The Voice Masters

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The Voice Masters evolved from the Five Jets and the Five Stars and were one of the first groups that Berry Gordy used on sessions. Core members Crathman P. Spencer, Walter Gaines, and Henry Dixon were…
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The Voice Masters evolved from the Five Jets and the Five Stars and were one of the first groups that Berry Gordy used on sessions. Core members Crathman P. Spencer, Walter Gaines, and Henry Dixon were led by the dynamic leads of David Ruffin, Ty Hunter, Joe Charles aka Joe Murphy, and Lamont Dozier. Melvin Franklin's booming bass is heard on early releases, and female voices are as prominent as males on some recordings.

The Five Jets recorded on Deluxe Records from 1953-1954 and released one single as the Five Dollars on Fortune Records in 1957; the Five Stars emerged in 1957, cutting at least four singles on as many labels. By 1959 they were the Voice Masters and signed to Gwen Gordy and Billy Davis' Anna Records. Anna's first two singles were by them. "Oops I'm Sorry" with "Hope and Pray" didn't do any better than the Five Jets' or Five Stars' efforts. "Needed," the second single, did a little better but not much; Melvin Franklin's powerful 14-year-old bass growl awakens like caffeine on the opening refrain. "Needed" features an Eddie Holland-ish, operatic lead.

Ty Hunter handles lead on the next two singles: "Orphan Boy" and "Everytime." A flute mocking Hunter's quivering falsetto plays a sweet melody to introduce "Everytime" featuring Hunter and credited as Ty Hunter and the Voice Masters; the floater is one of the groups' finest moments. Subsequent releases featured Lamont Dozier and David Ruffin with the Voice Masters supplying uncredited vocal help. Dozier leads "Lets Talk It Over" (1960), the song that set the foundation for Holland, Dozier, and Holland's "Darling Baby," a modest hit for the Elgins; and Ruffin's magnificent on "I'm in Love" (1961), a turbulent, gospel-inspired ballad.

When Billy Davis, aka Roquel and sometimes Tyran Carlo, left Anna to form Checkmate Records, the Voice Masters followed. The first release features Dozier on the romping "I Didn't Know," which gets better with each listen. It was billed as Lamont Dozier & the Voice Masters, and it was the last single that they received label credit. They accompanied Ty Hunter on "Memories," which is almost as crucial as "Everytime," and David Ruffin on two smokers: "Action Speaks Louder Than Words" and "Mr. Bus Driver." "Lonely Baby" was first issued on Checkmate but was licensed to Chess in 1963 to become a decent R&B hit and Hunters' biggest solo release.

Davis closed Checkmate, which like Anna was distributed by Chess, and became Chess' Artist and Repertoire Director. Spencer, Gaines, and Dixon united with Freddie Gorman, and as the Originals they hit with "Baby I'm for Real" and "The Bells"; Joe Stubbs sang with the first Original lineup. Lamont Dozier, who previously recorded with the Romeos, allied with the Hollands (after original partner Freddie Gorman left to work for Golden World Records) to form the crack Holland, Dozier, Holland production machine. Like Dozier, Ty Hunter sang with the Romeos, soloed, joined the Glass House, then replaced C. P. Spencer in the Originals. David Ruffin, who recorded as Little David Bush, struck gold when the Temptations axed Elbridge Bryant and eased him in the lineup. The Temptations' first number one record "My Girl" featured Ruffin's, rough, hair-raising tenor; they went on to become the world's most popular vocal group. Joe Charles later sang with Lorri Rudolph as Loe & Joe on Harvey Records. Davis left Chess in the late '70s and became a force in the commercial jingle business. Hunter died February 24, 1981.