Before there was even a “Motown”.
I have no idea why the song “Mind Over Matter” ever slipped from memory but when I heard it again yesterday flipping through the music of Detroit I said wow I remember this. I was very little when the song came out in 1962 all of 5 yet I still remember hearing WKNR (Keener 13) & CKLW playing it often back then. Without looking up who did the song, I couldn’t have told you thus the digging began.
In reality the reason why The Diablos featuring Nolan Strong (then turned into) Nolan Strong and The Diablos wasn’t that known to me is because when they formed in Detroit 1954 and the majority of their hits came I hadn’t even been born yet. So to me this is like getting turned on to some Doo Wop I had never heard before. And what better than some Detroit Doo Wop.
This group had a string of hits from the very start. Formed while they attended Detroit’s Central High School Nolan Strong (lead tenor), Juan Guieterriez (tenor), Willie Hunter (baritone), Quentin Eubanks (bass), and Bob “Chico” Edwards (guitar)recorded their first record for the “Fortune” label “Adios My Desert Love,” but it would be their second record that would make them the hottest vocal group in Detroit.
Written by them, “The Wind” released in 1954 would be followed by many more songs and line up changes from 1954-56. Then in late 56′ Nolan Strong got drafted and did a two-year stint in the army and The Diablos only released one record consisting an A & B side without him. When Strong returned the record label being a record label decided to throw The Diablos under a bus and focus only on Nolan Strong which was very unfortunate. That’s why the group’s name change from The Diablos featuring Nolan Strong turned to Nolan Strong and The Diablos.
We know later on what would become the “Motown” record label what happened to another group The Supremes when the focus was turned to only one.
The groups broke up and that’s what had happened to The Diablos period.
By time “Mind Over Matter” got released in 1962 they only released another 5 records with another giant of a song on the charts in 64′ “The Way You Dog Me Around”. I do not remember this song at all playing but it blew me away when I heard it. My Lord Blues & Doo Wop combined. I Love It!
Smokey Robinson in his biography stated that it was Strong’s high tenor that he idolized and who influenced his own singing style after.
But when I listened to The Diablos “The Way You Dog Me Around”, I couldn’t help thinking of Jackie Wilson’s 1960 hit “Doggin’ Around”. Two completely different songs and even though Strong had an awesome set of vocal chords on their song, no way or how could he come close to Wilson’s pipes, no one could.
In 1964 Berry Gordy wanted to bring The Diablos onto “Motown” but instead the group disbanded. The strife over what had happened with “Fortune” putting Strong solely on the records after his return from the army even though they too sang on the songs plus royalties disputes was just too much to heal from I guess. A shame if you ask me because with the talent they possessed and gone on to what did become “Motown”, it probably would have been them not the more recognizable groups we grew up knowing as the top male groups.
If Fortune Records would have had national distribution nobody would have forgotten their name or any of their songs. Sadly there were so many artists from history that never received their due because of the timing. Just one or two years later from 1954 when Rock-n-Roll really exploded this group would have been picked up nationally and things would have been much different for them.
So before Detroit’s heyday sound of Motown, this was Detroit’s heyday sound of Doo Wop and “The Diablos” were the kings.
The other members of the original group were Juan Guitierrez (later replaced by “Big Jim” Strong, Nolan’s brother), tenor; Willie Hunter, baritone (March 24, 1936 – April 1978); Quentin Eubanks (first replaced by George Scott and then by J.W. “Jay” Johnson), bass; and Bob “Chico” Edwards (died March 11, 2001) on guitar.
Jimmy Strong passed away January 29, 1970, at age 34. Hunter, Edwards, and Eubanks are also deceased.
Nolan Strong died on February 21, 1977 at the age of 43 in Detroit.
Awesome Doo Wop
3942 Third Street
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