Ralph Tavares, (seen here on the right), member of the American group Tavares chats with Kevin Cooper about his brother Pooch’s health, working with The Bee Gees, wondering who Take That are and the Tavares forthcoming tour of the UK with The Four Tops and The Temptations.

Ralph Tavares is a member of an American R & B, funk, and soul music group, composed of five Cape Verdean-American brothers. Born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island, they would later move to New Bedford, Massachusetts. They were inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

The group comprised of Ralph Edward Vierra Tavares, Pooch, Arthur Paul Tavares, Chubby, Antone Lee Tavares, Butch, Feliciano Vierra Tavares, Jr. and Tiny, Perry Lee Tavares.

The brothers started performing in 1959 as Chubby and The Turnpikes when the youngest brother was aged nine but they later changed their name to Tavares. Many of their subsequent hits underplayed their R & B background and gave the group the image of being a disco act. This perception was reinforced by their appearance on the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Tavares recorded the Bee Gees song More Than A Woman, and their version reached the Pop Top 40 that year. The soundtrack became one of the most successful in history, giving Tavares their only Grammy.

In 1984, Ralph stepped down from the group. Pooch took over as the non commissioned business and booking agent for Tavares from 1984-2014. Tiny left in the mid-1990s to pursue his solo career while the other three brothers continued to tour. Tiny rejoined the group in 2009. In 2014 Pooch suffered a devastating stroke which saw his brother Ralph stepping in for him.

Whilst busy preparing for their tour with The Four Tops and The Temptations, he took some time out to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Ralph good morning how are you?

Hello Kevin it’s so nice to talk to you today, how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s my pleasure; you are truly welcome. I am so looking forward to doing this interview with you and I really can’t wait to get over there to England.

I have to ask you, just how is life treating you?

Life has been good you know, I have been very fortunate in the years that have gone by in my life and especially with how things have worked out for us. I thank god every day; the brothers and I are so gifted.

There were originally five members of the Tavares, four of whom all had nicknames; Pooch, Chubby, Butch, Tiny and one particular member who was just called Ralph (laughter). What happened or do you have a nickname that you are hiding from us?

(Laughter) well as you know I am the eldest of all the brothers and my guess is that at the time when I was born back in the day my mom and dad perhaps thought that Ralph was a nickname (laughter). But yes you are correct in what you say, all of the other brothers have nicknames and I am the only one who wasn’t stuck with one.

You are about to tour the UK with The Four Tops and The Temptations on the Together Again…One More Time Tour, are you looking forward to being back here in the UK?

Yes I am, I certainly am. It’s great working with those guys. They are not only great on stage as performers but they are really great people. We have such a great time with them; we have some great conversations with them reminiscing, it’s just unique and I am so glad that we are still able to do this.

I have to tell you that I have photographed you on the last two tours of the UK and I have to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the Tavares perform. You guys can really still do it.

Well thank you very much for that, I really do appreciate it. I could never have dreamt in my whole life that when I was I younger that I would be on stage performing next to The Four Tops and The Temptations, never.

So tell me, just how long have you known Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir (The Four Tops) and Otis Williams (The Temptations)?

Well let me tell you, the brothers actually go back longer than I do. I was out of the game for a short while when they started touring with The Temptations and The Four Tops. This is in fact only the third time that I am going to be with them. So I met Otis once again when we went out on tour with The Temptations and you know what it feels like when you admire somebody and you are finally able to meet them, and then all of a sudden you were thinking about just how that person would be in real life; well that is exactly how Otis Williams is. It was like a dream come true.

I was fortunate to interview Otis and all that I can say is that he is a true gentleman.

Absolutely. He is someone who you should be in amazement about. I knew The Four Tops and The Temptations when they were still all together and I met Otis back then and let me tell you, Otis hasn’t changed from that time to this time. He is still the same person.

Do you enjoy the time that you get to spend here in the UK, do we look after you?

My favourite place to play as brothers and as the Tavares is the UK. It always has been and it always will be. You all took us into your hearts the moment we stepped off the plane over there in England. And let me tell you, we have never forgotten that. I always look forward to coming back. I think about the UK even when we are back home here in the States; I have my memories and when I’m thinking about certain things, England is always the first place that comes to mind.

The UK fans love you. Can you feel the warmth when you are out on stage performing here in the UK?

Absolutely, that is why we have such a great admiration for England. You have taken us into your hearts form the moment that you first heard our music. And let me tell you, over the years that has never changed. Even the younger people over there today, well it seems like the parents have talked about us to their children, and that’s why there is such an age difference in the members of the audience. It is just unbelievable.

How long do you think that the tour can keep going for?

Well, that has always been in the back of my mind. What can I say, I will keep doing it for as long as I can (laughter). If something should happen to me or to one of my brothers, then I simply wouldn’t tour anymore. In truth if something should happen to one of my brothers then I think that I would stop singing.

On that subject let me just ask, how is Pooch (Arthur Paul Tavares) nowadays; how is his health?

