Friday, March 15, 2013


Social media has helped many with common and similar interests make connections, and one of the people I've been blessed to have been connected with is Antonio Dandrige, who like me, have a deep appreciation for the legacy and music of Motown. Born and still residing in Detroit, Dandrige became interested in the label's music and legacy after watching the label's classic "Motown 25" special and like many, he became inspired to not only do research, he also began to hone his singing skills, which paid off in a huge way. He's song with various groups as well as sang background for many talented performers including Musiq Soulchild, and while he loves singing, he loves the sounds of Motown, and seeing that many radio stations hasn't been playing their music, he decided to form his own podcast Hitsville Radio, a monthly podcast which he co-hosts and plays the music from the famous label, which has gotten a positive response from many including talk show host Ellen Degenerese. Dandridge spoke to me via telephone about his career, the importance of many remembering Motown and his love for singing.

DA-PROFESSOR: Thanks for allowing me to interview you. How are things going?
ANTONIO: Everything is going great. Launching the radio show. Working hard.

DA-PROFESSOR: What inspired you to start your radio show?
ANTONIO: Well, I've always been a lover of Motown and being a part of different Motown fan clubs, I seen that there wasn't a lot being done to pay tribute to Motown and I've seen that Internet radio is the biggest craze wave that's going on now, and I've seen that there wasn't a show solely dedicated to Motown entirely and in my opinion, there's no reason for that.

DA-PROFESSOR: You was born and raised in Detroit. What was like growing up in Detroit where Motown was founded?
ANTONIO: Growing up in Detroit was wonderful. Detroit is known for Motown and Gospel music; it's really a big thing in Detroit. It was great! A-lot of camaraderie. Of course it has it's ups and downs, but it's been kind to me.

DA-PROFESSOR: Who are your favorite Motown Artists?
ANTONIO: I love all the Motown artists. My favorites; Diana Ross, Martha Reeves, Shanice, Johnny Gill, Boyz II Men.

DA-PROFESSOR: What do you admire about those artists?
ANTONIO: Diana Ross; I admire her stage show. I especially admire how she commands her show. I've never been to a concert where the person next to you is a complete stranger and you come away shaking their hands and hugging one another. Martha Reeves. She epitomizes the soul of Motown; just songs like "Dancing In The Streets," "Heatwave," "Nowhere To Run." Those songs will make you automatically think of Motown and the Motown sound. Boyz II Men, Shanice. Eraku Badu represents songs with substance.

DA-PROFESSOR: You also talked about traveling. What cites and countries have you visited?
ANTONIO: I've been around the world. My favorite place was Africa. I loved going to Pairs France. Portugal. Turkey. There hasn't been a place on the map I haven't been to. As a kid I wanted to sing around the world.

DA-PROFESSOR: That's amazing that you had the chance to travel. Motown is known for having fans around the world. From your opinion, why does Motown have an international following?
ANTONIO: Well you know Berry Gordy coined Motown the sound of Young America in 1965 and at that time it represented youthfulness in America and it was joyous. Of course, in other countries they have their own artist, but when you have people like The Funk Brothers who are Jazz musicians and played on 98 percent of those records. It's just a sound that resonated around the world and I think that America was the first that had a diverse kind of music. When Smokey Robinson sang 'When I became of age, my mother called and told me to shop around,' It touched the world.

DA-PROFESSOR: That's an interesting point. Motown was known for their lyrics about love, romance and fun.
ANTONIO:  They also changed with the times. Motown was very aware of what was going on. Every Friday, they would have Quality Control meetings, where they would vote for what songs would be released. What song wouldn't. A song like "Jimmy Mack" a song by Martha & The Vandellas. They held on to that song. You could hear the footsteps that sounded like marching. It wasn't about war. Motown is ever changing.

DA-PROFESSOR: What did you think of Marvin Gaye's classic album "What's Going On?' How did it take Marvin and Motown into another era?
ANTONIO: I think the "What's Going On" album was so important at that time. It was important for Motown. America. The world was not as naive as in 1970 as it was in 1965, and I do believe the introduction told people that Motown was now Adult Comp temporary. It helped Motown. It helped the generation. It helped him and artists like Sly Stone & The Family Stone. The teenagers wanted something different. Tammi Terrell had passed and it was a spiritual thing.

