One of the most influential personalities in the Motown era, David Ruffin, had to sneak into The Temptations’ performances. Why did he have to, despite being the band’s frontman? Let’s get to know Ruffin a little more and understand what happened.
David Ruffin surprised the band and the audience by singing an entire song after The Temptations fired him. The band hired more security, but Ruffin kept sneaking onstage to sing.
Who Was David Ruffin?
Davis Eli Ruffin was born on January 18, 1941, in Whynot, Mississippi. His mother passed during childbirth. He was raised by the minister of their community’s Baptist church. He left home at the age of 13 to become a minister, but he quickly found himself performing in Memphis talent shows instead. As a teenager, he began creating songs and progressed from talent shows to a full-fledged singing career with the Dixie Nightingales, a local gospel group.
Ruffin toured with numerous gospel groups in succession, including the Womack Brothers, the Staple Singers, and the Dixie Hummingbirds. On stage, he grew into a true showman, and his act caught the attention of both gospel audiences and secular-music professionals.
He was signed to Chicago’s Chess Records at 17 before moving to Detroit, where he met Berry Gordy, the creator of Motown Records. Ruffin’s big break came in 1963 when he was chosen to replace Eldridge Bryant as the Temptations’ tenor vocalist.
Ruffin then assumed the vocal lead in 1965, performing the classics like My Girl, I Wish It Would Rain, and Ain’t Too Proud to Beg. The band played on American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show while becoming international music stars.
He began to receive the most significant share of media attention as the group’s new frontman, but his erratic lifestyle, which was commonly linked to cocaine addiction, also drew notice. He was deemed out of control when he demanded specific privileges not provided to the other group members.
He wanted the group’s name changed to David Ruffin and the Temptations, leading the band to fire him in June 1968. In 1969, Ruffin launched a solo career, with modest success with My Whole World Ended. But his popularity was brief, causing Ruffin to leave the music industry for three years until resurfacing in 1975 with a top ten single, Walk Away From Love, and a few minor hits.
Ruffin joined the Temptations’ 1983 reunion tour. Ruffin, along with five other Temptations, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Only two years later, at the age of 50, Ruffin would collapse in a Philadelphia crack house. He was left off in front of a hospital hours later, where he died of a heroin overdose. (Source: Biography)
David Ruffin Sneaking On Stage
Ruffin crashed the Temptations’ July 7 gig and leaped onstage, snatching the microphone from Edwards, singing lead on Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, and then vanishing as fast as he had appeared. Ruffin performed this act numerous times throughout the band’s July tour. (Source: Talk Bass)
Even though the band hired extra security to keep Ruffin out, he found ways to sneak into the venue and climb on stage as the band performed one of the songs he had previously sung lead on.
Ruffin had done it so neatly, so quickly and smoothly, that it appeared to show that he was still a Temptation, that he had taken a sabbatical until he was ready to resume his legendary role.
Ruffin was only trying to get back into the band, and the crowd reaction was his way of proving his point. It was just so Ruffin, so out of place. In a way, it was amusing.
Ruffin sneaking on stage became an ongoing storyline, with fans craning their necks during the shows to see if they could spot Ruffin lurking or slithering through the aisles. (Source: Okay Player)