Hailing from the low-income Detroit suburb of Inkster, the 17-year-old girls who came together as The Marvelettes (originally The Casinyets – a corruption of The Can’t Sing Yets) were introduced to Motown Records founder Berry Gordy in 1961 after winning a high school talent contest.
Their debut single, Please Mr Postman, gave Motown its first #1 hit in 1961, and the song became popular again when recorded by The Beatles.
Led by the raspy-voiced Gladys Horton they followed their initial hit with 20 more, including Beechwood 4-5789, Too Many Fish In The Sea, The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game and My Baby Must Be A Magician – the last two written by the ubiquitous Smokey Robinson.
Despite – or perhaps, because of – their success, the group often felt ostracised by their more urban contemporaries, like The Supremes.
“They thought suburbanites couldn’t do it,” Marvelette Katherine Anderson told writer Sue Whitall in Women of Motown. “They just couldn’t understand how we, from a hick town like Inkster, could come in and get a hit before they did.”
But when Horton was replaced in 1968 it was just a matter of time before they ran out of magic.
Wyanetta (Juanita) Cowart