Motown Magic

Berry Gordy was a legendary music producer with a vision to create a new wave of rhythm and blues music that appealed to all audiences. His label, Motown Records, signed some of the most iconic acts in history, including the Supremes, The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder and so many others. Motown was a sensation around the globe with its soulful pop songs paired with classy attire and impeccable choreography.

Starting with Jackie Wilson and the Miracles in the late 1950s, Gordy began building his portfolio of artists and the No. 1 hits soon followed. “Shop Around” was the label’s first million-selling single, performed by The Miracles in 1960. The following year, Motown’s girl group The Marvelettes topped the charts with “Please Mr. Postman.” By 1971, Gordy’s label had garnered 110 top 10 hits and Motown was an international success.

Motown music broke down racial barriers because its sound was universal — everyone enjoyed it. In a time of turmoil, blacks and whites had found a common ground. This influential music spurred a special tribute, Legends of Motown, to honor the artists, as well as their message.

Legends of Motown producer Rudolph Peters said that it is important to him to keep Motown alive.

“I know that Motown is something that’s universal, and it’s something that people need to always remember,” Peters said. “Even though this is the 21st century and everybody is listening to hip hop and all the other genres of music, Motown started something that was just unbelievable and that was bringing the mass of people together and crossing the color barrier, and we should never ever forget that.”

Peters has a background in education, as a public school administrator, but has also been involved with music. He plays the trumpet and was part of the San Francisco Boys Choir.

The Legends of Motown show needed a producer and they came looking for Peters.

“They found me,” he laughed. “They had a show that was put together before I came and they were looking for a manager and a producer. So I came out and I saw the show and I told them, ‘I like what I see but there’s only one thing that I don’t approve of. I don’t believe any music in a live show should be played to tracks and if I do this, it has to be live, from the vocal to the choreography to a real band playing the music behind the show.’ They agreed and that’s what we did.”

They practice constantly to come as close to the originals as possible, from the singing to the stage presence.

“We always try to be as identical as possible for the people that were blessed to see the entertainers in their heyday, but we also like to be as stylish as we can for what people are wearing today,” Peters said. “So when you come out, you will not only be amazed by the music, but you will be amazed by what the groups are wearing.”

While they come as close as possible, this group is not impersonators, but rather an authentic tribute to pay respects to the originals.

“We’re not like groups who are trying to pass themselves off as the originals,” Peters said. “The main priority is to pay tribute to the phenomenal writers and artists from Detroit, Michigan, who were pioneers and helped pave the way for even more writers, artists and musicians alike. Even if you’re too young to remember the power of the Motown sound, this show will be entertaining. It’s not just about nostalgia, it’s about good music.”

From Wednesday-Sunday, Oct. 13-17 (8 p.m.) the Legends of Motown will be back at the Riverside Resort for the seventh time to perform at Don’s Celebrity Theatre. This time the show will include sets paying tribute to The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and The Temptations.

“The flow of the show starts with the mighty Four Tops and they come out and do their famous ‘It’s the Same Old Song,’ which gets everybody into a singing mood ‘cause everybody knows that song,” Peters said. “We try to make sure that we are appeasing the crowd and we look at their participation on certain songs, so we try to stay in a flow where we can keep everybody engaged. And then sometimes, depending on how the time restrictions go, we do add a couple songs or maybe take away a couple songs to feature one of the artists more.”

The artists share snippets of history throughout the show as well.

“Oh we always tell the history of Motown,” Peters said. “It’s always, ‘Do you remember this song? ‘Where were you at this time?’ We always give a little bit of insight and try to enlighten people about what was going on. We also try to tell the history of what the artist was doing at the time, like how great Marvin Gaye was at predicting the future. Some of the stuff that he said 20 years ago is still happening now.”

Milton “Ceddy” Turner, a Cedric the Entertainer look-alike, returns as emcee for the show and there will be a strong 10-piece band with a four-piece horn section backing the vocalists.

“We appreciate Laughlin bringing us back for the past seven years,” Peters said. “We appreciate the Laughlin locals coming out and also the people who have been traveling to Laughlin to see us every year that we’ve come. Thank you for coming. Tell a friend and come again!”