The Detroit Emeralds – “Feel the Need in Me”


The Detroit Emeralds were an American R&B vocal group, who had undergone several lineup changes. Their first real hit was “Do Me Right”, their first top 10 R&B hit in 1971. Several other hits followed: “You Want It, You Got It” “You’re Gettin’ A Little Too Smart” and “Baby Let Me Take You (In Your Arms). Their single “Feel The Need” was a lesser hit in the US, but it was a big transatlantic smash, especially in the UK; it remains the group’s most popular song. There was one time when the band split and formed two groups – while Abrim Tilmon and other members continued with The Detroit Emeralds, on the other hand James Mitchell, Ivory Tilmon and another singer Marvin Willis worked for another group The Floaters (of “Float On” fame) whose member Paul Mitchell was James’ brother. James Mitchell and Willis worked together in a group called The Emeralds. Both continued to play for the oldies circuit for a number of years.

The formation of the Detroit Emeralds, and first charting singles

R&B vocal group the Detroit Emeralds were formed in Little Rock, Arkansas. They first existed 1968 (but other sources cite that they were formed in the early 1960s) with the initial lineup: brother Abrim (“Abe”), Ivory, Cleophus and Raymond Tilmon. They experienced some success, starting form their first charting single “Show Time” in 1968 (#89 pop, #22 R&B). A couple of more singles also charted: “I Can’t See Myself Doing Without You”/”Just Now and Then” and “If I Lose Your Love.”

Lineup changes, and other charting singles

In the early 1970s they reformed with only Abrim and Ivory left, together with a new member James Mitchell. This lineup stayed for long – they were signed to Westbound label and had their first hit together with “Do Me Right” which went to #7 on the R&B singles chart in 1971.

Several other hits followed, “Wear This Ring” (#91 pop, #18 R&B, 1971), “You Want It, You Got It” (#36 pop, #5 R&B, #12 UK, 1972), their highest-charting pop single “Baby Let Me Take You (In My Arms)” (#24 pop, #4, 1972), “Feel The Need in Me” (#110 pop, #22 R&B #4 UK, 1972), and “You’re Gettin’ a Little Too Smart” (#101 pop, #10 R&B).

“Feel the Need in Me”

“Feel the Need in Me” is one of the Detroit Emerald’s most fondly remembered songs, and it was composed by Abe Tilmon. First charted in 1972, in 1977 a longer version of the song was released, and also charted (#90 pop, #14 dance, #73 R&B and #12 UK). “Feel the Need in Me” remains the group’s signature song.

The Detroit Emeralds’ split, and formation of offshoot groups

By 1974 the band had begun to disintegrate that led to the Detroit Emeralds splitting and forming into two separate groups around 1977. The first new group was formed and led by Abe Tilmon, which still carried the Detroit Emeralds name. On the other hand, Mitchell formed and wrote for an offshoot group The Floaters along with another singer Marvin Willis. James’ brother Paul was also included in the Floaters.

James Mitchell, Ivory Tillmon and Willis went on performing and touring as the Emeralds, who employed several other musicians including a teenaged Michael Henderson on bass. New member Carl Johnson came in to replace Abe Tilmon, while Abe went on to form his own Detroit Emeralds. Both groups actually did well, and remained popular in the oldies/nostalgic circles. Abe Tilmon, only 37 years old, died in 1982 from a heart attack.