Song Draft – Pick #1 – Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

This blog is part of the 2021 Song Draft hosted by Hanspostcard…. I have followed his blog, for some time and he always posts some great musical and movie stuff! His blog can be found here:

https://slicethelife.com/author/hanspostcard/

I’d like to thank Hans for allowing me to participate in the song draft (and Max for asking if I’d be interested).

In preparation for the draft, I went through years worth of Billboard charts, scanned my entire DJ library, and listened to all of the songs on my iPod (more than once). After going through a list of songs, I came up with my list. I have a few extras picked, just in case one of the other drafters pick one of mine.

My first draft choice is probably a song that many have never heard. I was born and raised in the Detroit area, and worked on the radio in Detroit for 10 years. Because of this, I decided to find a song that is not only a favorite, but showcases my hometown. The song is not a Motown song, but there certainly is a Motown connection to it that I hope you will find interesting.

When I first started at the radio station in 1988, my dad gave me a list of songs to put on cassette for him. They were almost all songs from his childhood that he couldn’t find in stores. While at the station, I searched for many of the songs on the list and heard them for the first time as I recorded them for my dad. The first song on the list was “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong.

The Diablos with lead singer Nolan Strong was one of Detroit’s most successful early vocal groups. The group’s classic 1954 recording of “The Wind” would have probably been a national R&B hit were it not for spotty distribution by the tiny Fortune record label.

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Motown’s Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. The story goes like this:

It’s early in the evening one day towards the end of September, 1962. The Temptations fourth single, “Paradise,” is being pressed up (along with a bunch of other new Motown records), ready for signing over to the distributors. The Motown rep who periodically comes to the pressing plant to check the print run notices stacks and stacks of boxes piled up in the corner, all full of seven inch singles.

The rep casually enquiring as to what’s going on, he’s informed that those boxes contain the complete inventory of the latest Fortune Records single, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong and the Diablos. The record was officially meant to have been released by now. It’s been getting some radio play, and indications across Detroit are that it’s going to be big. (For sure, the rep notes to himself, Berry Gordy Jr has remarked loudly and often how much he liked the record, and how he’d previously tried to sign Nolan Strong to Motown, with no success.) But some sort of organizational screw-up has meant that the distributors haven’t been able to get them out yet, so there they all are, still sitting in their boxes, still waiting to be taken away.

The Motown rep nods, makes his excuses, hurries out to a payphone and gets Berry Gordy on the line. Urgent, he says. Fortune Records has dropped the ball, he explains. The Nolan Strong record’s on the radio, but it’s not in the shops. Nobody can actually buy a copy. The rep doesn’t need to explain any further. Berry gets the point. Berry hangs up without a word. He’s got some calls of his own to make.

Gordy calls A&R. He calls the studio. He calls producer Clarence Paul. Got a top priority mission for you. Drop everything else you’re doing right now. Don’t care what group you cut it on. Just get me the damn record as soon as possible.

Within five days, Motown has its own cover version of Mind Over Matter recorded, pressed and in stores. That, in itself, it pretty amazing! What a turn around!!

A clip from the local paper shows how Motown tried to really capitalize on the fact that Nolan Strongs version was unavailable:

The story wouldn’t have a happy ending for Motown, as someone at Fortune got wind of the ploy and made sure the Nolan Strong record found its way into local stores, where – backed with Fortune’s undivided attention – it promptly flew off the shelves and became a regional chart-topper, squashing Motown’s competing version before it had had a chance to get started. But it’s illustrative of just how much could be achieved if Berry Gordy wanted it to happen badly enough.

The group Clarence Paul wound up recording Mind Over Matter were the Temptations, who (as noted above) already had a new single lined up; their record was due out on October 1st, and there was no point having two Temptations records out at once battling each other’s sales and damaging the group’s image. The quickly-recorded cover thus went out under an adopted name; enter “the Pirates”.

(The Gracenote CD database, and thus much of the Internet, insists that this group is actually white British novelty rockers Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, but that’s a bad mistake; these are the Temptations, under a stupid name, with Eddie Kendricks on lead).

Some people like the Temptations version better, however, there is something magical to the Nolan Strong version for me. Maybe it is the simplicity of it. I feel like his vocal is more solid than the Temps. Of course, maybe it is just because I never even knew that another version existed until a few years ago.

I’m not saying that the Temps version was bad, because it isn’t. Berry Gordy was an astute judge alright – and it came out as a decent single with a strong, driving groove, only to be denied a chart hit by the circumstances in which it came to be made. One cannot dent that the song is an important early record by one of Motown’s most important groups nonetheless.

As mentioned above, “Mind Over Matter” by Nolan Strong reached #1 locally around Detroit, but only made it to #112 nationally on Billboard. One of my favorite songs of all time!

According to author David A. Carson, “In 1962 Fortune owner Devora Brown wrote a song expressly for Nolan Strong. Although only his name appeared on the label, the Diablos backed him up. ‘Mind Over Matter’ was an irresistible midtempo dance record full of sudden stops, starts, and vocal acrobatics, as Nolan sang about putting a hex on his girl to win her love.”

“Mind Over Matter” quickly shot to # 1 on the Detroit charts. Sheldon Brown, Devora’s son, remembered that Berry Gordy was not pleased with Fortune suddenly having a # 1 record in his backyard. “Berry Gordy thought it was such a great record that he took the guys in the Temptations and they recorded a version of ‘Mind Over Matter’ as the Pirates for Motown, but Nolan Strong had the bigger hit.”

Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

My mind is made up ’cause you’re so cold
I want your love to have and to hold
I’ll have your love cause you are so fine
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine


And I believe that someone wants someone bad enough
The way I want you for you’re the one that I love
I’ll command all my powers to make you fall in line
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

[Chorus]
I’ll put a spell on you, put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

(Instrumental Break)

I’ll put a spell on you, I’ll put a hex on you
I’ll make you love me too and I’ll be so nice to you
You have to fall ’cause I’ll be so dog gone kind
Mind over matter, gonna make you mine

Oh baby, so nice, ohh, you gotta be mine
Oh baby (fade out)

___

Here is the Temptations version, since it played so prominently in the story:

Thanks for reading – and listening!

6 thoughts on “Song Draft – Pick #1 – Mind Over Matter – Nolan Strong and the Diablos

    1. Thanks, Max! It truly is. I am LOVING seeing all the picks from everyone else. I just finished writing my second song. Not as detailed, and a whole lot more popular. I may add some further commentary to it. Moving from 60’s to 70’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yea I finished mine a couple of weeks ago. I sent it first but I changed my mind when I saw Nat King Cole so I did Bessie Smith…but my second one is probably the most epic power pop song there is…it an opus not many people know…that has to be listened to through headphones.

        Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s