Otis Williams (born October 30, 1941) is an American second tenor/baritone. He has also acted as a sporadic songwriter and record producer. Williams is the leader of the Temptations, a group he co-founded in early 1960 as The Elgins, and in which he continues to perform as the sole surviving original member.
Williams was born Otis Miles
in Texarkana, Texas
, the son of Hazel Louise (née
Williams) and the elder Otis Miles. He was primarily raised by his grandmothers in the town of Texarkana, Texas
. At age 10, his mother moved him to Detroit
to live with her and his new stepfather Edgar, and he began using his mother's last name at this time.
Williams became interested in music as a teenager
and put together a number of singing groups, among them Otis Williams and the Siberians
, the El Domingoes
, and the Distants
. The Distants had a local hit, co-written by Williams and manager/producer Johnnie Mae Matthews, called "Come On," with lead vocals by Richard Street
. Future Distants recordings were not as successful, and after an offer from Berry Gordy
of Motown Records
, Williams and his friends/bandmates Elbridge "Al" Bryant
and Melvin Franklin
quit The Distants. Eddie Kendricks
and Paul Williams
later joined Williams, Bryant, and Franklin (The Temptations)|Paul Williams]] (no relation to Otis), formerly of the Primes, to create the Elgins
, who signed to Motown in March 1961
as The Temptations
and Paul Williams
The Temptations eventually became the most successful acts in black music over the course of its nearly five-decade existence, over which time notable singers such as [[David Ruffin
, Dennis Edwards
, former Distant Richard Street
, Damon Harris
, Ron Tyson
, Ali-Ollie Woodson
, Theo Peoples
, Ray Davis
and G.C. Cameron
have all been members. In fact, the group's lineup changes were so frequent, stressful and troublesome that Williams and Melvin Franklin promised each other they would never quit the group. Franklin would remain in the group until 1994
, when he became physically incapable of doing so. Franklin died on February 23
, leaving Otis Williams (then 53) as the last surviving original member of the Temptations quintet.
Williams is the co-author, with Patricia Romanowski, of Temptations, a 1988 book that served as both his autobiography/memoirs and a history of the group. In 1998, Temptations was later adapted into a NBC television miniseries, The Temptations. Over the years fan opinion of Williams has been mixed, with some criticizing him for what they perceive as jealous insults against his former bandmates in his books while others defend him for simply trying to be honest about the problems that the group suffered.
Although he has served the longest tenure in the Temptations, Williams very rarely sings lead, focusing instead on his role as the group's leader and organizer, and as the background "tenor in the middle." The Smokey Robinson-penned "Don't Send Me Away" on The Temptations with a Lot o' Soul (1967) is a rare showcase for Williams singing lead.
Williams married the former Josephine Rogers in 1961
; the couple's son, Otis Lamont Williams, was born the same year. Otis and Josephine Williams divorced in 1964, and Otis Williams went on to date Florence Ballard of The Supremes, and was for a time engaged to R&B singer Patti LaBelle
Williams was married to Ann Cain from 1967 to 1973, and married his third and current wife, Goldie, in 1983. His son Lamont, a construction worker, died in a workplace accident in 1983.