Pooch is doing really well and he is in the mind-set that he feels that he has had enough. We ask him all the time “why don’t you come back into the group” and to be honest he is happy now not being a member of the group. He is doing very well and if you saw him you would never know that he had suffered a massive stroke. He can still perform; he still sings great but he just doesn’t want to go out on stage anymore.

You left the group in 1984, and we all know that hindsight is a wonderful thing but looking back, was that the right decision?

Believe me I think about that all of the time and I look back and for me in my life it was the right decision. I was at that time able to provide for my children without worrying about when the next hit record was coming along or when we were going to go out on tour again. I was able to do all that I had to do to get my kids through school. My son is now a Dean at Providence College which is one of the most reputable colleges back this way. My daughter has her own business; my wife seems to be doing well, my son Michael is doing well, so at the time that I did it at the beginning I have to say that I had some reservations simply because I didn’t know if I was doing the right thing. But as time went on I knew that I had done the right thing.

In 2014 you re-joined the group because of Pooch’s illness. Is it good to be back?

For me it is absolutely a dream come true, being able to once again be on stage with my brothers. As you rightly point out, if it hadn’t have been for Pooch’s illness then who knows, perhaps I would never have re-joined the group. They seemed to be doing very well without me, but because they needed me to fill in for Pooch, I got the call. Without that who knows just where I would have been today. As far as being with them on stage it’s like living the life that I once had all over again.

I’m name dropping now so please forgive me but I interviewed Edgar Winter a few months ago now and I asked him about Free Ride and he said that hand on heart the Tavares version of that song is the best that he has ever heard.

(Laughter) no kidding, he said that, well that is truly awesome. It’s funny you mentioning Free Ride because our manager is always trying to get us to put Free Ride into the show. Now the only reason why we haven’t is because the routine on stage that we had to Free Ride was so intricate and it took a hell of a lot of energy; there were a lot of different turns and everything, and we just don’t know what we would do to compliment the song in so far as the routine. So let’s just say that we are working on it.

Do you and the brothers feel that you owe us an apology for being responsible for unleashing Take That on to the world?

Take That?

Yes because without their cover version of It Only Take’s A Minute perhaps they may not have been so successful (laughter).

I have no idea who or what Take That is? What is Take That?

Let me tell you. Take That are an English pop group formed in Manchester back in 1990 put together by Nigel Martin Smith. Their break came in 1992 when they released a cover of your song, It Only Take’s A Minute which reached number seven here in the UK singles chart.

No kidding, well I wasn’t aware of that. Well I have to say that I have never met them and I have never heard of them (laughter).

They are an acquired taste and that is why I am firmly putting the blame on your doorstep.

(Hysterical laughter) well you have caught me totally by surprise today, for me it’s not Take That it’s more like Who’s That (laughter). Are they really somebody that I should know (laughter). That is really funny.

Showing my age I first got into the Tavares back in 1974 when I bought the Hard Core Poetry album. And I have to say that in my opinion that is an incredible body of work.

Oh no kidding. We loved singing Hard Core Poetry at the time when it was released. That particular song is not currently in the show. I have recently been taking a look at the set list for the forthcoming tour and I have to say that particular song is not on there.

My favourite Tavares track of all time is on that album.

Really, well you have to tell me now what it is.

It’s the first track on side two and it is Too Late.

Well we first released that song whilst we were over there in England. We actually released that track in England before it was released in the States.

For the past forty years there is not a week goes by without me playing that particular track. I think that it is absolutely brilliant.

Well I tell you, I’m glad that you do because that song really started off our career and people began to recognise just who we were.

Also on the album is your cover of the Daryl Hall and John Oates track She’s Gone.

That’s in the show (laughter). She’s Gone is in the show together with It Only Takes A Minute, Don’t Take Away The Music, Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel and Remember What I Tell You To Forget.

The problem is that you have far too many great songs to choose from.

I never would have dreamt this, never in my whole life would I have imagined that we would have had sixteen albums that we have recorded to choose from. All that we ever wanted to do was to sing one song to the public. And now low and behold we have had a pretty good life out of it. There are a lot of people who have come to see the Tavares over the years; it has been quite remarkable.

You had your hit with She’s Gone in 1974 the same year that Hall and Oats originally released their version. However, due to your success Hall and Oats actually re-released the song in 1976. Did they ever contact you about your version of the song?

At the time that we were recording She’s Gone our producer back then, Freddie Perrin bought it to our attention that it was in fact a cover of the Hall and Oats song. We started working on the song and as soon as we got our arrangement all sorted out, it just felt like it was meant to be. The funny thing is that we have never communicated with either Daryl (Hall) or John (Oats) and still to this very day we have never communicated with either of them.

Going back to the tour, how long are they giving you to open the show?

It’s actually not too bad as they have given us thirty-five minutes which for us is a good amount of time. They really are very generous. Also I have to tell you that both The Temptations and The Four Tops are great on stage. They simply haven’t lost one bit of what it is that they do.

I couldn’t speak to you without mentioning Saturday Night Fever and The Bee Gees. Just how did you get involved with that project?

