Soul Serenade

Bobby Taylor and the VancouversI think I’ve mentioned the great WBGO radio show called “Rhythm Review” that Felix Hernandez does every Saturday. The guy is a virtual encyclopedia of soul music, and he’s turned me on to countless records. Among them is this week’s choice, “Does Your Mama Know About Me”, by Bobby Taylor and the Vancouvers.

How is this for an interesting tidbit; the song was co-written by one Tommy Chong. Yes, that Tommy Chong. I love doing the research for this column because it always seems like I’m always learning something new.

This group has an interesting story. Bobby Taylor was born in North Carolina but it was in San Francisco that he ran into a group called Little Daddy & the Bachelors, which featured the Canadian-born Chong on guitar. In Calgary, the group called themselves the Calgary Shades. The name referenced the multi-racial composition of the group which was a melting pot of various races and ethnic backgrounds.

The history of popular music includes a lot of stories about being in the right place at the right time. In 1965, Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson of the Supremes happened to catch the group, by then known as the Vancouvers, performing in Vancouver. They tipped off Motown label boss Berry Gordy, Jr., and the rest is soul music history. The group was signed to Motown imprint Gordy Records and they released “Does Your Mama Know About Me” as their debut single in 1968. The record peaked at #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. They never had a bigger hit, though they released several other singles.

Bobby Taylor has an even bigger claim to fame than his work with the Vancouvers however. When his group was performing at Chicago’s Regal Theater in July, 1968, their opening act was a young group from Gary, IN called the Jackson 5. Taylor personally brought the group to the Motown offices in Detroit where they auditioned for executive Suzanne de Pass and Gordy. Within a year, Gordy signed them to his label. More soul music history.

Oh, and Tommy Chong went on to have a pretty good career of his own.

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About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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