The Matadors became the Miracles, after a rejection by Jackie Wilson’s manager at a fateful audition in 1957, which Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. just happened to attend. Although the group was unpolished, Gordy saw something special in the group of eager teens, especially their leader and songwriter, young Smokey Robinson. The Miracles went on to power the company’s earliest successes. In fact, Gordy is quoted as saying that without the Miracles, Motown would not have been possible.
Pete Moore, Bobby Rogers, Claudette (Rogers) Robinson and Ronnie White, along with William “Smokey” Robinson, were the original members of the group. (Claudette stopped touring with the group in 1964, but continued to sing on recording sessions.) Guitarist Marvin Tarplin, who accompanied the group from 1958 on, was sometimes described as the sixth Miracle.
With Smokey’s dreamy tenor leading the way, the Miracles enjoyed local success through the late 1950s, with songs like “Way Over There” and “Bad Girl,” each of which also charted in the low-90s on Billboard magazine’s national Hot 100 chart. But the door to success swung open when “Shop Around,” the Miracles’ first single to sell more than a million records, was released in 1961. Hit followed hit, with 1962’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” which also made it into the Top 10. Over the next three years, the Miracles recorded and released many popular songs, “What’s So Good About Goodbye,” “I’ll Try Something New,” “Mickey’s Monkey,” “Going to a Go-Go” and “The Tracks of My Tears.” In 1965, the Miracles recorded “Ooh Baby Baby,” their trademark song.
Over the years, the Miracles reached the charts with 50 records, reaching the Top 10 on Billboard’s R&B lists, with 26 songs, four of which made it to #1. Showing their crossover appeal, 16 of the group’s records made it to Billboard’s Hot 100 and two, “Tears of a Clown” and “Love Machine (Part 1),” reached #1 in 1970 and 1975, respectively.
More than recording and performing artists, many of the Miracles, including Marv Tarplin, wrote and produced songs for other Motown singers and groups. Perhaps the most well known collaboration involving Miracles writing for other Motown acts was between Ronnie White and Smokey Robinson and a tune they co-wrote for the Temptations: “My Girl.”
Smokey went solo in 1971, after the group recorded a final album with him at the lead—”Flying High Together.” The album’s lead cut, “We’ve Come Too Far to End It Now,” brought the original Miracles into the Top 10 on the R&B chart once again. An iconic singing group, the Miracles received many honors, including induction into the Grammy and Doo Wop halls of fame.