With the unexpected passing of Ron Banks last week (Thursday, March 4), the music industry — and especially Detroit — took a heavy blow.
The Dramatics were, simply put, one of the finest R&B vocal groups in the history of the genre, and one of its founding members, Ron Banks — affectionately known to friends as “Banko” — had much to do with it. Like the Temptations, whom they greatly admired, the Dramatics were bad.
The group’s impact, based on the years of their greatest successes — 1971 through 1979 — is such that they continued to work consistently from then until today. Having or not having a current album on the charts has never been a factor because fans have a love affair with the smooth-singing, slickly-choreographed quintet from the Motor City.
In the latest incarnation of the Drama++++++++tics, the members were Banks, Willie Ford (also an original), L.J. Reynolds (a member since 1973) who were joined by Michael Brock and Winzell Kelly.
Banks, 58, died after having a heart attack. He was born in Detroit on May 10, 1951. The Dramatics performed for hometown fans in November at the MotorCity Casino’s Sound Board.
In addition to having a deep and abiding love for singing and performing, Ron Banks had a love for interacting with people from all walks of life. He was the ultimate “Mr. Personality,” loved by so many who will forever cherish his memory.
THE DRAMATICS were formed in junior high school in 1962, known at that time as the Dynamics, not to be confused with another Detroit group called the Dynamics that had several successful songs in that decade, including “Misery” and “Ice Cream Song.”
By the time Ron and his talented, ambitious cohorts had their first entry on the national charts — “All Because of You” in 1967 — they had changed their name to the Dramatics, because it sounded good and was representative of what they were about.
However, “All Because of You” proved to be what could be called a false start because several years passed before anything else of significance happened for the Dramatics.
But once the group hit its stride in the early 1970s, they soared to the top, had a consistent presence on the charts, and were concert favorites.
The Dramatics signed with Volt Records, a division of Stax, and immediately began having hits, recorded in their Detroit hometown.
The irresistible “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” took off like a rocket in mid-1971, climbing all the way to No. 3 on the national charts. Five major hits followed: “Get Up and Get Down,” “In the Rain” (a No. 1 hit), “Toast to the Fool,” “Hey You! Get Off My Mountain” and “Fell For You.”
RON BANKS, Larry “Squirrel” Demps, William “Wee Gee” Howard, Elbert Wilkins and Willie Ford were elated with this long-time-coming success.
By the middle of the decade, however, there was dissension in the group, resulting in “Wee Gee” and Wilkins leaving. Fans were shocked. Howard and Wilkins quickly hired three new singers and continued as the Dramatics, having a Top 30 hit with “No Rebate on Love” in 1975.
Despite these losses (Wee Gee was usually up front, frequently sharing the lead with Banks), the remaining Dramatics didn’t miss a beat. They recruited a powerful vocalist named L.J. Reynolds as well as the talented Lenny Mayes.
To reduce confusion, it was decided that Banks, Reynolds, Ford, Mayes and Demps would be identified as “Ron Banks & the Dramatics.” Once the other group ceased to exist, they went back to being “the Dramatics.”
L.J. Reynolds sang lead or co-lead on several of the Dramatics’ most outstanding recordings during this period, including the intriguing remake of Billy Paul’s “Me and Mrs. Jones” and two other remarkable songs, “Door to Your Heart” (with Reynolds on full lead) and “Stop Your Weeping.”
Other hits during this era were “(I’m Going By) The Stars in Your Eyes,” “Be My Girl” and “Shake It Well,” among others.
Also around this time, the Dramatics recorded a commendable album with the Dells titled “The Dells vs. the Dramatics” that yielded the successful single “Love Is Missing From Our Lives.”