"I went straight to the Apollo Theatre with Marvin Gaye and it was good for me because it was a challenge and I love challenges I've always tried to rise to the occasion and it was a great occasion for me."
It's evident from the above that the story of G.C. Cameron is no ordinary Joe. He was speaking to me from his home state of Mississippi, candidly reminiscing about the tour of duty he did in the mid-Sixties as a marine in strife-torn Vietnam. Via a transatlantic link-up which, incidentally, took place on September 23 — his 44th birthday — G.C. recalled the traumatic events which led to his being wounded and demobbed in 1967.
Detroit was now home (his parents had made the long trek north with their ten children in 195S) and he returned to find the eyes of the world focused on the Motor City due to Berry Gordy's burgeoning Motown empire, of which G.C. soon became an integral part.
As fate would have it, Harvey Fuqua's proteges, The Spinners, were looking to replace their recently-departed lead vocalist Chico Edwards, and it was Dennis Edwards (no relation), then currently with The Contours and soon to replace David Ruffin in The Temptations, who was reponsible for G.C.'s call-up.
"My brother Dave had told Dennis that I was back from Vietnam and Dennis, in turn, called me and got me hooked-up ... and Marvin Gaye auditioned me," the affable Mr. Cameron recalls.
G.C. received a call-up of a different variety when he wed Berry's sister Gwen, who had been married to Harvey Fuqua, and as Marvin Gaye had tied the knot with another Gordy sister, Anna, he and G.C. became firm friends.
"Marvin Gaye being my brother-in-law, allowed me the privilege of being connected spiritually as well as physically to the attributes of which he contributed," our man reminisces. "I tried to consume as much knowledge from him as I could because he was a great man and his music will be continually great among
IN 1970, The (Motown; Spinners finally hit the jackpot with "It's A Shame", a classic song featuring stunning vocal calisthenics by G.C, which went Top 20 both Stateside and in the U.K. The disc was produced and co-written by Stevie Wonder, another of Cameron's buddies.
"The song was written for me even though I was with The Spinners, 'cos you know, Stevie and I were like brothers for years and did not move without each other.
"It was one of those things. When hfc gave it to me and we performed it, it happened," he modestly stated in response to my enthusiastic appraisal of the record.
However, despite this success, Motown still failed to establish the outfit and it was hardly surprising that the group should accept an offer to join Atlantic Records in 1972 where, under the aegis of master producer/arranger/writer Thorn Bell, The Detroit Spinners (as they were known in the U.K.) finally reaped the rewards their undoubted talent deserved with a string of million-sellers.
G.C, though, opted to remain at Motown — he was, after all, family — and moved with the company to California where he embarked upon a solo career towards the end of 1971 with an auspicious debut on the short-lived Mowest subsidiary. "Act Like A Shotgun" was followed by another Willie Hutch production entitled "What It Is, What It Is" which, in turn, was succeeded by "Don't Wanna Play Pyjama Games", this time with Smokey Robinson at the helm. A promised album — "7th Son" — never materialised, though.
He switched to the parent Motown label in '73 and "No Matter Where" — a big disco hit in London town at the time — was soon followed by the beautiful ballad, "Let Me Down Easy".
The following year, he teamed-up with Syretta for "I Wanna Be By Your Side", a track featured on the album written and produced by her then husband, Stevie Wonder. Towards the end of the decade, G.C. and Syreeta unsuccessfully reunited on the "Two To One" LP.
However, 1974 saw the release of the man's debut album, "Love Songs And Other Tragedies", and although he cut two further excellent elpees, the eponymously titled 1976 outing and '77's "You're What's Missing In My Life", Motown failed to capitalise on one of their most gifted singers.
AS HIS solo career was floundering so, too, was his marriage to Gwen, and it was no surprise when he left the label. There followed a brief reunion with Harvey Fuqua who now operated his own Honey label, and although an albums-worth of material was recorded, it remained in the vaults (a single, "Live For Love", did surface in Britain on Flamingo Records in 1981).
In the meantime, the latest ironic twist in the marriage saga came when Gwen returned to her first husband . . . Harvey Fuqua!
"After Motown and the divorce with Gwen, I didn't feel as though I wanted to hang-out in California," the genial gent states. "I had lived in Beverly Hills a long time and the lifestyle changed, therefore, it called for changes for me. So, I felt that coming back would put me into perspective to learn what I missed and at the same time, I knew I needed to restructure my career and start all over again." He returned to Mississippi and took up residency near Jackson, which was host city to the rapidly developing blues-based Malaco label. It seemed entirely logical that G.C. should join the company and a superb album, 1983's "Give Me Your Love", ensued. However, Malaco's logic in failing to support and promote the project was definitely questionable.
