Otis Williams happily agreed and Kendricks and Paul Williams moved back to Detroit to join the new group. Under that name, the group auditioned for Motown in March Already impressed with some of the members after hearing session work, Berry Gordy agreed to sign the group to the Motown imprint, Miracle. However, before signing, Gordy discovered another group was using the name of Elgins. The group began tossing about ideas for a new name on the steps of the Hitsville U.
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The "Elgins" name re-surfaced at Motown in , when Gordy renamed a quartet called the Downbeats as the Elgins. The Temptations' first two singles, " Oh Mother of Mine " and " Check Yourself ", with Paul Williams on lead, were released on Miracle before Gordy closed the label down and reassigned the band to his latest imprint, Gordy Records.
Later that year, the Temptations began touring as part of the Motortown Revue. The group would issue eight recordings between without much success. Eventually the label and the group decided against it.
When he couldn't get a hold of the group, Gordy produced a version for the Contours. In , the Temptations began working with Smokey Robinson as producer and writer. While the song failed to chart, it did eventually become a popular live performance spot for the group and particularly for Paul Williams in general. Some called the group "The Hitless Temptations" due to their lack of hits. During this time, David Ruffin began following the group around as he aspired to join them. During a local Detroit performance, Ruffin joined the group onstage and impressed the group with his vocal talent and dancing skills.
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After a second altercation onstage at a Christmas performance, having struck Paul with a beer bottle during a heated quarrel at an earlier gig in the middle of the year, Bryant was summarily fired from the group. As a result, David Ruffin was brought in as his replacement in January Bryant continued to perform in a number of other local groups, and died at the age of 36 in Flagler County, Florida , of liver cirrhosis on October 26, The Temptations would now consist of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Eddie Kendricks, and David Ruffin; the success that would follow the group would result in what would, in later years, be frequently referred to as the "Classic Five" lineup.
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 with Ruffin singing his first lead vocal for the group.
Released as a single on December 21, , the song became the Temptations' first number-one pop hit in March Over 50 years and multiple chart topping songs later, it is still their signature song to this day. Norman Whitfield had requested the opportunity to write for the group and in , 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.
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. Subsequently, Barrett Strong became the sole collaborator of Norman Whitfield.
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From early to mid , 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 , , the success of which resulted in performances at the famous Copacabana in New York City along with dates at other similar supper clubs.
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Outside of music, the Temptations were made honorary members of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. By , David Ruffin had begun demanding special treatment as lead singer, riding to and from gigs in a private mink -lined limousine with his then-girlfriend, Motown singer Tammi Terrell , instead of in the group limousine used by the other four Temptations.
The other members slowly became irritated and annoyed with Ruffin's behavior. Ruffin was also causing friction with Berry Gordy by demanding an accounting of the group's earnings;  Motown partially acquiesced by allowing the Temptations to retain an outside accounting firm, but the firm did not have full access to the books from the Temptations' manager, International Talent Management, Inc.
Some of this behavior was attributed to the fact that by this time Ruffin had begun using cocaine regularly, building further tension within the group and causing him to miss a number of group meetings, rehearsals, and concerts. There was a consensus among the rest of the group that Ruffin needed to be replaced. When Ruffin missed a June engagement at a Cleveland supper club in order to attend a show by his new girlfriend, Barbara Gail Martin daughter of Dean Martin ,  the group decided that he had crossed the line.
The other four Temptations drew up legal documentation, officially firing Ruffin on June 27, Edwards and Ruffin were good friends, and at first, Ruffin went along with the changing of the guard and encouraged Edwards. However, at Edwards' official debut with the Temptations in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania , on July 7, Ruffin came to the show and jumped onstage, taking the microphone from Edwards, singing lead on "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," and disappearing as quickly as he had appeared.
Despite the group hiring extra security to keep Ruffin out, he continued to find ways to sneak into the venue and jump onstage when the group performed one of the songs he had once sung lead on. In a story recounted several times by Dennis Edwards,  rebutted by Otis Williams and Temptations road manager Don Foster ,  after several of these stunts, the positive audience reactions and a remorseful Ruffin's pleas to be let back into the act convinced the other Temptations to do so. Otis Williams informed the then still-new Edwards that the group would lay him off and rehire Ruffin while in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
However, when Ruffin failed to show up on time the next night for his "return" engagement, the group kept Edwards on and ceased to entertain the prospect of rehiring Ruffin. After Gaithersburg, Ruffin stopped attempting to disrupt the Temptations' concerts and instead turned his attention to the Motown offices back in Detroit.
