Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2011: Gladys Horton, whose lead vocals helped The Marvelettes establish their career with such hits as "Mr. Postman", "Playboy" and "Beechwood 4-5789", died following a stroke at the age of 66.

It was 1961 when Gladys Horton gathered some of her high school friends into a singing group  that became the Marvelettes, laying the groundwork for her to  sing lead vocals on a number of hits, including ”Please Mr. Postman” which became Motown Records’ first No. 1 hit.

Gladys died on January 26, 2011 in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Ms. Horton was in a high school glee club in Inkster, Mich., outside Detroit, when she recruited three of her classmates — Katherine Anderson (now Schaffner), Georgeanna Tillman and Juanita Cowart — as well as a friend who had recently graduated, Georgia Dobbins, and formed a quintet. They called themselves the Casinyets (“Can’t Sing Yets”)
The “Casinyets” auditioned for Motown executives, including Berry Gordy Jr., the label’s founder, who were impressed but said the girls needed to come up with original material.
Berry Gordy at Motown

A friend of Ms. Dobbins, William Garrett, had just written a blues song, and with his permission Ms. Dobbins rewrote the song, about a girl aching for mail from her far-away boyfriend, casting it in a pop vein, though she kept the title, “Please Mr. Postman.”

Prior to recording for Motown, Ms. Dobbins left the group because her mother was ill and her father wanted her at home.

She was replaced by Wanda Young, another graduate of the same high school in Inkster, leaving Gladys to sing the lead vocals, including the memorable line “De-liver de let-ter, de sooner de bet-ter.”
Gladys  Horton stayed with the group until 1967, when she became pregnant with her first child. She sang on a number of hit recordings, including “Playboy”
“Beechwood 4-5789”
 and this reviewer’s favorite, the ballad “Forever.” Check out this version done as a duet with Marvin Gaye…

 The girls had hits with several of  Smokey Robinson’s tunes:
 “Don’t Mess With Bill”
 “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game”
      The origin of the Marvelettes is variously recounted in music encyclopedias and other sources, and they usually describe Gladys as a co-founder of the group. But in a New York Times interview with Katherine Anderson Schaffner, one of the original Marvelettes, Gladys was given full credit as being the founder…
“We only started singing together because Gladys asked us. Usually we’d go to Georgeanna’s house and play canasta.”—Katherine Schaffner


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