As a child, Nate Evans knew the life he wanted to lead, the people he wanted to meet and the job he wanted to land. What he didn't foresee were the kinds of artistic legacies he would help fortify in realizing those goals.
As a vocalist who has clocked time with two veteran pop/soul ensembles, The Impressions and The Temptations, Evans has helped preserve and revitalize a musical era.
During the '70s, when he worked in a regrouped version of the Chicago pop soul troupe The Impressions, he became friends with most of the soul and R&B giants from the previous decade, including Wilson Pickett, Walter Jackson and the cornerstone members of The Temptations — David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards. When the latter three decided to tour as in the late '80s as The Temptations Revue, they recruited Evans. He has served as a Temptation ever since.
"I had a dream at 8 years old of what I wanted to do with my life," said Evans, who will perform with the current Temptations Revue lineup (Ricky Stanley, Reggie Reed, Ollie Boles and Lawrence Jefferson) on Friday at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in Lexington. "And by the time I was 14, I was already doing it. I just love singing.
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"You know the old saying, 'Any time you go to work doing what you love, you'll never work a day in your life.' And I love this. This is what I do. I don't do anything else. I sing all the time. I was friends with all the greats — Wilson, Walter, The Chi-Lites, Don Cornelius, everybody from back in the day. I miss these guys because it seems like the music they made is just gone."
That's why for the past two-plus decades, Evans has devoted himself to keeping one of those names from the past in front of pop audiences of the present: the classic Motown vocal troupe The Temptations.
There are several other acts today serving the same mission, including one led by Otis Williams, the only surviving member of the group's original lineup, and another overseen by Edwards, Evans' former touring mate and longtime friend.
"Here's the thing," Evans said. "We all pay tribute to The Temptations. Otis Williams, he's paying tribute to his own group and himself. Dennis Edwards is paying tribute to himself and his group. And that's what I do. I pay tribute to my friends, the ones that I sang with: David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Dennis Edwards. We take you back to those times when they did The Way You Do the Things You Do, Since I Lost My Baby, Who You Gonna Run To. We take you back to a time that was good."
Touring now with a production titled A Tribute to Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin, Evans' Temptations Revue is highlighting the most prominent vocalists behind the Temptations' signature hits.
Kendricks was the high tenor voice who gave life to The Way You Do the Things You Do (which, in 1964, became The Temptations' first Top 20 hit), and Ruffin's meatier soul shout propelled My Girl (the group's first No. 1 hit, also from 1964). Ruffin died in 1991, Kendrick in 1992.
"Eddie and I were running buddies," Evans said. "We would hang out together, go out to clubs together. Whenever you saw me, you saw him. He lived in Atlanta, and I lived in Atlanta. So we hung out together all the time. I knew all of them as friends before I joined the group. We did tours together when I was with the Impressions.
"I remember asking Fred Cash of The Impressions one time, 'Fred, back in the day, you guys kept getting hits, hits, hits, hits. Who else has had the hits?' He said, 'Them five brothers from Detroit, The Temptations. When they came out, everybody was imitating what they was doing."
IF YOU GO
The Temptations Revue: 'A Tribute to Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin'
When: 7 p.m. Feb. 15
Where: Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center, 300 E. Third St.
Tickets: $35, $55 VIP tickets that include meet-and-greet with artists. Available by calling (859) 280-2218 or at Lexingtonlyric.com.