Detroit native Tony Hester's "In the Rain" remains one of the most popular, enduring, and recorded R&B tunes. First done by the Dramatics, the song established them on the R&B circuit and Hester as an ace songwriter.
Hester's music odyssey began on the east side of Detroit where he attended St. Catherine High school and later McComb College for two years. Sensing college wasn't what he wanted, he quit and started writing songs. Most of his writing occurred in the basement of his mother's house, first at a piano originally purchased for his sister who lost interest, and later on one he purchased. Hester never studied but was able to play by ear. However, he never played on any of his sessions, always opting for better players. Hester got his first song recorded at the age of 14 by the Marvelettes: "A Little Bit of Sympathy," the flip side of "You're My Remedy." Motown wanted to sign him to a seven-year contract, but Hester refused, not wanting to commit himself for seven years.
Detroit had groups galore and Hester sang with lots of them. He sang on a Holidays' recording when he was 18 but soon lost interest in groups because of the constant hassles. He later recorded a solo entitled, "Just Can't Leave You," backed by "Watch Your step," on Karate Records. Hester wrote the A-side which received airplay in when released; the recording is now a big favorite of European soul music lovers. Golden World Records also wanted to sign Hester to contracts but again Hester refused. Shortly after that, Ed Wingate, the owner of Golden World/Ric Tic Records, sold the companies to Motown.
Though he never signed with Motown, he spent considerable time hanging out at Hitsville U.S.A. watching Holland-Dozier-Holland produce records. The observations helped tremendously on his first production with the Dramatics (with Don Davis), "Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get," his first big record. Hester wrote for others, including the Dells, Marilyn McCoo, Jeannie Reynolds, Jimmy Delphs, and the Platters, but his biggest successes came from working with the Dramatics, guys he knew from the hood. Hester wrote all the tunes on the Dramatics' first two albums on Volt records. On their later releases he would place two or three songs on each LP.
In describing his songwriting technique, Hester stated he wrote songs from titles. He would write a bunch of titles on some paper, think about them, and write complete lyrics about a week later. "The melodies," he said, "come by themselves once I get the lyrics down." Some of the products of his gift are "Love Is Missing From Our Lives" by the Dells, "With This Ring" by the Platters, and "Door to Your Heart" by the Dramatics.
Sadly, Hester's career came to an abrupt end when he was robbed and gunned down on the streets of Detroit. But problems existed even before that tragic day. Hester was a drug addict, which is ironic, since he wrote two anti-dope songs for the Dramatics: "The Devil Is Dope" and "Beware of the Man With the Candy in His Hands." For some reason he didn't drive, preferring to get around Detroit by public transportation, riding the bus to and from the recording studio. Before his death, Hester recorded enough tunes for a solo album. Groovesville Records released a Dramatics CD chock-full of previously unreleased Tony Hester tunes that were remastered and remixed, entitled Mellow Drama. After listening to them you'll wonder how Don Davis could have possibly kept these gems hidden.