When the Four Tops grace the Bell Auditorium stage on Thursday, Oct. 25, concertgoers will witness one of the legendary surviving vocal troupes from the 1950s.
As one of the most successful groups of the 20th century, the Four Tops have had more than 40 hits on the Billboard pop charts.
They’ll align with
the Symphony Orchestra Augusta to present a full-fledged sound to complement the group’s unique vocal style.
Show time is 7:30 p.m. and tickets cost $15, $25 and $40 from (706) 826-4705 or www.soaugusta.org.
In a brief talk with the Tops’ lone original member, Abdul “Duke” Fakir noted from his Detroit home that the quartet was long established before signing with Motown in 1963.
“Unlike so many of the Motown acts, we were already in our late 20s and had been on the road for years. Groups like The Temptations, The Miracles, Marvelettes and The Contours were just graduating high school,” he said.
Conversely, the Four Tops had already played Las Vegas, were touring nationally and were performing with Pittsburgh bandleader and vocalist Billy Eckstine.
“Eckstine heard we could pattern ourselves after a vocal group called the Hi-Lo’s. We had that type of tight harmony, and he loved us,” said Fakir.
Four years after Berry Gordy founded Motown, the Four Tops signed to the fledgling record company on Detroit’s West Grand Boulevard.
By 1964, the Tops enjoyed their first major hit, Baby, I Need Your Lovin and a year later watched Sugar Pie Honey Bunch earn No. 1 status on Billboard charts.
Fakir says it’s bittersweet being the last survivor of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame unit.
“It’s bittersweet because I miss my brothers. We played golf together, bought homes in the same neighborhood, raised our children together, had cookouts, played cards – you name it – we were tight.
“This current group? That’s the sweet part. They’re like my nephews and I’m their mentor/uncle. They’re very talented and very close to the original Four Tops sound.”
Lawrence Payton Jr. is part of the current lineup, replacing his late father.
The other two deceased original members are Levi Stubbs Jr. and Renaldo “Obie” Benson.
The other current members are Ronnie McNeir and Harold “Spike” Deleon.
“I’m passing it onto them in order to keep the legacy alive,” Fakir said.
When asked why the public rarely, if ever, heard of stories about the Four Tops participating in wild antics typical of some rock-era bands of the 1960s and 1970s – Fakir harkened back to the groups’ origins.
“We all had Southern roots. In fact, my grandmother is from Sparta, Ga. Levi’s family is from Milledgeville, Ga. We knew right from wrong and never wavered from our home training. We also got lots of good advice from Jackie Wilson and Billy Eckstine,” he said.