DA-PROFESSOR: What did you think of Marvin's album "Let's Get It On?"
ANTONIO: "Let's Get It On" and (the) "I Want You" albums. I think that he really epitomized the 1970's Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. He coined the term "Quiet Storm" and it's because his music is so sexual and so sensual. At the time you had artists like Al Green; they were great male singers, but when you go from a political sense of "What's Going On" to the prow less of "Let's Get It On," both are monumental.

DA-PROFESSOR: Earlier you mentioned Tammi Terrell. Unsung did a documentary on her How did you feel that Tammi finally got a documentary done on her?
ANTONIO: I think Tammi's story was clearly long overdue as well as The Marvelettes. I love shows like Unsung, who give insights to the artist because at the time, Motown has so many artists. You had The Supremes, The Temptations, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas and The Four Tops, but they have artists that people didn't know about. You had actress Barbara Mc Neir, Little Richard, Sammy Davis, Jr. There was a-lot of people that kinda curated under the radar with Motown. Tammi Terrell was one of those artists. That God she was able to hook up with Marvin Gaye and record such classics, but her story was so profound. A-lot of people didn't know she was dealing with James Brown and David Ruffin and a-lot of rumors were dispelled because of the TV One show "Unsung." There (are) a-lot of fans of that show and a-lot of people are interested in her catalog.

DA-PROFESSOR: Great theory. What do you think about the new Motown artists?
ANTONIO: You know I love what Motown is doing right now. The only official artist out on Motown is Ne-Yo and a guy named Chemistry. I love the fact that Ne-Yo has a top 10 single on the Pop charts, because since Berry Gordy left, Motown has had struggled with representing on the Pop charts, and in the industry. I love how Ne-Yo have a single on the Pop charts. To see that it goes to show that people are into quality music. I'm very excited to see the different changes that Motown is doing. I love how they taken the old Motown logo back.When Jheryl Busby left and George Jackson breathed new life into the company, I think with Kedar Massenburg, is my favorite (Motown) President. He ushered in the Neo-Soul era with Erakau Badu, India Arie, Chico DeBarge, Brian Mc Knight and hr really, really understood what Motown needed at the time. Even Sylvia Rhone is very important to Motown by bringing Motown back to the masses (by) giving Kelly Rowland her first mainstream hit.

DA-PROFESSOR: Sadly we lost many Motown artists including Michael Jackson, Frank Wilson, Gladys Horton, Teena Marie and The some of the Funk Brothers. How do you feel the loss of these artists have impacted the industry and the fans?
ANTONIO: I think it's a mixed emotion. Teena Marie. Gladys Horton. Rick James. A-lot of The Funk Brothers. I think those guys were gone too soon. I also think that they were unsung. I think what they did in their quote-on-quote hey day was so impressive that it did leave its mark. When they talk about the Funk Brothers, they talk about James Jamerson. I think that (sometimes) America can pigeonhole artists. I think the media in America focuses on one thing and one person that everyone and everything is forgotten. I think it's actually a mixed emotions and mixed reactions that it had on America.

DA-PROFESSOR: Speaking of The Marvelettes, they're documentary got over one million views. Many are aware that there are fake Marvelettes performing. How does it make you feel to know that there are fake Marvelettes performing, and how does it take away from the Real Surviving members and the fans?
ANTONIO: Sometimes it takes the fans and people responsible to put in a little more leg work in making sure things are secure. Making sure the legacy  holds its value because people are always looking for the dollar. People are looking for how much money I can make. I'm sure that people were surprised to see that the Marvelettes' name was even available for purchase. Sometimes it's up to the fans and people in charge to make sure their legacies is alive. I hate the fake Marvelettes and I think it's an insult for any other Motown act to be on the same bill with them!!

