THE BRIGHTEST star on the horizon at the end of 1973 and beginning of 1974 was undoubtedly Eddie Kendricks, one-time lead vocalist with the world's No. 1 vocal group, the Temptations. Three years ago last month, Eddie left the group to pursue a solo career and, after a couple of years of finding his feet, Eddie Kendricks exploded on to the worldwide charts with "Keep On Truckin'", successfully followed through with a second million seller in "Boogie Down" and now aims for a triple treat with "Son Of Sagittarius", a track from his "Boogie Down" album — an album that has been referred to in B&S as: "…one of the most worthy soul albums of all time…"and "I have never enjoyed an album as much as this since "Masterpiece" came to us…" This interview was held with Eddie in his hotel suite in New York during his week long stay at the world famous Apollo Theatre in New York's Harlem.
B&S: First thing I want to ask you about is the new album, "Boogie Down". Are you really happy with it?
EK: Oh, yeah! Well, actually, though, I wasn't happy with it when we first thought we'd finished it but I went back in and re-did "Honey Brown", "Son Of Sagittarius" and "The Thin Man". Originally, Leonard Caston (the producer) sang the lyric to me and I couldn't fully get it because I was under a little pressure, you know. So, I took my time and took the songs in and did them over again. Now I'm very happy with the album.
B&S: Which are the tracks that your particularly like yourself?
EK: I like all the ten songs. But I guess that maybe "Trust Your Heart" is a little special for me — I really like that one because of the very unusual rhythm it has. And the girls are really, really singing good on that one, man.
B&S: How long ago was the album actually recorded? Is it all completely new or are there some older cuts in there?
EK: Only one thing is a throwback and that's "Loving You The Second Time Around", which was the 'B' side to "Darling Come Back Home". The rest of the songs are all completely new.
B&S: Looking more closely at the album, half of it is in the "Boogie Down" and "Keep On Truckin'" vein, right?
B&S: Well, when you actually recorded "Keep On Truckin'", did you anticipate what it might do for your career?
EK: Yeeees! I knew it before I put my voice on it. I didn't even know what the lyrics were going to be because the girl was writing them still — Anita Poree, that's her name. Then she came up with the title for the song and I was double certain because it was so topical.
B&S: Did it get left on the album specifically so that the public could pull it off?
EK: Right! But they had the intentions of pulling it anyway!
B&S: It also changed the direction of your career because most people until then thought of you as a ballad singer, right?
EK: Yes, but it was right that I should let them know that I can sing more than just ballads. The public is a funny thing because if they get behind you, they seem to want to know that you can do more than just one thing.
B&S: Do you think it held you back until then by staying mainly with ballads?
EK: In the group, it didn't hold me back because there were guys in the group who could sing the other things. One could handle the Blues, one could handle the church type songs and I could handle the ballads. At the time I was in the Temps, I was only allowed to sing ballads and even though I might be able to sing other things, you have be all for the group when you're in a group. And I was all for the group. But now that I'm not with the group, I just spread myself and do what I wan to do.
B&S: Eddie, it wasn't really until your third album that you really broke through big. Were there any times when you ever thought you'd done wrong in going solo?
EK: No. I had all my second, third and fourth thoughts before I actually left the group. By the time I made the decision, there were no second thoughts.
B&S: Was there any time during the waiting period that you thought maybe you weren't going to make it? Because, to some extent, David Ruffin has never really made it since leaving the Temps.
EK: Well, David's alright now. He's straightened out and should be ready to record again in about six months from now. He's got himself together again now. And he should be back at Motown, too. But no, I never thought I wouldn't make it, to answer your first question.
B&S: How do you feel about the musical changes in the Temptations since you left the group? Do you think they're as good a group as when you were with them?
EK: Well, I think they need a change now. The "1990" album is not as good as they can do.
B&S: Do you think they maybe need a different producer?
EK: No, not necessarily that; but maybe the producer should change his thing. The music business changes so much that you don't stay in the same direction because you'll end up getting caught out too late. It affects their touring, too, because the people don't want to hear those old records all the time and new acts with better records will come along and push them down.
B&S: I'm not asking you to get involved or offer advice to your old colleagues but if you were still there, what would you like to see done?
EK: I'd just like to see them sing again. And sing a lot more.
