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Profile: The Marvelettes

By

The Marvelettes

The Marvelettes

source: cbvocalgroups.blogspot.com

Formed:

1960 (Detroit, MI)

Genres:

Girl Group, Motown, R&B, Pop-Soul

Principal Members:

  • Gladys Horton (b. 1944, Detroit, MI): vocals
  • Wanda Young (b. 1944, Detroit, MI): vocals
  • Georgia Tillman (b. Georgeanna Marie Tillman, 1944, Detroit, MI; d. January 6, 1960, Los Angeles, CA): vocals
  • Katherine Anderson (b. 1944, Detroit, MI): vocals
  • Juanita Cowart (b. Wyanetta Cowert, 1944, Detroit, MI): vocals

Contributions to music:

  • The first Motown act to reach Number One on the charts
  • One of the very earliest girl-group sensations, paving the way for the genre
  • Their 1961 smash "Please Mister Postman" remains a perennial girl-group favorite
  • Went on to record some of the finest hits in the genre in the mid-Sixties, even as their pop audience faded away

Early years:

The Marvelettes were a true home-grown group, having all attended Inkster high school in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, MI; forming a singing group called the Casinyets (short for "can't sing yet," due to their novice status!) and competed at the school for a Motown audition. Though they came in fourth, something about the group led Robert Bateman of the local Satintones to recommend them for the audition anyway. By that time called the Marvels, they were accepted by label head Berry Gordy and given the more girl-group name of the Marvelettes.

Success:

When Gordy requested they sing some original material, Georgia Tillman brought in pianist William Garrett, who reworked a blues song he'd written called "Please Mister Postman." After a record fourteen weeks moving up the charts, it was Number One, but Gordy chose to follow-up with the novelty "Twistin' Postman," which hurt the girls' momentum. Fortunately, Motown's crack songwriters soon went to work on the group, and before long they had a string of R&B hits which occasionally crossed over into pop. Gordy soon became infatuated with a new act, however, specifically the Supremes and its star, Diana Ross.

Later years:

With Gordy refusing to treat the group like the stars they were and provide them with the best material and promotion, the Marvelettes floundered for a while, and by the time they got their footing on the R&B charts again, their style was fast becoming out of date. Juanita left in 1962 due to business pressures, Georgia left in 1965 due to Sickle Cell Anemia, and Gladys Horton, one of the group's two leads, left to care for a disabled son; Wanda Young, the other lead, stayed in Detroit in 1970 when Motown moved to Los Angeles. Horton passed away from pneumonia on January 27, 2011.

Other facts:

  • The group famously turned down the offer to record "Where Did Our Love Go" before the Supremes, opting instead for "Too Many Fish In The Sea," which became a minor R&B hit
  • Original member Juanita Cowart left the group after being endlessly teased for mistakenly commenting on ABC's American Bandstand that Detroit was "a suburb of Inkster"
  • Georgeanna Tillman would later marry the Contours' Billy Gordon
  • Smokey Robinson wrote and produced many of the group's excellent later hits, such as "Don't Mess With Bill," "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game," and "My Baby Must Be A Magician"

Awards/Honors:

  • Vocal Group Hall of Fame (2004)

Recorded work:

#1 hits:
Pop:

"Please Mr. Postman" (1961)

R&B:

"Please Mr. Postman" (1961)

Top 10 hits:
Pop:

"Playboy" (1962)
"Don't Mess With Bill" (1966)

R&B:

"Playboy" (1962)
"Beechwood 4-5789" (1962)"Someday, Someway" (1962)

"Strange I Know" (1963)
"Don't Mess With Bill" (1966)
"The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game" (1966)
"When You're Young And In Love" (1967)
"My Baby Must Be A Magician" (1968)

Top 10 albums:
R&B:

Greatest Hits (1966)

Other important recordings: "So Long Baby," "Twistin' Postman," "Locking Up My Heart," "Too Strong To Be Strung Along," "Forever," "Tie A String Around My Finger," "My Daddy Knows Best," "As Long As I Know He's Mine," "You're My Remedy," "Too Many Fish In The Sea," "He's a Good Guy (Yes He Is)," "I'll Keep Holding On," "Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead," "You're The One," "Here I Am Baby," "Destination: Anywhere," "I'm Gonna Hold On As Long As I Can," "That's How Heartaches Are Made," "Marionette," "A Breath-Taking Guy"
Covered by: The Beatles, Carpenters, Blondie, The Commitments, The Detroit Cobras, The Backbeat Band

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