DA-PROFESSOR: Me too!! (Both laughs). You also mentioned that you also sing and performed with many different artists. Who have you worked with and do you plan on recording any music anytime soon?
ANTONIO: I've worked with Musiq Soulchild. Celine Dion. I've worked with Kenny Loggins. Wow. A-lot of people. I've worked with celebrities and non-celebrities. I'm also part of a music entertainment group, which is a Vegas styled show. The thing is that Motown is what inspired me to sing so I've always wanted to touch people. In 1983, when I saw Motown 25, I remembered being a young kid looking at that show and was like I want to do what they did. I want to make people feel the way they made me feel. Motown has rich, rich history. It can never be replaced. I love to sing. I would love to go back on the road one day. I love living out of a suit case. That kind of stuff is exciting to me. Being in a new place every night or every other night and asking the stage hand what city are we in? (Both laugh). I would love to record a Motown cover album but Motown's catalog is so huge, I think I would have to take 6 months to record.

DA-PROFESSOR: That would be great and interesting. With the exception of Craig David, there have been many White artists who have recorded Motown Cover albums and do well, yet many artists of color would record and sample of Motown classic. How important is it for Blacks to know the legacy of Motown?
ANTONIO: I think it's extremely important. Sometimes it's an embarrassment when you have other races know your history better than you do. Sometimes it is embarrassing. So many other genres and races are inspired by African Americans. You can't fault those guys for emulating good music. We had Caucasian Funk Brothers. I also feel that the African American community need to support their own. It's not as exciting as someone as exciting as Chris Brown does Motown. It doesn't have the same affect. Will Downing; he has covered a-lot of Motown music, but it's almost unknown. I think it's very important.

DA-PROFESSOR: Antonio you made another great point. Craig David recorded a Motown Cover album 2 years ago and I managed to get a copy, and I was impressed with how he kept with the originality while adding his own flavor to the classics.
ANTONIO: That's important. Sometimes you can listen to a Motown song. Sometimes you don't want to tamper with it. Sometimes it's great to make it your own. Just try not to get too far from the music. Keep the authenticity of the music and the lyrics and (what) the artist and the producer were trying to convey when they recorded the song. Like a person singing "Money (That's What I Want)" by Barrett Strong. You can make it into a ballad. You can make it uptempo. But it's the delivery of the song. I believe it when you sing 'The best thing is life are free/But you can give them to the birds and the bees/I want the money. That's a song with attitude.

DA-PROFESSOR: Motown is finally doing a musical. How do you feel that Motown is finally having a musical?
ANTONIO: I think it would be done right. It's a great idea because there are so many Motown books and Motown stories, and they're told by a third person. The Motown story being presented on Broadway can be told in first person. There are so many misconstrue stories of Motown, that Mr. Gordy can tell his story.

DA-PROFESSOR: Another interesting point. For years there's been talk of a movie about Marvin Gaye including one that which F. Gary Gray who directed Set It Off who was supposed to direct, but the movie that's being filmed is only focusing on Marvin's exile from America and not his childhood years and years at Motown as well as also having him being an alcoholic, and while Marvin was known for using drugs, he hardly drank.
ANTONIO: Well I'm gonna have to wait til the movie comes out because It's hard for me to be believe that they're gonna make such an Icon like Marvin an alcoholic, unless somebody knows something we don't. I've never heard about alcohol being with Marvin Gaye.

DA-PROFESSOR: Jan (Marvin's second ex-wife) was on Facebook expressing her feelings about the film.
ANTONIO: I do know that the family has been contacted many times to do a Marvin biopic, but they turned it down. I think it's extremely important that his story is told. I think sometimes, personal feelings can stop a project, but if there's something can be learn from the story, and Marvin Gaye's story is such a profound story. He's so well loved and so well known. All the fans know about his life and his struggles. Letting that story be told can help the newer generation; they are so many people who love Marvin Gaye. There are so many people that love Donny Hathaway, and their stories haven't been told. I think it's important. It wasn't by chance that he (Marvin) met Harvey Fuqua and came to Motown and created "What's Going On" and "Let's Get It On" and had drug problems and had performed on Motown 25. There are no other Marvin Gayes around. There are no other David Ruffins around. There are no other Florence Ballards around. I think those stories should be told.

