The Velvelettes were formed by Bertha Barbee at Western Michigan University in the early 60s, with Cal (Carolyn) Gill ending up as the lead singer, although she was only 14 years old and still in high school when she joined the group.
With encouragement from Robert Bullock, one of Berry Gordy‘s nephews, they auditioned successfully for Motown and released their first single – the self-penned There He Goes – on the label in 1963.
Several of Motown’s best names wrote and produced for the group between 1963 and 1967, but the girls only had three chart hits, including He Was Really Sayin’ Somethin (covered successfully in the 80s by Bananarama) and Needle In A Haystack. A planned album never materialised.
The group never really cracked it like their contemporaries, such as The Marvelettes, Martha & The Vandellas and The Supremes, partially because the line-up was constantly changing.
Original member Betty Kelly left to join Martha & The Vandellas in 1964, and the quintet became a quartet. Cal Gill brought in two new singers to keep the group going at the end of 1967, but they had disbanded by the end of the decade.
A re-formed version of The Velvelettes played in the 1980s, and a compilation of their Motown material was finally released on CD in 1999.
Carolyn ‘Cal’ Gill