Our manager at that time, the great Brian Panella, who discovered us, together with Al Corley, who was the President of RSO records at that time, working under Robert Stigwood, knew each other because they had gone to college together. Brian and Al were such good friends that when they were working on the movie Saturday Night Fever The Bee Gees came out to see us performing at Madison Square Gardens. We saw these gentlemen coming down the tunnel after the show was over and we were all trying to work out just who they were. However, as they got closer we realised that it was The Bee Gees.

They were ranting, raving, applauding, and laughing about what they had just seen during the show. When we found out who they were we were simply flabbergasted. They said to us at the time “we are doing a movie, it’s called Saturday Night Fever and we would like to have you guys involved with the movie. We are currently writing a song especially for you and we would love you to be in the movie with us”. At first we all thought that they were just making conversation, and just being polite and then they went off. The show was over so we went back to the dressing room to get changed, and everybody went their own way.

Some months later our manager called us and told us that The Bee Gees wanted us to sing More Than A Woman in the movie. So when we got the song we went into the studio and put our own arrangement onto it, recorded it and when the movie was coming out we were in South America and someone informed us that they had fired the director of the movie. When it came to the part where we were supposed to have More Than A Woman in the movie it didn’t fit in the scene where John Travolta and the girl were because our arrangement was different. So The Bee Gees did a demo version of their song and that is where it fits into the movie.

So when we got back from South America we were told that they weren’t going to use our version of the song because it didn’t fit. So then all of the legal ramifications started being talked about and eventually they were told that our version of the song had to be in the movie. So there is a part in the movie where they are dancing in a studio which they had to swiftly write so that they could use our song in the movie. That is why there are two versions of the song in the movie.

I am so pleased that you have told me that because for years I have been trying to work out why there are two versions of the same song on the movie soundtrack album.

Well there you have it, that’s the reason why. The director had already set things up so that The Bee Gees version would fit into the movie. Our version of the song was a totally different arrangement so they were told that they had to write an extra part of the movie in order to use our version of the song so there would not be any legal ramifications. There is a bit of untold history for you (laughter).

The soundtrack to the movie became one of the most successful in history, giving the Tavares a Grammy for your contribution. How did that feel?

(Laughter) well you know what, winning a Grammy award, especially back then was always special. And for us to be a part of the whole project and to be even considered for a Grammy award was a great accomplishment and a dream come true.

Whenever I think of the Tavares I automatically think of smooth R&B. How did it sit with the brothers to suddenly be labelled as a disco group with the release of Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel and Don’t Take Away The Music?

The brothers still feel today that when they talk about either R&B or disco, we as brothers will always consider ourselves to be R&B. You have to remember that our roots were firmly in R&B. When the press started associating us with disco there was a little resentment from the brothers because they never wanted to be considered a disco group at that time. Music was changing and when music changes sometimes the people who are involved in music have a little bit of resistance. However, it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to us; for us to be attached to that era.

In my youth I attended quite a few nightclubs and at that time I didn’t appreciate that I was actually listen to the Tavares when I was happily listening to Chubby & The Turnpikes.

(Hysterical laughter) did you really have to bring that up (laughter). When we went over to perform in Italy with Lola Falana, the audiences over there didn’t know what the word turnpike meant. One of the guys in our entourage bought it to our attention that the word turnpike didn’t mean anything in Italy. He then said “Tavares, what’s the matter with Tavares” and so as he said it it rang in our ears. We had been Tavares all of our lives but it had never dawned on us to use our family name (laughter). So from that time on when we came back to the States we were known as the Tavares.

I don’t know if anyone has told you but there is an underground movement here in the UK called Northern Soul which is a music and dance movement that emerged in Northern England in the late 1960s. It is based upon a particular style of black American soul music, especially in the mid-1960s, with a heavy beat and fast tempo (100 bpm and above). Your three singles; I Know The Inside Story, I Didn’t Try and Nothing But Promises usually sell for well over $100 each.

No kidding (laughter). Thanks for telling me that, I will bring all of my demos over with me (laughter). Now isn’t that something special. That is absolutely fantastic. When you mentioned those titles it bought back some happy memories.

Happy days on Capitol Records.

Yes indeed, happy days on Capitol Records. Back then we signed with Capitol Records and we never got anywhere with them at that time. Back then we were calling ourselves The Del Rios and part of the management team said “that doesn’t mean anything. You guys have been back and forth to New York and Boston all these times trying to make an album, so you are going to be The Turnpikes”. That is how we got stuck with Chubby & The Turnpikes (laughter).

What was the first record that you bought?

That was Elvis Presley singing Blue Suede Shoes and that was the song that made me want to sing rock and roll after my dad had quit the group.

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

The first act that I saw performing live was Little Richard. I saw him at The Blue Flame in Massachusetts.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Let’s see, that would be a track entitled To The Other Man which is on our Sky High! Album back in 1976. We dedicated that song to our mother.

Because the festive season is rapidly approaching, what would be your ideal Christmas?

My ideal Christmas is to have peace in this world which at this moment seems to be turning upside down.

On that note Ralph let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been fantastic. I will be reviewing and photographing the show here in Nottingham.

Not at all, thank you and it’s my pleasure. I am so pleased that you are coming to the show Kevin, which will give me the opportunity to meet you. It’s been nice talking to you, you take care my friend. Bye for now.