Ronald Tyson Presson
is the Temptations
' fourth replacement for Eddie Kendricks. (Damon Harris, Ricky Owens, and Glenn Leonard preceded him.) He's also had the most tenure; Tyson, a gifted songwriter, joined the Tempts
in 1983, while Kendricks
sang with the group for ten years. Born February 8, 1948, in Monroe, NC, Tyson grew up in Philadelphia, PA, and woodshedded with various groups before forming the Ethics
with singers he befriended at talent shows. Tyson, Andrew "Bike" Collins
, Joe Freeman, and Carl "Nugie" Enlow formed a quartet with a range similar to the Temptations
. In 1967, Thaddeus Wales started producing the Ethics
and their first single appeared on Wales, four on Vent, and a final single on Golden Fleece Records in 1974. Tyson had a hand in writing many of the tunes and in seven years, the Ethics
didn't wax any major hits but cut some nice ones like "Sad, Sad Story" and "Farewell."
Toward the Ethics' waning years, Tyson's songwriting talents started to bloom and he collaborated with Philly stalwarts like Norman Harris, Allan Felder, and Bruce Gray in various combinations. Tyson's songs appear credited to Tyron Presson, Ronald Presson, and Ron Tyson, depending on the affiliation. He became a key ingredient on Eddie Kendricks' projects. While not comfy with the idea, Berry Gordy relented and allowed Kendricks to be produced outside the Motown family. Under the auspices of Norman Harris, Kendricks cut two underappreciated albums: He's a Friend and Goin' Up in Smoke. The former contains one of Tyson's best, the romantic "You're a Part of Me." A bona fide red-light special that got lost, it features the endearing lyric: "If Adam gave his rib to Eve/then why can't you give your love to me?" None of Tyson's songs appeared on Goin' Up in Smoke, but he contributed backing vocals and merited a "Very Special Thanks To" on the album cover, along with Allan Felder. When the Temptations left Motown for Atlantic Records, Tyson was a key participant on the Tempts' two Atlantic albums and co-wrote their most successful single, "In a Lifetime."
Tyson co-wrote "I Could Dance All Night" and the O'Jays-ish "I Won't Leave You Honey, Never" for Archie Bell & the Drells. He did the floating "Stringin' Me Along" for Blue Magic and contributed two beauties to the Dells: the lilting "Betcha Never Been Loved (Like This Before)" and "Private Property." He played a big part in the Four Tops' Philly album by co-writing and producing five of the LP's eight songs with Norman Harris, including "H.E.L.P.," the oozy and sorrowful "Seclusion," and "Just in Time." First Choice, Double Exposure, the Three Degrees, Loleatta Holloway, the Salsoul Orchestra, and more have all used Tyson's songs.
Still wanting to be part of a group after the Ethics, Tyson immediately formed Love Committee with Joe Freeman, Norman Frazier, and Larry Richardson. Thaddeus Wales claimed ownership to the name, hence the change. Their first single dropped on Golden Fleece, the same year the label released a 45 on them as the Ethics. A second release, a remake of Kendricks' "Darling Come Back Home," fell on TSOP Records in 1975. Five more singles were issued on Ariola American and Gold Mine Records, with "Law & Order" scoring as a minor hit. Their final two singles were products of T-Electric Records and featured a new member, Cleveland, OH-native Michael Bell, who replaced Richardson. Despite a slew of singles and a few albums, Love Committee disbanded in the early '80s.
Tyson, via his songwriting/producing activities and appearing on shows with various groups, was no stranger to Motown or the Temptations. When Otis Williams started having problems with Glenn Leonard ("I'm on Fire," "Silent Night") due to an alleged alcohol problem, Tyson, blessed with a shimmering falsetto, got the nod. His first appearance came on Back to Basics, with leads on "Sail Away" and "Make Me Believe in Love." Tyson also led "Truly for You," "Lucky," "More Love, Your Love," "Time After Time," "What a Difference a Day Makes," "Tempt Me," "On the Road," "Proven and True," and "Corner of My Heart."
Unlike Damon Harris, the first Kendricks replacement, Tyson's not a clone. Rickey Owens (Vibrations) never recorded with the Tempts. Glenn Leonard, like Tyson, was not a Kendricks' clone either, but matched Tyson's intensity and fire. Tyson's more laid-back -- not as much as Damon was -- but improves with time like fine wine. Check his leads out on the For Lovers Only CD. Coming from Philly, Tyson was probably insecure about his falsetto. And why not? Philly has produced some of the best falsetto singers in history: William Hart, Russell Thompkins, Ted Mills, Daryl Hall, Ronnie Walker, Eddie Holman, and a host of others, including members of the Ebonys, the Philly Devotions, and the Futures. But that was then. Watch him as he sings "Get Ready," he flows with melody and doesn't attack the lyrics like Kendricks, but then, he's not Kendricks; he's Ron Tyson, a multi-talented artist who knew early that music was going to be his life's work. The only knock to his long career with the Tempts is that his writing has slowed, but he still has nearly 200 songs to his credit. David Tyson, Ron's brother, sings with the Manhattans. ~ Andrew Hamilton, Rovi