Jimi Dougans could not have anticipated the historical imprint he would make when high school classmate Frank Hooker introduced the young singer to his band The Dimensions in 1965. Dougans, Hooker, LeRoy Fleming, Wornell Jones, David Lecraft, Calvin Charity, and James Johnson became The Young Senators, the “Emperors of Go-Go,” and the band for legendary Temptations falsetto Eddie Kendricks. The band went through several lineup changes over time. Members also included Howard Crouch, Wayne Hines, Chip Jones, John Engram, Clyde Stubblefield, Philip Guilbeau, Warren Smith, and Charles Newton.
The Young Senators‘ first big break came at Mr. P’s Lounge in Northwest Washington, DC and their legacy was cemented at the go-go venues they performed in such as Byrne Manor and Knights of Columbus. Under the management and production of Harry Young and Burt Rosenberg, The Young Senators recorded the single “Ringing Bells (Sweet Music)” on Innovation Records in 1969. The Young Senators recorded their follow-up single, “Jungle,” at Track Recorders in Silver Spring, Maryland in 1970.
Written by Guilbeau, “Jungle” had two key elements that identified it as an early go-go record. Bassist Wornell Jones sang lead vocals while the rest of the band responded to each line, making it the first “call and response record,” and Dougans played congas, giving the record an Afro-Cuban flavor.
Dougans met Kendricks, his musical mentor, while the singer was with The Temptations. When Kendricks left The Temptations to go solo Dougans volunteered The Young Senators to be his band despite his own reservations about Kendricks’ departure from the beloved lineup.
Dougans, with The Young Senators and later Golden Touch, toured with Kendricks for eight years. Along with his talent as a conga player, Dougans sings in a falsetto that sounded virtually identical to Kendricks’ vocals, which the two showcased during encores. Kendricks would purposefully drop his microphone during a long note and the lights would go out but his voice would continue to be heard. At that point, the lights would come back on and Dougans would reveal that he was actually the voice behind the note.
The Young Senators became the first outside band to record with a Motown artist when they laid down the tracks for Kendricks’ 1972 sophomore album, “People…Hold On.” Produced by Frank Wilson, the album contained the single “Girl You Need a Change of Mind,” which had a popular percussion break by Dougans. The Young Senators also performed on Kendricks’ 1973 #1 Billboard Hot 100 single, “Keep on Truckin.’”
In 2002 The Young Senators were inducted into the Go-Go Hall of Fame and DC mayor Anthony Williams proclaimed June 11 to be “The Young Senators Day.” After more than 30 years Dougans and former members of The Young Senators, as well as some new ones, are regrouping to perform as The Young Senators Reloaded.
The Young Senators’ music with Eddie Kendricks has been sampled by Lil Wayne, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Diamond D, Fat Joe, Erykah Badu, Killah Priest, and Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna.
You can purchase Eddie Kendricks’ “People…Hold On” here.