts.
It was suggested to me that I should cover something from Motown, and my video for “Come Get To This/Stepping Out Tonight” has nearly a million views on YouTube right now.
A lovely and popular video for YouTube to safekeep: L.J. Reynolds' "Come Get To This/Stepping Out Tonight" off the release "Get To This"
My daughter has passed away. I am nearly in tears when I talk about it.
L.J. Reynolds' solo hit "Key To The World"
A typical day in the studio back in time with The Dramatics, if I wasn’t producing, was a good eight hours long. We made sure that we had fun, and we allowed very few people to come to our recording sessions. We were focused, and always focused on how to outdo each other.
After eight hours we had a record.
The Dramatics - as good as it gets - "(I'm Going By) The Stars In Your Eyes" on Soul Train, where this act appeared 20+ times
It wasn’t work and it isn’t work now. It’s the traveling that is the work – on stage I’m at home. And the most fun of all is when you get paid.
We had thirty-seven hits. I have many favorites. I wrote a couple that are favorites… I can list them – it would take a while.
The music business is rough on all. I have the gold records, but there has been obstacles, the shift to the digital world, production companies that didn't pay us, drugs, managers that weren’t fair with the money, changes of labels, offers that didn’t come through. There has been a lot happening that the younger acts now aren’t exposed to as much, and I have a saying that I want you to make note of: - If you’re not in control of the money the money is out of control.
It takes its toll living this lifestyle. Being an entertainer can shorten your life, like cigarettes. Tragedies are what they say: Tragedies. I have lost all of that now. And it says that I have to keep the legacy going. None of us are getting out of this alive. There is great feeling and great faith about what you do. We want to be great. I lost my only brother. I lost my daughter. I turn that into song. I have been compensated well, so why more money as the prime driving force? I can only eat so much salmon. I want to do more music. I want to please the public. Artists fight to be liked.
I don’t think that you can ever go back. You can only always go forward.
L.J. Reynolds is a legendary singer, composer, arranger, producer, manager and entrepreneur, based in Detroit. He joined the phenomenon that is the massively successful singing group The Dramatics in 1972, and has since been one of the famous voices and faces recognized as The Dramatics. This group indeed has a dramatic story, but more than anything it has had outstanding and legendary voices and has a very long string of immortal songs to its name. The Dramatics are an important part of modern American history. L.J. Reynolds' brilliant solo career includes several studio albums and two gospel albums to date.