Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

MARVELLETTES, The

Female vocal group formed in 1961 at Inkster (MI) High School as the Marvels to enter a talent contest. The lead singer was Gladys Horton (b 30 May 1945, Gainsville FL; d 26 January 2010, Sherman Oaks CA). Gladys was virtually the founder of the group: the girls would all go to somebody's house to play canasta, but Gladys thought they should try singing. The others were Katherine Anderson, Wanda Young, Juanita Cowart and Georgeanna Tillman Dobbins (d 6 January 1980 of sickle cell anaemia). A teacher introduced them to Berry Gordy, they were signed to Tamla, renamed Marvellettes and had 23 hits in the USA Hot 100 '61-9, most notably the first: Gordy told them they needed original material, so they came up with 'Please Mr Postman', co-written by Dobbins, who left the group along with Cowart very early on; it was no. 1 USA and covered by the Beatles and others. Many of the later hits were written by Smokey Robinson. 'Playboy' '62 and 'Don't Mess With Bill' '66 were top ten; 'Beechwood 4-5789' was top 20 '62, later covered by the Carpenters; 'When You're Young And In Love' was top 30 USA and their only UK hit (top 20) '67, later covered by the Flying Pickets; the sublime 'My Baby Must Be A Magician' was top 20 USA '68. At the end of the decade the only remaining original member was Anderson and the lineups had become virtually anonymous, but their place in pop had been assured.