The Temptations would settle into a group that consisted of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin…..and the success that would follow the group would result in what would, in later years, would be frequently referred to as the “Classic Five”….as seen in the lineup in this video herewith.
In January 1964, Smokey Robinson and Miracles band member Bobby Rogers co-wrote and produced “The Way You Do the Things You Do” with Eddie Kendricks on lead….and the single became the Temptations‘ first Top 20 hit that April….and shortly afterward several pre-David Ruffin singles were compiled into the group’s first album, Meet the Temptations….which was released in early 1964. The next two Temptations singles in 1964, “Girl (Why You Wanna Make Me Blue” along with “I’ll Be in Trouble” and its B-side “The Girl’s Alright with Me”….as they all featured Kendricks on lead….however, producer Smokey Robinson saw potential in the “mellow yet gruff” voice of David Ruffin….and thought that if he could write the perfect song for his lead….then the group could have a Top 10 hit.
While traveling as part of Motown’s “Motortown Revue” later that year, Robinson and fellow Miracles member Ronnie White wrote “My Girl”….which the Temptations recorded in the fall of 1964 with Ruffin singing his first lead vocal for the group…..as it was released as a single on December 21, 1964….and became the Temptations‘ first# 1 pop hit in March 1965. Over 50 years and multiple chart topping songs later, it is still their signature song to this day.
After the success of “My Girl”, Ruffin sang lead on the next three singles…. “It’s Growing”, “Since I Lost My Baby” and “My Baby”….as all made it to the Top 20 in 1965. The B-side to “My Baby”, “Don’t Look Back“, featured a stirring lead from Paul Williams….which was a sleeper hit on the R&B charts and a standard for vocal group playlists.
Norman Whitfield had requested the opportunity to write for the group and in 1966, Berry Gordy promised him that if Robinson’s “Get Ready“, with Eddie Kendricks on lead, failed to chart in the Top 20, Whitfield would be allowed to produce the next song…..and when “Get Ready” missed its mark…..then MoTown founder Berry Gordy issued the Whitfield-produced “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, with David Ruffin on lead, as the next single….which outperformed “Get Ready” on the Billboard charts….and Whitfield became the Temptations’ new main producer. He began pulling the group away from the ballad-based productions espoused by Robinson, toward a harder-edged and brass-heavy soul sound reminiscent of James Brown.
Nearly all singles Whitfield produced prior to 1968 featured David Ruffin on lead, including the R&B # 1 pop Top 10 hits “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”, “(I Know) I’m Losing You” ….and the early 1967 hit “(Loneliness Made Me Realize) It’s You That I Need”. Other important singles from this period include “All I Need“, produced by Frank Wilson, a Whitfield protégé….and the “You’re My Everything”….on which Kendricks and Ruffin share lead. Studio albums during the “Classic Five” period apart from Meet the Temptations include The Temptations Sing Smokey (1965), The Temptin’ Temptations (1965), Gettin’ Ready (1966), The Temptations with a Lot o’ Soul (1967) and The Temptations Wish It Would Rain (1968).
From early 1964 to mid 1968, the Temptations went from unknown hopefuls to international stars and as a result….appeared frequently on television shows such as American Bandstand,The Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace. At the same time, the group began to achieve a crossover success, catering to middle America with a pop standards album The Temptations in a Mellow Mood in 1967….the success of which resulted in performances at the famous Copacabana in New York City….as seen in this video herewith….along with dates at other similar supper clubs.