The road to a Motown recording contract wasn’t an easy one for The Contours. Berry Gordy wasn’t very impressed following a 3-song audition in 1959 and sent them packing.
In 1958, a group of four extremely talented young singers - Joe Billingslea, Billy Hoggs, Billy Gordon and Leroy Fair started singing as the Blenders. In 1960, the changed their name to THE CONTOURS and signed with Motown Records®.
Hubert Johnson, one of the original members of The Contours thought his cousin, the legendary Jackie Wilson might be able to help the group with some much-needed advice. Wilson asked the group to perform some of their material for him. Once he was satisfied, Wilson called his old friend Berry Gordy back at the Motown offices. The very next day, The Contours had a seven-year contract with the Gordy Label.
In the summer of 1962, The Contours hit the jackpot when Gordy himself penned the classic “Do You Love Me” for them. “Do You Love Me” became the group’s biggest hit as well as Motown’s fastest climbing hit of all time. Within two weeks of release, “Do You Love Me” became the #2 record in the nation as well as the group’s first gold record.
The ensuing years brought forth eleven Contours hits as “Shake Sherrie”, ”Can You Do It”, “Can You Jerk Like Me”, “Just A Little Misunderstanding”, and “First I look At The Purse”. The Contours have proudly worn the label “Motown’s #1 party group” for more than 40 years.
Today under the leadership of original founding member Joe Billingslea, The Contours are center stage once again. Much of the resurgence in The Contours popularity has to do with the Academy Award winning film, “Dirty Dancing”. Their hit “Do You Love Me “ was featured in the film and became so popular that it gave birth to an international tour entitled “The Dirty Dancing Tour” starring The Contours, Bill Medley, Merry Clayton and Eric Carmen. That tour lasted 10 months, played to over 2 million people in 8 countries and sold over 10 million copies of “More Dirty Dancing” before it ceased production. During this time, Motown Records was quick to capitalize on The Contours popularity by reissuing their original version of “Do You Love Me” in single and album form. That move paid great dividends for everyone as “Do You Love Me” climbed to #11 on the national charts, making it one of the few recordings in history to hit the top 20 in two different decades.
A Contours show is jam-packed with dazzling choreography, impeccable harmonies and those timeless Motown grooves that everyone knows and loves. You can choose to dance, sing along, or just sit back (if you can) and watch the show as they perform all of their greatest hits together with many of the greatest hits of the 60’s and 70’s era, as well as a selection of classic songs from the Dirty Dancing Soundtrack.
Several CDs are currently available featuring Contour hits; “The Very Best Of The Contours”, “The Contours - The Millenium Collection”, and the multi-million selling 4 CD box set “Hitsville USA 1959-1972”. In recent developments, The Contours were featured on the PBS special “Rock, Rhythm & Doo-Wop” performing “Do You Love Me” and “First I Look At The Purse” much to the delight of their legion of fans.
The Contours are in their 5th decade in show business, and are not content to rest on past laurels. They can still “shake ‘em down” and stand ready to entertain fans old and new alike.