As it was their first big venture into the R&B field (their terminology, not mine), one can only presume that they were not geared-up at the time to market the genre, as it was a quality, and now much sought-after, set.
G.C. continually worked with his band, These Days, in the intervening period, developing his craft and earning a strong reputation as a live act. Many expect him to be bitter regarding the Motown and Malaco experience, but there's not a trace of it.
"At this particular time I have no hates, no regrets, no sorrows in my life. I'm geared positively in a direction where that which would not kill me, will make me stronger.
"I believe that success is when an individual puts forth the effort to achieve it," he continued. "Don't give up and don't lay down and just wait and hope for the breaks, and if they come, be prepared for them."
THE break came when Robert Rosenthal, a local radio promoter and acquaintance of G.C.'s, sent some tapes to a contract he had in England, Ardent Enterprises' Paul Mooney, based in Co. Durham.
Paul was suitably impressed and eventually released the tracks, "Wait Until Tomorrow" and "Shadows", independently on Arden in February of this year -r- ten years after the label's only prior release —. with a view to achieving greater recognition for his talented friend.
G.C. was so appreciative of Paul's sterling efforts that they eventually agreed to an exclusive management and publishing pact... even though the pair have never met!
There exists an obvious mutual trust, respect and understanding between them, as G.C. relates. "When I was in the marines ... I learned to deal with human characteristics kind of closely, and trusting people.
"When this thing happened, the register in my head went off that this was a friend and this is a man who believes in you, and when people believe in you they're with you."
The record achieved the distinction of attaining Record of the Week spot in Blues & Soul and notched-up healthy sales figures in the process. Now, Paul is responding to an overwhelming demand to release the record in 12" format and is currently involved in completely remixing both tracks at his own expense in local studios. In addition, G.C. cut a new vocal track in May and is thrilled with the results so far.
Although it's not finished, Paul played me the new version of "Wait" and I must say he's worked wonders in producing a strong, clear, powerful mix which he assured me will be ready for release in January. Running concurrently with this project is G.C.'s work with Ian Levine's Motor City label — three tracks were laid down at the recent Motown reunion in Detroit (featured in issue 538). One, an updated version of "It's A Shame", is now on release and of it, our man had this to say: "I thought it was a great honour that they considered me ... to record "It's A Shame" again. For years I've wondered and marvelled at such a great song and no one re-recorded it, so I felt, hey, it was really great that someone asked me to do it again."
There's a new song, "Good Times Up Ahead" — co-written with Ian — and a duet with Martha Reeves (an old flame of G.C.'s) on "You're All I Need To Get By", the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell song.
The response from the Detroit area has been such that plans are afoot for G.C. and Martha to record a complete album together. I asked the obvious question of how he felt reuniting with his ex-Motown colleagues?
"I'm ecstatic about it, I really am," was his immediate response. "I had the opportunity to get with an abundance of friends and associates ... the Johnny Bristols, Mary Wells, Kim Weston ... all of these dear people who were great music makers and innovators and, basically, teachers of mine during the early years when I first got with The Spinners."
And Martha? "Martha Reeves is a superstar, always has been. I respect her very highly and she is, and always has been, a number one artist in my opinion. Being with her just automatically elevates the character of my artistic qualities, I think," says G.C, as humble as ever and fulsome in his praise for everyone he's worked with.
It's worth stressing that the link with Motor City is strictly a "one-off — he is not signed to the label. It's hoped that subsequent exposure form Ian's work will lead to a major label deal in the near future.
G.C. has never been to Britain and the proposed October tour has now been postponed until early next year. Although disappointed, he's a true professional. He realises the importance of everything being done properly and is prepared to await all the loose ends being tied up. "I wanna come and work over there," he says, "because it's always been one of my dreams to come into the U.K. and find one of those nice little pubs where the ladies pack in and just do three nights a week."
Prior to ending our conversation, there was one myth I was determined to lay to rest. Over the years G.C. has always insisted he was christened as such, stating: "they ran out of names when they got to me," in previous interviews.
"It's been a well-kept secret," he responded to my demand," an extremely well-kept secret, but. . . it's George Curtis Cameron." Now we know! (Scott Taylor B&S 547)
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