Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking column (February)

Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column
Sharon Davis' Motown Tracking Column Gladys Horton (The Marvelettes) Gladys Horton (The Marvelettes) Gladys Horton (The Marvelettes) Smokey Robinson: Where There's Smoke Smokey Robinson: Big Time Al Abrams: Hype & Soul Al Abrams & Berry Gordy Steve Mancha The Confessions of Rick James: Memoirs of a Super Freak Absolute Essential: The Very Best Of Jaki Graham Tata Vega: The Joy Kim Weston Sharon Davis and Ivan Constable

Well, in a million years, I never expected to be writing about the death of another Motown artist so soon – within a month to be precise. Oh hell, this is just so dreadful. Doesn’t it make us all feel, er, mortal, particularly when we reach a certain age.


We started the year with the tragedy of Teena Marie’s passing, and now, The Marvelettes’ Gladys Horton no longer graces this earth. And it’s with her that we stay to pay tribute to the lady who co-founded Motown’s first chart topping female group, taking the role of lead singer on some of their early releases, including their debut million seller Please Mr Postman, which was first made popular over here by The Beatles who presented it to the pop market. Give them their due, they did credit Motown and The Marvelettes when performing the song live but, hey, nobody could hear them because of the blasted high pitch screaming from out of control teenagers who were their audiences. Anyway, here’s just a short visit into the world of Motown’s third most famous female group behind The Supremes and Martha and the Vandellas.

Miss Horton was born 30 May 1945 and was given up for adoption at nine months old. She spent her young life shifting from one foster home to the other before settling with a family in Inkster, Detroit. When she was 14 years old, Gladys formed The Del-Rhythmetts with school friends to record Chic-a-Boom for JVB Records. Apparently it disappeared into obscurity, prompting Gladys to tell author Marc Taylor in his book The Original Marvelettes – Motown’s Mystery Girl Group – “I don’t think Motown ever knew about me doing that song. …No-one asked me if I had recorded anything before, and I just forgot about it.” With that phase of her life behind her, in 1960 when Gladys attended Inkster High School, she set to work to form another group to enter one of the school’s talent shows. For this she recruited Katherine Anderson, Wyanetta Cowart, Georgeanna Tillman and Georgia Dobbins. They called themselves The Casinyets (“can’t sing yet”). The prize for one specific show was an audition for Motown Records, Berry Gordy’s fledgling company. They came fourth! Nonetheless, the girls did audition for the company thanks to the intervention of their school counsellor who believed they should have won the contest.

So, with Berry Gordy watching, the girls performed the songs they’d sung at the talent show. Unimpressed with the material, he told them to return with some original material - which they did, namely, Please Mr Postman. And The Marvelettes were born! Gladys further told Marc Taylor – “I was in a foster home. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, if it hadn’t been for the record…I just kept a level head and that’s just one trait that The Marvelettes had…we were just thankful and that was it.”

When Georgia Dobbins suddenly left the membership, bowing down to her father’s wishes, Gladys took over as lead singer, while Wanda Rogers replaced Georgia. And those magical songs hit us – Beechwood 4-5789, Strange I Know, um, You’re My Remedy, Too Many Fish In The Sea and I’ll Keep Holding On. In 1967 Gladys and the group parted company, whereupon Anne Bogan replaced her. And still the hits continued – The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game, When You’re Young And In Love, My Baby Must Be A Magician and Reachin’ For Something I Can’t Have. Gladys moved to Los Angeles in 1984 and began performing again but by now Motown no longer owned the name Marvelettes so she was restricted in the repertoire and name she used. She was also raising three sons, one of whom was disabled. Moving on, during the eighties, Gladys and Wanda reunited to record The Marvelettes…Now! album for Ian Levine’s Motorcity company. Well, there’s not a lot more I can say really without going into more detail – which I can’t here – but will point you in the direction of Marc Taylor’s book The Original Marvelettes – Motown’s Mystery Girl Group, part of the author’s A Touch Of Classic Soul Series which you can look up on Oh, I’ve been told a memorial service will be held at 12.30pm on 22 February at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Los Angeles. If you’d like to send a condolence card please do, c/o Vaughn Thornton, 5224 ½ Vantage Avenue, Valley Village, California 91607. Our heartfelt condolences go to Gladys’ family, friends and fans. Goodbye love and God bless.


Oh lor, more sad news. Steve Mancha, real name Clyde Wilson, died on 8 January last in Detroit. He was 65 years old. Briefly, he’d carved himself a slot in the music business with Harvey Fuqua’s HPC label as one half of the Two Friends duo with Wilber Jackson. When Harvey’s labels (Tri-Phi, Harvey and HPC) were integrated into Motown, all the artists including Steve went too. While there he recorded material which wasn’t issued, although his composing talents were recognised, with his songs being recorded by Marvin and Tammi, and The Monitors, among others. Skipping a few years, when Holland, Dozier, Holland left Motown to open their own Invictus/Hot Wax company, Steve became lead singer of 100 Proof (Aged In Soul). While there he got involved on other projects until the labels closed, whereupon he hit the gospel circuit, surfacing to sing for Ian Levine’s Motorcity/Nightmare[Bb label in 1986. Sadly, it appears Steve died in dire straits, so a memorial fund has been set up to help finance his funeral and such. If you wish to contribute please visit HYPERLINK "" where Ady Croasdell gives the required details.