B&S: Are there still things about the Temptations that the public has never seen?
EK: Well, I can't say now but when I was with them, and David, we never did get to our full potentil.
B&S: Do you ever regret the situation which evolved and do you think you could have achieved much more with still being within the group?
EK: Yes, I think we could all have achieved a lot more. If I had stayed with the group, I could have had all these albums and been with the group, too. And the same for David. And they could have had a full show — David could do twenty minutes, I could have done twenty minutes and someone else could have done twenty minutes and as a group we could have done a full show, too. And there was enough talent in there to arrange for the members of the group who didn't traditionally handle the leads. I wrote a song once specially for Otis (Williams) and he was the original lead voice in the group, you know. And Melvin had a song called "Truly, Truly Believe" which I did the original high lead on and Melvin did a second lead and it was really good. And, like I'm doing now, we could have had a lot of different writers coming in with a variety of material. We could have had all this.
B&S: As an entertainer and singer, do you think you have improved in any ways since leaving the group?
EK: Oh, yeeeah! I'm always learning, always learning! I don't know my own full potential right at this point because I'm still learning everyday.
B&S: And as a person, an individual, has it made you change?
EK: Nooo, I'm still the same, I'll stay the same. I have always thought about me, even in the group because you have to face facts, if there was no group, there'd still be me.
B&S: Back to the music, then. Is the "Boogie Down" vein a style that you would continue with?
EK: There's no telling what we're going to do next! We can do anything. I feel like I can sing anything and they feel like they can cut anything, so who knows? There's a whole lot of directions in this album that we can take already and there are several tracks that would make good singles.
B&S: Which particular cuts on the album do you think would make good singles?
EK: Myself? Personally? I think every one of them! All ten of them!
B&S: OK, realistically then?
EK: I'm speaking realistically! We went in there to cut singles all the way, Every track was put down as a potential 45.
B&S: OK, so which ones do you think will gat released as singles!
EK: "Son Of Sagittarius" is released now. Then there's "Tell Her Love Has Felt The Need" and then we'll move on from there.
B&S: Have you started work on a new album?
EK: No, but we're talking about it now.
B&S: Are there any things that you'd like to do on the next album?
EK: I'd like to sing some spirituals some time. And I'd like to do some jazz songs. But it will take time, I know that, and I'm not planning to rush anything.
B&S: What other major plans do you have for the near future?
EK: Well, I've got an awful lot of gigs to do, I'm pleased to say and I'm in the process of producing a new act. I have been booked into the Latin Casino and I have now to work on a more nightclub styled act as well as my own show.
B&S: By the way, do you still include any of the Temps hits in your own act?
EK: Oh, yeah, I do a medley of the ones I sang — "Way You Do The Things You Do", "Girl's Alright With Me", "Just My Imagination", "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me".
B&S: Do you get a good reponse to them?
B&S: Do you take your own band with you everywhere?
EK: Yes, six pieces in all.
B&S: Do you work mainly on your own or with other acts?
EK: Well, it depends. We work a lot of dates on our own but we've worked with all the big acts — Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, David Ruffin. And we don't mind if we don't close the show. A lot of times, acts don't show up on time and we're always there on time so we go right on. It really doesn't make no kind of difference to us where we are on the show as long as we do the job. I always thought that the act that starred in the show should open it anyway. I feel that if the star opens the show, he gets the chance to go home early! And it means that the acts that are following have really got to have their thing together. And the star can get to the crowd while they're fresh.
B&S: Swinging over to your European tour later this year, what are the things you remember most from your other times over there?
EK: Well, I think the thing that sticks most in my mind is….see, I'm the kind of guy who likes sunshine and you really don't see the sun too much over there, do you?! I saw the sun once when we were over there and we were there two weeks. Once! And it made me feel dreary all the time — it has that sort of effect on me. But this time I'm looking forward to seeing some of the countryside, too, because I've heard it's really beautiful. I certainly liked the audiences in England — they were nice to me and really very receptive.
B&S: What did you think about the rest of Europe?
EK: I never got further than England.
B&S: That was on that tour when at one stage there were only four Temptations on stage.
EK: Right, I was quitting then, you see. It wasn't my intention to come at all but Paul called me and told me to come over there so I did. But I'm looking forward to seeing everything I missed this next time.