Even before Motown, Detroit had an active R&B and soul community. In 1955, the influential soul singer Little Willie John made his debut, and in 1956, the Detroit-based R&B label Fortune Records enjoyed success with Nolan Strong & The Diablos and their hit songs "The Wind," "Mind Over Matter" and "The Way You Dog Me Around." Smokey Robinson noted in his biography that Strong's high tenor was his biggest vocal influence. Strong is remembered on the 2010 album Daddy Rockin Strong: A Tribute to Nolan Strong & The Diablos - a tribute compilation that features current rock and roll bands covering Diablos songs. The album was compiled and released by The Wind Records and Norton Records.
Also In 1956, notable blues and R&B singer Zeffrey "Andre" Williams recorded a string of singles for Fortune, including the song "Bacon Fat." In 1961, Nathaniel Mayer & Fabulous Twilights hit the charts with "Village of Love," which became one of Fortune's top selling singles. Mayer recorded a string of popular 45s for Fortune, even once performing on Dick Clark's American Bandstand.
Several other Detroit artists became nationally known without the help of Motown. Perhaps the best known of such artists was Aretha Franklin. Other non-Motown acts included The Capitols with their 1966 hit "Cool Jerk" and Darrel Banks with "Baby Walk Right in." The following year, J.J Barnes had his biggest hit with "Baby Please Come Back Home."