The Dramatics Biography

This R&B vocal group was formed in Detroit in 1964 as the Sensations. They changed their name to the Dramatics in 1965 and originally comprised lead Larry Reed, Rob Davis, Elbert Wilkins, Robert Ellington, Larry Demps (23 February 1949) and Ron Banks (b. 10 May 1951, Detroit, Michigan, USA). Ellington quickly dropped out. The Dramatics were a typical 60s stand-up vocal group, specializing in romantic ballads, but ably made the transition to the disco era in the late 70s with aggressive dance numbers. They made their debut on the charts with a minor R&B hit in 1967, ‘All Because Of You, ’ which, as with all their releases in the 60s, was issued on a small Detroit label. Around 1968, Reed and Davis were replaced by William ‘Wee Gee’ Howard and Willie Ford (b. 10 July 1950), respectively. The reshaped quintet’s fortunes flourished when Detroit producers Don Davis and Tony Hestor took command of their career and the group signed to the Memphis-based Stax Records in 1971. US hits with the label included ‘Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get’ (R&B number 3 and pop number 9, 1971), ‘In The Rain’ (R&B number 1 and pop number 5, 1972) and ‘Hey You! Get Off My Mountain’ (R&B number 5 and pop number 43, 1973).

In 1973 Howard left to establish his solo career as ‘Wee Gee, ’ and new lead L.J. Reynolds (b. 1953, Saginaw, Michigan, USA), previously of Chocolate Syrup, was recruited by group leader Ron Banks, while Wilkins was replaced by Lenny Mayes (b. Leonard Cornell Mayes, 5 April 1951, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 7 November 2004, Southfield, Michigan, USA). In 1974 the Dramatics left Stax, and the following year began an association with Los Angeles-based ABC Records while still recording in Detroit under Davis and Hestor. US hits at ABC included the ballad ‘Me And Mrs. Jones’ (R&B number 4 and pop number 47, 1975), ‘Be My Girl’ (R&B number 3, 1976) and ‘Shake It Well’ (R&B number 4, 1977). Switching to MCA Records in 1979, the group secured their last Top 10 hit with ‘Welcome Back Home’ (R&B number 9, 1980). Shortly afterwards L.J. Reynolds left to establish a solo career, and in 1981 Craig Jones was recruited in his place, but in an age of self-contained groups the stand-up vocal group could not compete, and they disbanded in 1982 after Ron Banks left to start a solo career.

The Dramatics were reunited in the late 80s and continue to the present day, keeping up a busy touring schedule and occasionally releasing a new studio album. Their grasp of superior soul remains as sure as ever.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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