It’s not like Barbara McNair needed her tenure at Motown from 1965 through 1969. Nevertheless, some of her finest output came from her brief stints in Studio A on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit between her nightclub appearances, Film roles and TV guest spots. We head out to collect a gem from late 1966 that surfaced around the time she co-starred in “A Change of Habit” in 1969 on the waning hours of what would have been her 82nd Birthday.
The Chicago Born Beauty had been performing for nearly 15 years by the time she arrived just past the age of 30 at Motown records. Behind her she had traced similar territory in her recording career to some of her contemporaries like Della Reese, Damita Jo and Gloria Lynne. Which is to say that she had done her fair share of Girl Pop, saccharine string laced Pop-Jazz and a healthy bit of early 60’s Popcorn R&B. Out of the quartet of women though, Barbara had the least chart success, but the most crossover appeal to other forms of entertainment. She replaced Diahann Carroll in the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical No Strings and appeared in the feature film Spencer’s Mountain before ending up at Motown.
It was a curious choice for both label and artist. Motown more or less secured McNair for her supperclub appeal, which is blatantly obvious with the mixture of material on her 1966 Here I Am LP. However, as she recorded more material, she adapted with glee to more Motown centric material. The problem seemed to be that Motown itself couldn’t find the where and why to promote it as single issued material, nor could Barbara herself seem all that bothered to integrate the new material into her stage act as the 60’s drew to a close. It all seems, in hindsight, yet another one of Motown’s wasted opportunities.
Therefore, here I bring this Fall of ’66 kiss off that seems to be a foreboding message that Barbara would eventually give Motown records. “Forget you ever met me, Motown” could be an alternate title for this wry wink and smooth slip out the backdoor. As it stands, a Northern Soul favorite tucked away on her 2nd and final Motown LP, it renders itself an interesting Easter Egg between McNair and her life at Motown records.