The Contours featuring Sylvester Potts still grooving

September 10, 2013 | Events, Features, UToday
By Vicki L. Kroll

It’s a stage-setting scene: Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) helps carry watermelons to a secret party where resort staffers are “Dirty Dancing” as The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” blares.

The Contours featuring Sylvester Potts

The Contours featuring Sylvester Potts

That pivotal placement meant The Contours were back to really shake ’em down.

“The second time around, it was bigger,” Sylvester Potts said in a 2006 interview with the Toledo Free Press. “That tune sold 1 million for us in 1962. But during the Dirty Dancing Tour in 1988, it sold 10 million for us. And it was exactly the same record.”

Penned by Motown founder Berry Gordy, that fun, feisty single topped Billboard’s R&B chart and reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 in 1962.

Included on the 1988 disc More Dirty Dancing, “Do You Love Me” worked its way up the charts for eight weeks and hit No. 11.

“We kind of had it made. We had the boss of the company writing for us,” Potts said. “That was the biggest song Berry Gordy ever wrote. When he sees us, he says, ‘There’s my boys!’ ”

Thanks to his soulful singing and sweet steps, Potts was invited to join The Contours in 1961 to replace Leroy Fair.

“Leroy was a good singer, but he couldn’t dance at all,” Potts said. “That was a problem.”

Enter Potts, whose smooth moves include the splits, just in time to record the smash.

“We thought it was a good song, that it would be a hit, but we had no idea just how big of a hit,” the Detroit native recalled.

More singles followed: “Shake Sherry,” “Can You Jerk Like Me,” “Just a Little Misunderstanding,” “First I Look at the Purse.”

None rivaled what the singer called the group’s national anthem.

“Wherever we go, we can’t leave until we sing ‘Do You Love Me.’ People still want to hear it,” Potts said.

Some are new fans, thanks to the 1987 movie.

“[‘Dirty Dancing’ is] a blessing. People who probably weren’t even born when the song came out are coming to the shows. It’s been amazing.”

Potts and The Contours — Tony Womack, Kim Green and Tee Turner — will do the mashed potato and the twist at Music Fest Friday, Sept. 13. The group will take the stage at 4:30 p.m. on the Memorial Field House lawn.

The free show will start at 3 p.m. with The Lonely Friends and continue through midnight with Alexander Zonjic with The Motor City Horns, Josh Gracin, Reel Big Fish, and The White Panda.

Potts, who was unavailable for an interview due to his wife’s illness, plans to perform, according to manager Jack Ryan.

“I just love to see the smiles on people’s faces out there in the audience,” Potts said in the 2006 interview. “Once we get them going, it’s even better. They’ll be bobbing their heads, clapping their hands.”

Do the Contours see some bad dancers out there?

“Yes,” Potts said and laughed. “We see some out of sync, but they’re enjoying it, so that puts great big smiles on our faces.”

Click to access the login or register cheese