Smokey Robinson forms the Matadors in 1954 at Northern High School with friends Warren Moore, Bobby Rodgers, Emerson Rodgers, and Ronnie White. They become established in the Detroit club scene over the next three years and change their name to the Miracles when Emerson's sister Claudette replaces him in the lineup when he goes into the Army.
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The Miracles first meet Berry Gordy in 1957 while auditioning for Jackie Wilson's manager. Jackie Wilson turns them down, but Berry sees potential in this group. He helps them get a recording contract with the End label. The Miracles debut with "Got A Job" written by Berry, Smokey, and Billy Davis in 1958. It is a hit locally, but not does gain national attention.
When Berry Gordy sets up the Motown label, the Miracles are one of the first acts he signs. Their first release on the Motown label "Way Over There" doesn't go anywhere, but their second release "Shop Around" is a huge hit, making it to number 2 on the U.S. charts. This release not only puts the Miracles in the national spotlight, but Motown as well. This is Motown's first million dollar seller.
Over the next seven years, the Miracles experience much success. They become the first Motown act to appear on ABC-TV's American Bandstand in February 1961. They continue to top the charts with the songs "You've Really Got A Hold On Me," "Mickey's Monkey," "Going To A Go-Go," and "I Second That Emotion."
Smokey and Claudette marry on November 7, 1959, and will have two children - Berry and Tamla. Claudette performs with the Miracles until 1964, when she retires to take care of her family. She will continue to record with the Miracles.
Smokey not only records hits with the Miracles. In 1962, he begins producing for Motown; the first record he produces is Mary Wells's "The One Who Really Loves You." His songwriting talents contribute to the success of many Motown artists including Mary Wells, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, and the Marvellettes. He becomes such an integral part of Motown that he is named vice-president of Motown in 1961. He continues to be a driving force behind Motown for many years.
In 1967, the Miracles become "Smokey Robinson and the Miracles." They continue topping the charts with "Baby, Baby Don't Cry," and "Tears Of A Clown." In 1972, Smokey Robinson leaves the Miracles to spend more time with his family. Smokey names his replacement, Billy Griffin, at the Carter Batton Amphitheater in Washington, D.C. on July 12 during the group's farewell tour. Three years later, Smokey begins working on his solo career.
Without Smokey, the Miracles hit the charts two more times with "Do It Baby" hitting number 13 in 1974 and "Love Machine (Part 1)" hitting number 1 in 1976. In 1983, the Miracles are reunited with Smokey for Motown's 25th Anniversary NBC-TV Special.
Smokey's solo career is not filled with as many consistent single hits as his career with the Miracles. However, when Smokey does hit the charts he does it well. "Crusin" released in 1980, hits number 4, "Being With You" hits number 2 in 1982 and "Just To See Her" hits number 8 in 1987. On the other hand, his thematic albums are very successful and always do well on the charts.
Beginning in 1981, Smokey receives the long-term recognition he deserves. ABC's American Bandstand airs the Smokey Robinson 25th Anniversary Special on December 12. He is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. In December of the following year, he is named a Grammy Living Legend. Smokey is inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame by Whitney Houston on May 30, 1990.
In 1991, after thirty years with Motown, Smokey Robinson leaves Motown to sign with SBK Records and in 1999 he resigns with Motown. He continues to appear at industry gatherings and events.
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