The Temptations show off Philly ties with ‘Ain’t Too Proud’

Temptations Ain’t Too Proud
Pictured are (from left) Harrell Holmes Jr., Jalen Harris, Elijah Ahmad Lewis, E. Clayton Cornelious and Michael Andreaus in ‘Ain’t Too Proud.’
Emilio Madrid

‘Ain’t Too Proud’ tells the legendary story of the Temptations and their rise from the streets of Detroit to the top of the pops.

But the musical has plenty of Philly ties as well.

Spread across 42 Top Ten hits and 14 No. 1 songs, ‘Ain’t Too Proud‘ hits the stage at the Academy of Music on Jan. 3, and portrays the life, struggles and music of the Temptations earliest members — from the legendary Eddie Kendricks (who passed in 1992), its signature bass voice Melvin Franklin (who died 1995) and the still-living Otis Williams.

Along the way, however, The Temptations famously made one of their earliest hits with famed Philly writers Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Jerry Ross: ‘I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,’ their joint single with Diana Ross & the Supremes circa 1969.

“There was always a lot of love for Philadelphia in the Motown camp,” said Harrell Holmes Jr., the Michigan native who makes his ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ tour debut portraying Melvin Franklin, the Temps’ co-founder and one of its longest-running members. “Ron Tyson, one of the longest running members of The Temptations to this day, is from Philly. We even do ‘If You Don’t Know Me By Now‘ (the Harold Mevin & the Blue Notes hit) during ‘Ain’t Too Proud’, just as a spoiler alert.”

Temptations Ain’t Too Proud
Brittny Smith, Amber Mariah Talley and Shayla Brielle G. also star in ‘Ain’t Too Proud.’Emilio Madrid

That said, between coming up through the televised singing competition ranks of ‘Star Search’ and ‘American Idol,’ to winning the Stevie Wonder Scholarship in his youth, Holmes Jr. fits into the history of Motown and the Temptations like a glove.

“Stevie’s from my home, this little town in Michigan, Saginaw, so that was thrilling,” said the singer. “And it goes without saying, to be able to meet and appear with the legend of legends that is Stevie Wonder, singing with him at his annual House Full of Toys Concert.… I’ll never forget that. That was incredible.”

Raised with the sounds of The Temptations, The Four Tops and Marving Gaye in his home, Holmes Jr. believe he has a responsibility to his hometown heritage.

“I was super connected from the start,” he said. In particular, Holmes felt a deep love and obligation to the legacy of Melvin Franklin, The Temptations’ bass vocalist – a clear, rumbling sound pitched low in the harmonies of hits such as ‘Just My Imagination’ and ‘Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone.’

“It’s funny because, growing up, I had such a high-pitched voice, and wanted to be David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks. But as my voice changed, especially in my teenaged years, Melvin became the sound I would reach for,” said Holmes Jr., of that rich and attainable vocal bottom. “Finding Melvin was a Godsend, and I had to do a lot of research on who he was as a man and an artist – how he interacted on and offstage, known as he was for his energy and his big smile. His love for being a Temptation superseded anything else in his life, including, at times, sacrificing his family life and his own health.”

Temptations Ain’t Too Proud
Emilio Madrid

Holmes Jr. also gives credit to the camaraderie and artistry of his fellow ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ stagemates Michael Andreaus (as Otis Williams), E. Clayton Cornelious (Paul Williams), Jalen Harris (Eddie Kendricks), and Elijah Ahmad Lewis (David Ruffin).

“They feel just as responsible to the icons they are portraying as I do to mine,” said Holmes Jr. “These were real people who set amazing standards for music and stage craft… Otis Williams still performs. We get older fans to our shows who saw the original Temptations in their heyday. On a nightly basis, we have a lot to live up to.”

‘Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations’ is on stage at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from Jan. 3 to 21. For information and tickets, visit