The Temptations were formed when two doo-wop groups disbanded and members from each group – Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, Elbridge “Al” Bryant, Eddie Kendricks, and Paul Williams – got together and auditioned for Motown in March of 1961. They were immediately by Motown and given the name The Temptations.
At first the group did not find immediate success and they were known around Motown as “The Hitless Temptations.” Their luck changed with “The Way You Do the Things You Do”, which cracked the Top 20. Soon after they had their first # 1 with “My Girl” which remains one of the group’s signature hits. In just over a year, the Temptations had gone from Motown’s unknown hopefuls to pop stardom.
Ed Sullivan loved the Motown sound, which to him was a mix of gospel and Tin Pan Alley. And of course, Ed loved having hit music performed on his show. The Temptations were a perfect fit for The Ed Sullivan Show. Their R & B, synchronized moves and dazzling outfits connected perfectly with Sullivan’s demographic.
The Temptations stepped on the Sullivan stage for the first time on May 28th 1967. Dressed in sparkling yellow and brown suits with long tails, they performed a medley of hits including “All I Need,” “My Girl” and “I Know I’m Losing You.”
They returned in November of that year to perform “Hello Young Lovers” and “Don’t Look Back”. Then they took to a funky bright pink stage with The Supremes on The Ed Sullivan Show to perform a medley of each other’s hits. The Temps did renditions of The Supremes’ “Stop! In The Name Of Love” and “Baby Love.” The two groups put on a rousing performance going back and forth with each song.
On February 2, 1969 they returned with a new lineup – David Ruffin had been replaced by Dennis Edwards. But they maintained the choreography and harmonies for which they had become renowned. They wore grey jumpsuits and performed a medley of “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” “Cloud Nine,” and “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” Later they gave us their new hit “Runaway Child.”
On the September 28th show, The Temptations sang “I Can’t Get Next To You,” then “September in the Rain” and “Autumn Leaves”. They were back on April 5th, 1970 to do a playful version of “You Make Me So Very Happy.” And then displayed their new, psychedelically influence sound, “Psychedelic Shack.”
The Temptations last performance on The Ed Sullivan Show took place on January 31, 1971 a few months before the show went off the air. They performed “Get Ready”, a medley of their hits and closed their last Sullivan show with “Just My Imagination.” This was a tender and soulful performance and a fitting farewell to The Ed Sullivan Show.
The Temptations would continue to make music with various group lineups through the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s – and even into the 2000’s. Over time, they became one of the most successful groups of all-time with 4 Billboard Hot 100 # 1 singles and 14 Billboard R&B # 1 singles. The Ed Sullivan Show and Motown relationship with Sullivan gave the Temptations the opportunity to perform their hit songs for audiences across America. In the process, both Sullivan and Motown benefitted from a wonderful musical partnership.