DA-PROFESSOR: What would you like fans to get from your radio show?
ANTONIO: I want them to be educated. I want them to be introduced to a-lot of songs they may not have known. 'I didn't know Rick James was on Motown.' 'I didn't know Boyz II Men was on Motown.' 'I didn't know that India Arie was on Motown.' Motown was still cranking out hits. I will be playing Boyz II Men, Shanice, M.C. Brains. Those songs I will be playing. I want to keep the Motown legacy alive. People are still using Motown for their commercials and for samples on certain songs. It saddens me when a Motown sample is used and and you hear people say that's Jennifer Lopez. Not knowing that was a Motown sample and I'm going to play the original for people to understand. No this is not Mr Cheeks. This is Eddie Kendricks' "Keep On Trucking." (both laugh as I attempted to sing the bride of Keep On Trucking)

DA-PROFESSOR: I forgot to ask you about M.C.Trouble. What was it about M.C. Trouble that you admire?
ANTONIO: At the time there was Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, M.C. Lyte. I really got into Motown when I read that Berry Gordy was selling Motown; it amazed me that Motown was going in the rap field. They did well with Wrecks-N-Effect, but with M.C. Trouble, she was a triple threat. She rap. she could sing, She could act. She was an activist. She could have been with Boogie Down Productions and KRS-One. She could talk about love, but she could also give songs about knowledge. She was also a great dancer. That's what I loved about her! I loved her "Gotta Get A Grip" album. It was such a lost when I found out she had passed. I loved M.C. Trouble.

DA-PROFESSOR: Sadly she hasn't gotten her recognition. I recall reading that she had finished her second album before she died, and there was talk about her album being released with proceeds going towards a scholarship in her name.  How important is it for her second album to be released to the public?
ANTONIO: I think it should be released, but now if they do release it, it should be repackaged in some way. At the time MCA purchased Motown and they weren't giving Motown promotional dollars that they needed. They gave Boyz II Men because Boyz II Men sold 10 million dollars and won Grammy Awards. When it came to other artists they were promoting their artists before they were promoting Motown artists. I was very overjoyed when Motown got from MCA to Polygram.

DA-PROFESSOR: Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years?
ANTONIO: I want to be the next Harry Weigner. I want to be one of the people in charge of catalog, so I can continue to repackage (and) re-release those Motown songs. There are so many Motown live albums that has not been released. I would love to package and release them. Teena Marie played almost every instruments. Why isn't a live album from Teena Marie released? Those are the things I want to do.

DA-PROFESSOR: THANK YOU!!!!! I reviewed the re-release of Rick James' "Street Songs" in college and I wrote that it would have been better had the live version of their duet "Fire And Desire" had been included.
ANTONIO: YES!!!! In my opinion, the Motown catalog brings in millions of dollars. There are so many times you can repackage "My Girl" and there are so many Temptation songs. For songs like The Miracles'"Love Machine" to be such a world wide hit song. It ushered the Disco sound. Most of today's American's don't know that. They know "The Tracks of My Tears" before they know "Love Machine." Motown has so much rich history and in the next 5 to 10 years, I want to help keep that legacy alive. Me being from Detroit. Detroit was known as the Capitol mecca. 10-15 years it was the murder capital of the world. I want to remind people of what Detroit was and is. We're still cranking out hits. We got Emeneim. We got Kid Rock. That's still Motown.

DA-PROFESSOR: How do you think you're gonna make an impact on both the music and broadcasting industries?
ANTONIO: I really don't know how. I know there's not a radio station that's solely dedicated to Motown and Motown music. It's a platform. I don't have any prior radio experience except doing radio spots in high school. It's a passion of mine. I've heard people say is there a radio station that plays just Motown and I want to give them that. I know enough of the music. The A-sides and the B-sides that I can put together something for the team of Motown lovers. I love to surround myself by passionate people. I'm very passionate about Motown. Whatever your passionate about, do it. The idea came to me in November 2011. Persevere. Take care of your business and it will happen.


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