The Monitors Biography - Sharing a Little Love With You
With few records and little media attention documenting their history, this Monitors biography is sadly brief. But the group did have tight ties to the Motown community and deserves the dignity of its own page!
(Click Play to listen to the Monitors)
For starters, its members came from Detroit. Singer and pianist Richard Street attended high school with future Monitor-mate Warren Harris, Distants leader Otis Williams, and cousin Melvin Franklin. Street and Franklin commuted across the city regularly to prep some girls-turned-Primettes-turned-Supremes, and both young men ended up in Williams's group.
Eventually, Williams and Franklin teamed with the Primes and became the Temptations. Street, meanwhile, revived the Distants and wrote compositions at Thelma Records. One group piece, "Answer Me," included producer Norman Whitfield in the credits. The owner of Thelma itself was Raynoma Liles, the first wife of Berry Gordy.
Thelma's shutdown compelled Street to join the Peps, one of whose singers was a soon-to-be Ohio Player and Undisputed Truth member, Joe Harris.
The Hitsville association continued with Street's songs, including "Can You Do It" for the Contours, and work for Quality Control.
When he, Warren Harris, and Sandra and John "Maurice" Fagin (either siblings or lovers(!)) formed an ensemble in 1965, the "Monitors" part of this Monitors biography began.
"Say You" marked their debut on Motown's VIP label. It also gave them their first brush with in-house and public neglect. The Mickey Stevenson, Hank Cosby, and Ronnie Dunbar production, "Greetings (This is Uncle Sam)" was the closest the Monitors got to hit status, at #100 Pop and #21 R&B in 1966. But that song and "Since I Lost You Girl" didn't do enough for them.
It wasn't until April 1968 that they tried to "Bring Back the Love," but nothing doing. Now on the Soul label, they released "Step by Step" that summer and an album near the year's end. Same deal.
(Failed or not, here's their short discography.)
So the Monitors moved on, though not all from Motown. Richard Street stepped up big time with the '70s-'90s Temptations after Paul Williams left the group. In the late 1980s, two old Monitors (Maurice Fagin and Warren Harris) and three new ones (Herschel Hunter, Leah Harris, and lead Darrell Littlejohn) assembled for the U.K.'s stab at Motorcity music.
The Monitors represent a blip in most R&B surveys. Nonetheless, their early and late Motown connections make them worth a mention. That spooky, wailing "I need youuuu!" from "Greetings" won't let us forget them.