Hipo-Select released late last year the third in the Smokey Robinson series when Deep In My Soul and Big Time were coupled together. I actually remember meeting up with Smokey when he was promoting the latter album over here during 1977, a year after he’d re-signed with Motown. He was touring the UK, delighting us all with his laid back, no nonsense stage presentation: in fact a Melody Maker journalist noted that Smokey was – “along with the moon landings and the motorcar, one of the wonders of the age.” “In a class of his own. A living legend whose voice effortlessly turned half the audience into emotional lumps” another reviewer glowed. The Big Time project was Smokey’s baby, by the way, which was why he scored the soundtrack. He told me back in the day – “Christopher Jay, Leon Isaacs and myself adapted a short story and then directed the movie between us. That meant I actually became involved with the daily shooting, down to the cutting and post production as editor. I’ve got close to half a million dollars invested in it, although I feel confident that I’ll make that back because it’s a quality movie.” Sadly, it wasn’t to be - the film bombed and Smokey lost his dosh. Anyway, I’ve digressed a lot because I really wanted to tell you about the next set of solo albums – Love Breeze and Where There’s Smoke just released, or due to be so. As you know, Love Breeze includes the top ten hit Daylight & Darkness, while Where There’s Smoke was the cd of musical change because it featured his international hit Cruisin’, and his upbeat version of the song he first wrote for The Temptations – Get Ready. Anyway, like the other packages, this one also includes reproductions of the albums’ artwork, and noted UK author Peter Doggett interviewed the man himself specifically for this release’s booklet notes . Let’s move on – it’s party time!


A very Happy Birthday to Al Abrams who will be seventy on 19 February! Thanks to Al I’m able to bring you tit bits now and again that aren’t generally in the public arena. As if you need reminding, Al started working for Berry Gordy in 1959 and became Motown’s public relations director. He’s due to publish his press releases, exclusive pictures and other documents from that golden era for the first time. Titled Hype & Sou! – Behind The Scenes At Motown, his book will be available via Neil Rushton’s Soulvation very soon. Meanwhile, my dear Al, hugs and kisses from me and the gang at B&S.


I was recently flicking through Rick James’ autobiography Memoirs Of A Super Freak and spotted what he had to say when he first met up with Teena Marie. And I quote – “Teena, being only five feet tall, had a voice of someone seven feet tall. I mean she could sing her ass off.” He also wrote that once he’d heard her voice, writing material for her was easy. He cited her debut album Wild And Peaceful and classed it as a great album, where they deliberately didn’t include her picture in the artwork – “because we wanted to confuse people, and make them wonder whether Teena was black or white.” There’s other stuff as well about her which you may like to catch up on if his book’s still available. Last year, Teena told Essence magazine how she struggled with her addiction to prescription drugs following Rick’s sudden death. She was, she said, addicted to Vicodin which she’d been taking for physical pain following a series of accidents – “Once I realised that those pills not only took away my physical agony by masking my emotional pain, I really became addicted. When I was on the medication I never cried about him, but then I went cold turkey and cried so much and have been for the last three years.” Rick was her musical soul mate, she told the magazine – “We were like an extension of each other.” Meantime, the Los Angeles County Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter has indicated that Teena’s cause of death may only be determined by toxicology tests, the results of which wouldn’t be available for some time. And finally ----


Are things moving in the High Inergy camp?...... Great to see my pal Adam White on The One Show recently. He was talking about Motown’s first UK tour when it hit Colston Hall in Bristol, on 23 March 1965. Smashing memories…….check out Jaki Graham’s version of the Brenda Holloway classic Every Little Bit Hurts on the newly released Absolute Essential:The Very Best Of Jaki Graham….On 16 April Martha and the Vandellas will be performing at the Celebrate Freedom concert honouring US was veterans to be held in Columbia, South Carolina. Recently named as one of the 30 Greatest Lead Singers of All-time, Martha and her sisters recently wowed audiences at the historic Berns concert hall, Stockholm. Check out for updates………Jimmy Ruffin currently working on a new album to be released on 7 May 2013, his 74th birthday……ex-Motown lady Tata Vega’s current cd The Joy available via Do Rite Records….. Ace/Motown’s next cd will be Marv Johnson’s I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose + The Complete Recordings 1964-1971. The original 1969 UK album has never been available on cd before now. Due April time…..Kim Weston joins Freda Payne, Merry Clayton and Russell Thompkins Jr (lead singer on all The Stylistics’ hits) in a Very Special Concert – dinner, dance and auction to benefit the Variety Club Children’s Charity North West and Liverpool Unites. The evening has been arranged by David Gest, ticket prices start at £75, and the place to be is the Britannia Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool L3 5UL on 4 March next. For more information email and finally, as I sit here in my office on this cold and not very pleasant afternoon, am I sparing a thought for a lady who’s actually cruising to Grenada today? Whaddya you think!!!

Til next time.. keep the faith

Sharon Davis

Please feel free to contact Sharon with any Motown news that you feel would benefit others - Thank you.

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