The Elgins were a quartet – three males (two of whom had originally signed to Motown as part of The Downbeats) and female lead vocalist, Saundra Edwards.
Backed by The Vandellas before they hooked up with Martha Reeves, Edwards (under her maiden name, Saundra Mallett) had recorded Camel Walk b/w It’s Gonna Be Hard Times way back in 1962.
The new line-up’s debut single Darling Baby, released on New Year’s Eve 1965, sounded like nothing else at Hitsville USA. The track sounded so old-fashioned, in fact, that the Motown promotion department ignored it completely.
But this gloriously retro doo-wop ballad registered with the public, and the B-side – the similarly nostalgic Put Yourself In My Place – was good enough to make #4 on the R&B chart when later released as an A-side in its own right.
Even better was to come. Heaven Must Have Sent You, although augmented by a more typical Motown production, was still simple in concept, with delightfully retro-sounding harmonies.
Endlessly repetitive, it was one of the most joyously uplifting songs of all time, right up there with Jackie Wilson‘s Your Love (Keeps Lifting Me Higher) and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell‘s Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing.
Devoid of any real push from Motown, it peaked at #50 on the US chart in the summer of 1966. It has subsequently gone down in history, though, and did reach #3 on the UK charts in 1971.
Saundra Edwards left the group in 1967 due to personal problems and was replaced briefly by Yvonne Allen (previously of The Donays) before The Elgins broke up.
Heaven Must Have Sent You was such a big smash when it was re-released in England in 1971 that The Elgins reunited to make a number of tours of Britain (with Norman McLean replaced by Jimmy Charles).
Yvonne Allen, Norman McLean, Jimmy Charles, and Johnny Dawson reunited again in 1989 to record new albums in England.
Cleo “Duke” Miller
Saundra Edwards (nee Mallett)