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He sued Motown in October , seeking a release from the label, but Motown countersued to keep the singer from leaving and the case was eventually settled out of court. Edwards' first album with the Temptations was Live at the Copa , recorded at the group's return to the Copacabana nightclub. This new style, which debuted with the Top 10 hit single " Cloud Nine "  in October , was a marked departure from the David Ruffin-era ballads. The blending of the Motown sound and psychedelic rock sound resulted in a new subgenre of music called psychedelic soul , also evident in the work of Diana Ross and the Supremes " Reflections ", " Love Child " , Marvin Gaye's version of " I Heard It Through the Grapevine ", and music of the 5th Dimension , the Undisputed Truth , and the Friends of Distinction.
The group's other important albums from this period included Puzzle People and Psychedelic Shack Psychedelic Shack includes the original version of " War ", later made famous by Edwin Starr. Paul Williams, who suffered from sickle-cell disease , fell into depression because of the stress of touring and personal issues.
By the late s, he had developed a serious case of alcoholism. Having never previously consumed anything stronger than milk, he began to drink quite heavily, and it was hard to take, according to Otis Williams. Williams began traveling with oxygen tanks,  and the other four Temptations made valiant efforts to raid and drain his alcohol stashes.
In late , Richard Street , lead singer of Motown act the Monitors and a former Distant, was hired by Otis Williams to tour with the group as a backup replacement for Williams. At other shows, and during most of the second half of , Street substituted for Williams on stage when he was too sick to go on. Eddie Kendricks became detached from the group after David Ruffin's firing and as the health of Paul Williams continued to fail. He regularly picked fights with Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, which often became violent, and in addition, he preferred the ballad material from the earlier days and was uncomfortable with the psychedelic soul material the group was now performing.
Kendricks rekindled his friendship with Ruffin, who persuaded him to go solo. He no longer felt he had a say in Otis Williams's handling of the group and was also convinced Motown's handling of the Temptations' finances was cheating the group out of money.
Kendricks lobbied strongly in to have the Temptations go on "strike" - no performances, no recordings - until Berry Gordy and the Motown staff would be willing to go over all group finances with independent accountants. Both Kendricks and Williams then agreed that Kendricks would be leaving the group. Before Kendricks officially left the Temptations, he and Paul Williams recorded the lead vocals for " Just My Imagination Running Away with Me ", a ballad that became Kendricks' final single with the group.
Included on the Sky's the Limit LP along with the original album version of " Smiling Faces Sometimes ", "Just My Imagination" was released as a single in January , and the song began steadily climbing the US pop singles chart, peaking at number 1 two months later. By the time "Just My Imagination" topped the charts, Kendricks had negotiated his release from the group and signed a solo deal with Motown's Tamla label.
However, Owens only played two dates with the group before he was fired for forgetting the words to his solo numbers due to nervousness. Owens meanwhile returned to the Vibrations and died in Los Angeles, California on December 6, , at the age of Meanwhile, "It's Summer" peaked at number 51 on the Billboard Hot , making it the first Temptations single to miss the Top 40 since " Farewell My Love " eight years earlier. After his doctor declared a few weeks later that he was unable to continue performing due to medical reasons, Paul Williams quit the Temptations in May. After Williams had recovered enough to record again, he recorded two sides in for a debut solo single.
However, on August 17, , Williams died in Detroit at the age of 34 from a gunshot wound, his death ruled a suicide by the Wayne County coroner. In May , the Temptations finally found a permanent replacement for the first tenor position in twenty-year-old Baltimore native Damon Harris. Otis Williams, Edwards, Franklin, Street, and Harris continued recording and performing, and Norman Whitfield continued producing hits for them. During this period, the group toured with Quiet Elegance as their back-up singers. The success of "Papa" led Whitfield to create more elongated, operatic pieces, including the Top 10 hit " Masterpiece " and several of the tracks on the resulting Masterpiece album.
Tensions developed between Whitfield and the group, who found Whitfield arrogant and difficult to work with, and the group citing his habitual tardiness, his emphasis of the instrumental tracks at the expense of their vocals on many of his productions, and the declining singles and albums sales as other sources of conflict, sought to change producers. Damon Harris was fired from the group during the recording of A Song for You , as his behavior and work ethic were deemed unprofessional,  and his replacement was Washington, D.
None of these recordings were as commercially successful as A Song for You however, and none of their associated singles entered the Billboard charts. As time progressed, Bowen pushed Dennis Edwards further to the front of the group. This was evident on Wings of Love , where several tracks featured Edwards' vocal more prominently than the other Temptations' backing vocals. Success continued to elude the group at Atlantic, however.
Their two releases on Atlantic — Hear to Tempt You , and Bare Back , along with their associated singles, had failed to perform any better at Atlantic than their last handful of singles had at Motown. As a result, in , Atlantic released the group from its contract,  and shortly afterwards, the Temptations met once again with Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, who re-signed the group to Motown in Upon the return to Motown several lineup changes occurred.