When discussing Soul music greats the common names always crop up, David Ruffin, Levi Stubbs, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Luther Vandross and so forth. But what about a man who has been lead singer of two of the most successful black groups of all time, has carved out a successful solo career and stayed at the top of his game for over forty years?
George Curtis Cameron was born in Jackson Mississippi on September 21st 1945, although he and his family moved North to Detroit at a young age. The Cameron family consisted of nine siblings for G.C alongside growing up with his cousin a certain Philippe Wynne. G.C spent his youth running the streets of Detroit like a lot of other Motown artists at the time unaware of the exposure that he and the rest of the prospective artists would soon be subject to.
Harvey Fuqua plays an important part in the the G.C Cameron story, Fuqua sold his Tri-Phi label to Berry Gordy in 1963, in the package were The Spinners. The Spinners became part of the background at Motown, often over looked for material and when finally given material it was of poor quality compared to the other male Motown groups at the time. In 1969 The Spinners were looking for a new direction and indeed a new lead singer following the departure of long time lead Chico Edwards. G.C Cameron had spent the last few years of his life fighting in Vietnam and on his return in 1969 was recommended by none other than Dennis Edwards then of the Contours soon to be of The Temptations as a replacement for the departing Chico Edwards. G.C takes up the story “”My brother Dave had told Dennis that I was back from Vietnam and Dennis, in turn, called me and got me hooked-up … and Marvin Gaye auditioned me.” This chance call from Dennis Edwards had resulted in an audition with Marvin Gaye which G.C Cameron was successful in and Cameron along with The Spinners spent the next 12 months rehearsing and fine tuning their new look.
During this time both G.C Cameron and Marvin Gaye had entered into marriage with two of Berry Gordy’s sisters G.C Cameron married Gwen Gordy the ex wife Harvey Fuqua whilst Marvin Gaye married Anna Gordy resulting in G.C and Marvin having stronger links than simple label mates.
In 1970 The Spinners were transferred from Motown to the Motown subsidiary label V.I.P and the song that would transform the fortunes of The Spinners was released ‘It’s A Shame’.
‘It’s A Shame’ was a top 20 hit on both sides of the Atlantic with Motown fans in both the US and Britain taking a liking to the new line up of The Spinners with G.C Cameron as front man. After the success of ‘it’s A Shame’, the Spinners were offered a deal with Atlantic which the group decided to take eager to dispel the myth that they were failures at Motown. Going out on a high with ‘It’s A Shame’ gave The Spinners the early push they needed to break at Atlantic.
Due to a number of issues including contractual commitments and the fact that G.C was now a part of the Gordy family due to his marriage to Gwen saw Cameron stay with Motown and as a result end his short stint with The Spinners in favour of a solo career. Replacing G.C Cameron in The Spinners was one Philippe Wynne who we mentioned earlier, he had been rehearsing with the group in readiness for the departure of Cameron which was seen as imminent. As The Spinners battled their way up the charts with a new found support for their work at Atlantic along with the production talent of Thom Bell, Cameron started the moves to develop his solo career.
As Motown moved west to California so did Cameron and whilst The Spinners were enjoying a string of major hits at Atlantic he released his first solo work for Motown transferring to the short lived Mowest label Cameron released the tracks ‘Act Like A Shotgun’ and 1972’s ‘What It Is, What It Is’ which both received lukewarm support due to a number of factors including poor promotion on Motown’s part and simply a lack of credible material meaning both these releases didn’t even begin to showcase the talents of G.C Cameron.
Further tracks were recorded by Cameron but were shelved at the last minute, this led to a frustrated Cameron being placed in a difficult position, he had shown his loyalty to the Motown cause and indeed his loyalty to the Gordy family but he wasn’t being given the support his talent deserved or in fact the assurances he had been offered when staying at Motown, namely that Motown would do everything in their power to make his solo career a success.
One of his final releases with Mowest was the Smokey Robinson produced ‘Don’t Wanna Play Pyjama Games’ in which Cameron once again showcased his talent and versatility by delivering his vocal in a high tenor style not dissimilar to Smokey’s vocal style. A promised album under the tutelage of Smokey Robinson namely ‘7th Son’ didn’t come to fruition and Cameron was transferred back to the parent label Motown.
In 1974 after a near three year wait and with a string of unsuccessful singles behind him G.C Cameron finally released his first solo album at Motown namely the collectable ‘Love Songs and Other Tragedies’. His second album at Motown was the self titled ‘G.C Cameron’ released in 1976 and in 1977 his third and final solo album for Motown was released namely ‘You’re What’s Missing In My Life’. Sadly for G.C both these releases followed a similar path of poor promotion, bad management and led to his solo career struggling to get started whilst The Spinners had had a number of highly successful years at Atlantic hitting the charts on a regular basis.
