Smokey Robinson's Childhood Friendships with Future Icons

Season 5 Episode 502
Aired on 11/01/2015 | CC tv-14
When Smokey Robinson was 11 years old, he formed his first singing group with friends from his Detroit neighborhood. At first, they called themselves The Five Chimes, but once they got to junior high, they changed their name to The Matadors. "We would participate in all of the group battles in Detroit, and we'd be either at the recreation center or at one of the schools or just on the corner," he says. "The girls would come around and hear us sing."

While it's hard to imagine a music legend like Smokey losing a singing contest, competition in Detroit was fierce. "If The Four Aims showed up—who turned out to be The Four Tops—you were really just going for second place at best because they were the best group in the city," he says. "My neighborhood was just hustling and bustling with music."

Little did he know, young Smokey was surrounded by musical talent. Both Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross—two of Smokey's childhood friends—grew up down the street. "The Temptations and The Four Tops and all those people were growing up in my immediate neighborhood. I can't answer why there was so many of us in that same neighborhood," he says. "But it was happening all over Detroit."

In the above video, Smokey reveals why he never let himself think that he could make a living as an entertainer.

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