Link: See them sing “Don’t Mess with Bill.” the-marvelettes-don-mess-with-1vwvs_2ey2h_.html

They-Were-Great-Once Dept: the day Gladys Horton cajoled a few girlfriends into starting a singing group ultimately called the Marvelettes, they couldn’t have foreseen how happy they’d make a bunch of black kids growing up in Ohio.  Their snappy, sexy melodies propelled a street-corner symphony heard around the world in the mid-60s.  Along with Martha and the Vandellas, theirs was an earthy, witty sound, a suitable soundtracks built for dance clubs and urban playlists; this was also the house of Motown, albeit a grittier counterpoint to the sleek crooning of that other black girl group.

If The Supremes were considered the major leagues of that recording company, then the Marvelettes could be called the sassy farm team of female vocal groups.  Who could resist such clever tunes with titles to match (Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead always makes me chuckle)?  The kids in my neighborhood pestered the local r&b station WCIN to play Please Mr. Postman (it was #1 upon its release, something no other Motown girl group was able to accomplish), Beachwood 4-5789, My Baby Must Be a Magician, Too Many Fish in the Sea, and my favorite, The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.

From 1961-68: dog years for a pop girl group.  Gladys would leave, and come back.  The personnel changed (singing groups, ah, a revolving door), and the world moved on—especially Motown who by then was throwing all its eggs into the careers of by-then-gone-solo Diana Ross and her new discovery, The Jackson 5.   It was the end of an era, but those of us who grew up hearing the Marvelettes and their bold, distinctive black-girl shout of pain, joy and attitude won’t ever forget that sound.  They were the voice of our young America.  Thanks Gladys, RIP.

Top, Horton, second from the left.