"Ed Sullivan was important, because at least 35 million people would get to see what we were all about, the music we were making, the choreography," says Otis Williams, 70, the only living member of the original Temptations. "When we were growing up, we never imagined that we would have the chance to be on the show."
The Sullivan show, which aired from 1948 to 1971, helped expose baby boomers and their parents to black music and enabled The Temptations, The Supremes and other Motown acts to cross a racial divide.
Says Williams, "It was bad back then; it was trying times just to get on (TV) because they had always referred to our music back then as 'race music.' It wasn't race music, it was just good music. But it was one of those things we had to go through. We got past it and went on to bigger and better things."
Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, says watching herself on the Sullivan DVD brings back memories. "When you're doing things at a certain time, you don't have time to think about it. But in retrospect, you go, 'Oh, wow, now I get it.' It takes on a whole different feel."
"One thing about the Supremes," Wilson, 67, says," we always were concerned about 'The Look.' We were teenage girls," she says of herself, Florence Ballard and Diana Ross, "so looking good was very, very important. And it wasn't too hard, because we were still young and didn't have to wear a lot of makeup."
The Temptations 50th Anniversary: The Complete Singles 1961-1971 takes fans back to the very early days when hits like "My Girl" were as popular as their choreographed and much-imitated dance moves.
Wilson, who, like Willliams, is still performing, says she goes back to the songs she first did as a teenager because Motown doesn't have a time stamp on it. "The Motown sound wasn't just, 'Oh we're going to record something today,'" Wilson says. "It was a total community of music. Music was in the air."
"They talk about JFK and Jackie having their Camelot," Williams says. "Well, Motown was our Camelot."