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Claudette Robinson Recounts the Miracles' First Show At the Apollo

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Claudette Robinson – First Lady of Motown
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Claudette Robinson, original Miracle, remembers the bands first show at the Apollo Theater which was a huge learning experience because the band was so green. She recounts being grateful that no one through tomatoes at them.
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I'm laughing because our very first appearance at the Apollo Theater was in 1958 and we're on our way to the show. We get there. First thing that happened is the band did not want to play for us. The band was Ray Charles and his band. He was the band for the entire show. Well, we're having rehearsal, and we give them what we consider our arrangements. Well, the band, you know, they're accomplished musicians, and they're like, What is this? Well, it was just lead sheets, you know? Well, that was our arrangements. That's all we had. So we gave it to them and they didn't want to play for us. There was a lot of back and forth conversation. So Mr Charles heard the disturbance and he came out. He asked. Actually, he asked Smoky, which he didn't know. Smokey was just somebody, um, what was wrong. And Smokey said, Well, you know, they won't play our music and does a and he said, Well, come over here, sing it to me. And he called his person over and said, Write down what I tell you, You know, as far as the notes and all well, his Mr Charles is Band member, wrote down the notes and really made an arrangement for us so that we could perform and the band would play because they were not going to play those chords. And that's it. And so I feel that that was our first official arrangements done by Mr Charles through his band member. So we got through that part, right? So the next thing is, how are we going to go on and off the stage? So we had three from stage left, two from stage, right? The band is playing, they're saying, And ladies and gentlemen, the miracles and we're like, Oh, you know, we come, we're running out, get to the middle of the stage and say, That's it. We just stopped the band and we start clapping for the next 12 bars. This is our routine. Is that choreography? We're new, We don't know. I mean, we quickly learned because we saw the other acts and what they did. But I tell you, when we got on that stage, the actually the manager of the Apollo Theater called Mister Gordy and said, I want my money back because these kids don't even know how to come on and off the stage. We can sing, but you know, it kind of ended there. But we quickly learned we had to learn because if not, we were going to have to really go home. But Mister Gordy somehow really talked him into letting us stay for the show, he said. I'll even pay you to keep them on. I mean, he knew that we would do better if given the chance and opportunity. And that's what that's what happened with that and you know, you had shows. The show started 9 30 was half hour call show started 10 in the morning and it was 45 and sometimes holiday time six shows in one day. You know, unlike today, when people have to do one show, they're like, Oh, you know, And sometimes you had to get to their you know we're not on a plane or a bus or whatever in a car with six people. But we were so excited and happy to be here because we had made the big time the Apollo Theater. At the time, we did not have anyone to do choreography for us, so we made it up ourselves, and sometimes that was a little difficult, especially when we got to the Apollo and saw these seasoned artists. The first persons group that we saw was, uh, the Eiseley brothers. The Eiseley brothers were hot as could be on shout. They sang shout for one half hour because the people would not let them stop. They came off the stage, went to the back, came back around and dancing and whatever and they were just having, like, the greatest time. You know, doing this show we were watching because I've seen shows before, but nothing like that that you sang half an hour. But it's holiday time and the audience was huge. You know, no other people could get in and it was like, You're standing in the wings, you know, watching to see. Is there something I can take from this? You know, in terms of the choreography? Because even though we knew who Charlie Atkins was, we did not have money to pay for his services, you know? And, uh, it was later because the first time we saw Charlie, the choreographer that came with Motown to Motown Later on, he was with Gladys Knight and the Pips. So that's why when you saw Gladys and the Pips, they had all those smooth moves, you know, because they had been taught by none other than the best. But we played the Apollo. The Apollo was sort of like the epitome of, like, show business. If you can make it to the Apollo, you've actually made it in the industry. Your you know, your big time, even though we weren't. But we felt like we had made something, and it was just a wonderful feeling just to be a part of all these what I consider real legends, people that had come before us and that we're doing so well and how the audience really, um, accepted them for us. I think the way that we became accepted is that we were so raw, so green, so new until they just gave us that opportunity to just let me just see what they can do. Because the audience, when you came early in the morning, it would be a line of guys all lined up and sitting like this. Know what you're gonna do? Show me what you're gonna do? And you know, many times the audience which throw like tomatoes. I really throw tomatoes at the people who were performing. People think that's a joke. But if they didn't really like you, um, that may happen. It might be a tomato. It might be booze or whatever we didn't get either, fortunately, but I think it was like they could see we were nervous. We were new and they fortunately gave us that opportunity to be able to show what we could do because the one thing that we could do was sing, and so that was important and, uh, they gave us chance.