The Detroit Emeralds
consist of two brothers, Abe and Ivy Tillmon, and James Mitchell. Abe and Ivy both were born in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1943 and 1941 respectively, whilst James was born in Perry, Florida in '41. The trio got together five years ago in Detroit and, in fact, will be celebrating their fifth anniversary in the splendous 20 Grand Club in Detroit later this year.
Ivy and Abe were part of the Tillmon Brothers, a spiritual group in Detroit, before becoming two-thirds of the Detroit Emeralds. As can be deduced from what's already been written, the group was formed in 1966 in Detroit and was immediately signed by Ric Tic Records, a local company that was enjoying a good deal of success at that time and whose recordings are probably today the most sought after in this country.
We actually had three singles issued by the company," James Mitchell told me. "Firstly, there was "Show Time", on which we sang on one side whilst Al Kent and an orchestra handled the flip. Then came "Ordinary Man", followed by a version of "Ode To Billy Joe". Al was also producer on the sessions. We actually cut the last title because it was always very popular in our act. Motown bought out Ric Tic in 1968 and the company stumbled for a few months before finally giving us our contract back. Mr Wingate, who was the owner of Ric Tic and Golden World, was also our manager until late in '68, when we got our complete freedom.
"We waited and looked around for a few months and in '69 we decided to go with Westbound, who appeared to be an up-coming label and in our home town, Detroit. Our first release for the company was a thing called "Things Are Looking Up and A-Holding On" but it didn't do anything for us. So, we persuaded the people at Westbound to let us do our own material and our own production. The next release was "If I Lose Your Love", which Abe and I wrote and we completely produced ourselves. That was early last year and we did a couple of others during the year, too; all of which sold a little bit better than the previous one, all getting on the R&B charts. Then, this year came "Do Me Right", which has been the big breakthrough and has sold nearly a million now."
The success of "Do Me Right" and its follow up, "Wear This Ring", has lead to the Detroit Emeralds first album, all of which they wrote, arranged and produced along with Sonny Sanders. And, with the money the trio has earned, they have bought their own lounge in Detroit, suitably named the Emerald Lounge.