There was to be one final release for Cameron at Motown the duet album ‘Rich Love, Poor Love’ with Syreeta but by the time of its release he was long gone after entering into divorce proceedings with his wife Gwen and negotiating a release from his contract at Motown.
Despite his time at Motown turning sour Cameron was still determined to make a success of the solo career he had carved out for himself and joined a number of small independent labels. During this transitional period Cameron decided to leave California and head back South to his roots, he resided in Franklin Mississippi and joined the infamous blues label Malaco.
One album was released on the Malaco label the highly under – rated ‘Give Me Your Love’ In 1983, for the most part of this period Cameron recorded sporadically and it wasn’t until he was approached by Ian Levine to become part of his Motor City project that Cameron began to record and perform on a regular basis again. He spent time working on the Motor City project as a writer, producer and of course singer. His Motor City productions were released as part of two albums ‘Right Or Wrong’ in 1991 and ‘The Very Best of G.C Cameron’ in 1996.
A further four years passed and the dawn of a new decade until G.C Cameron was involved in any projects of note again. In 2000 following the hospitalisation of The Spinners lead singer at the time John Edwards the group contacted Cameron with a view to coming on board until Edwards was well again. So after virtually thirty years away from the group G.C Cameron returned as lead singer of The Spinners he toured with the group in 2000 and again in 2002 when Edwards’ illness became more serious. Although he had never performed the Atlantic material that now made up the bulk of The Spinners set’s he performed admirably and was thrust back into the spotlight.
At this time his solo career which had been so badly managed at Motown in the 70’s was gathering pace once again with his first solo material in over ten years being given its release. ’Shadows’ produced by G.C himself and Ben Obi the album was a big success in the UK so well received that the album was licensed for release this side of the Atlantic and a 12 inch double a-side of the two biggest Modern Soul tracks from the album were released by Paul Mooney on the re-activated Grapevine label.
G.C Cameron left The Spinners once more in 2002 and a year later was back with arguably his biggest role to date, as he was recruited by The Temptations as their new lead singer replacing Barrington Bo Henderson. The Temptations had enjoyed a new lease of life following the release of 1998’s Phoenix Rising and with Barrington Henderson at the helm had won a Grammy award for their 2000 album ’Ear – Resistible’ and had been nominated for another Grammy with the 2001 release of ’Awesome’.
G.C Cameron was recruited as a replacement for the out going Henderson and immediately launched himself into the role singing lead on the group’s 2003 performance for the TV special Motown 45 whilst also settling into the studio to record ‘Legacy’ which would be The Temptations final studio album for Motown. Whilst recording Legacy Cameron would become the firmly established lead singer for the Tempts, taking lead on tracks such as ‘50 – 50 Love’, ‘Sumthin Special’, ‘Round Here’, ‘Still Temptin’ and ‘You Are Necessary In My Life’.
The album was well received despite a distinct lack of promotion from a Motown label going through yet another leadership change both internally and externally and with Universal the umbrella group under which Motown is kept struggling to see a direction for the label the album suffered heavily.
The Temptations went back on the road and two UK tours saw G.C Cameron produce some of his finest displays with the group. In 2006 a second Cameron led album was produced the groups first away from Motown for over 28 years since they were signed to Atlantic. ‘Reflections’ was described as “an album that allows The Temptations to perform the songs that they didn’t have chance to record first time around” and as such features a string of Motown covers. The album is badly let down from the over use of Electronic aspects to the production but once again featured some fine moments from G.C Cameron. After four years with the group he decided to depart from The Temptations and try his hand at a solo career once again. In 2009 he was featured on the popular Modern Soul album from Serieux ‘I Can Give You Love’ singing leads on the tracks ‘You Keep Running Back’ and ‘So Close To You’. After the release of these tracks his solo career was back up and running and with the soon to be released ‘Enticed Ecstasy’ (his first solo album post Temptations ) making big sounds on the Modern Soul scene all is looking well for one of the most distinctive voices of American Soul music.
G.C Cameron may not have the glamour appeal of a Marvin Gaye or a David Ruffin but his talent is without doubt and he certainly deserves his place amongst the greats of Soul Music. The fact that he has managed to spend time as lead singer for two of the most celebrated soul groups of all time once again displays how strong his credentials are. Under rated he may be without talent he is not.
* This article was first published in Manifesto magazine July 2010