Delores Harvin began touring with her all-girl band Better Days at the ripe age of 16, having landed a contract for the band to perform as part of the United Services Organization tour.
Following her time with Better Days, Harvin went on to tour as part of Stevie Wonder’s backup singers and, at 20 years old, went on to perform in at least seven different countries.
The Temple News caught up with Harvin to get more details about her life on the road before working her gig on Main Campus.
The Temple News: What do you do at Temple now?
Delores Harvin: I am a receptionist and tour coordinator for the [Welcome Center] and Undergraduate Admissions.
TTN: What does your job entail?
DH: Meeting and greeting, checking the system for [student] files. I have to schedule tours and correspond back and forth with the [tour] groups.
TTN: Before you started working at Temple you were a backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder. How did you get involved with that?
DH: One of my friends, Shirley Brewer, was in our [band] here in Philly, and she kept saying “Stevie’s looking for girls, Stevie’s looking for girls and I’m going to interview.” And I was like, “Yeah, right.”
But she interviewed and he actually took her, then one of his other backup singers, Denise Williams, left the group and they needed another backup singer, so then they called me.
I’ll never forget it, it was a Friday night and my friend Shirley called and she said, “Delores, they need another singer. Can you come out here, tonight?” So I just started throwing things in the suitcase and running around the house, and my father is running around behind me asking, “Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure this is what you want to do?”
I said, “Yeah, Daddy. This is what I want to do.”
So, I had to go to Texas and I never got to interview because Stevie was already on the road [as part of] The Rolling Stones’ tour. I had to go out and fake it “‘til you make it,” and as soon as I got off stage, [Wonder] said, “You’re hired.”
TTN: Were you living in Philadelphia prior to going on tour?
DH: Yes, I was living in Philly and I was in an all-girl band called Better Days. We worked for USO and the [U.S.] Department of Defense. We had to travel all over: Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Germany and Cuba. [I] was touring before [I started working with] Stevie.
We started that band when I was 16.
TTN: How long were you touring with Stevie Wonder?
DH: The first time, it was two years, and the second was two months.
TTN: What was it like working with Stevie Wonder?
DH: He was a lot of fun; he was very creative. We used to chase each other around the hotel and have water fights. We just acted silly. Wonderlove used to jump trains at night – I never did that. We used to have pool parties and have a good time on the road.
TTN: Do you have any memorable stories from on the road?
DH: It was just wild. The Rolling Stones were wild. It was hard because we had to do every major city twice. It was like being in the army. You gotta hurry up and you’re on a plane everyday. It was hectic but it was a wonderful time in my life.
TTN: Did you get to meet any prominent people on the road with Stevie Wonder?
DH: With Stevie you met everybody. Aretha Franklin, Smokey Robinson – everybody. You would see somebody everywhere. On The Rolling Stones’ tour, The Jackson 5 would come visit us and come into our dressing rooms – they were friendly. Michael [Jackson] wasn’t who he [became] then, he was very quiet and shy.
TTN: Was there a moment you felt very star-struck to meet someone?
DH: No, actually I ran. I couldn’t stand to be around them. I was like, “Oh no, this isn’t me.” But one day I did break right into Aretha Franklin’s rehearsal because I loved her that much – plus I knew her keyboard player.
She’s just my idol.
TTN: How was the USO tour?
DH: It was very rewarding, very hard; lots of fun and lots of guys. For an all-girls band that was a wonderful thing.
TTN: How did you get involved with USO?
DH: Our band’s manager actually signed a contract so we could tour overseas.
TTN: How did you end up at Temple?
DH: After Stevie, I worked one other job at Eastern Music Systems Corporation. I just wanted something more so my son could go to college. I applied here and I got accepted and I’ve been here ever since.
TTN: Is music still a part of your life?
DH: I still sing at church sometimes.
TTN: How do like your Temple life now that your touring days are over?
DH: I’m happy. My supervisor makes our job so much fun and he’s just a wonderful person. When you work for somebody that you like, it’s a wonderful thing.
Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com.