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Bill G wrote:Thanks, Charles.
1) I don't know details, but I do know that it was a comment Juanita made during an interview with Dick Clark on American Bandstand. I'll check on it.
2) There are rumors that it could have been either Berry or Smokey that did it , but I'm not sure. I read somewhere that Smokey was a notoriously bad poker player, so , if it was him , it would have made sense. One thing's for sure: It HAD to be someone in a position of power at Motown. Berry was President, Smokey was V.P.
...but, Motown had other Vice Presidents , too I'll check on that one too, and let you know what I find out.
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Depending on your sympathy for the bugle-beaded tragedies of what have become broadly known as Dreamgirls, the Marvelettes are either a big sigh or a windfall. It’s hard to believe, but many people have had all they can take hearing about talented young black women having their lives shredded by greedy record labels in the 1960s. The same people find spending an evening with the Beatles video game more sustaining than putting the Marvelettes’ new three-CD set “Forever” on the changer and snuggling down with Marc Taylor’s tell-all “The Original Marvelettes: Motown’s Mystery Girl Group.” I guess there’s no accounting for how people spend their Tuesday nights.
You know the Marvelettes’ songs even if you don’t know their names (and you probably don’t): “Please Mr. Postman,” “Playboy,” “Beechwood 4-5789” and those sultry midtempo charmers “Don’t Mess With Bill” and “My Baby Must Be a Magician.” The Marvelettes were dark, raw, ungovernable, even somehow a little spooky: the Motown girl group that slipped through the cracks, even though they put the company on the map. Literally. “Postman,” recorded in 1961, was Motown’s first single to cross over and reach No. 1 on the pop charts.
The label is 50 this year, and there’s nothing like a birthday for untangling the record. The Marvelettes’ success predated that of all the other Motown girl groups, and they were the act, incredibly, those groups aspired to. The Supreme One doesn’t like it known that she once looked up to scruffy little Gladys Horton, the Marvelettes’ early lead singer, who worked in recent years at her son’s hair salon in California, but you can’t rewrite history just to please Miss Ross. It’s weird to imagine a world in which the Supremes got transistor radios from Motown for Christmas and the Marvelettes got diamond rings. (Only one-third of a carat each, but still.)
Horton and company were brutish naifs — part of their appeal, but also what dragged them down. It’s easy to say that when the competition heated up with all those sharp-elbowed Vandellas and Velvelettes jockeying for position, it was their cruder wigs and gowns that held the Marvelettes back. But this was not the case. By the time Motown created its Artist Development department, the group’s biggest hits were behind them. The department included Maxine Powell’s famous “Charm School,” in which female artists were taught how to mount a bar stool, slink out of a limo and “not protrude the buttocks.” But based on the videos on YouTube, wonderful as they are, the Marvelettes were unteachable.
Still, Katherine Anderson-Schaffner, the only member to survive the revolving door of lineups, insists Artist Development produced results. She compared it to taking medicine. “You take it the first day, you don’t really feel anything. You take it for maybe four or five days, and you feel a little bit better,” she told Taylor. “You take it until the prescription runs out and you’re feeling a helluva lot better and wonder, What was it that I had?”
As chronicled by Taylor, the Marvelettes’ real story is so much richer and crazier than anything you could make up. (The same goes for the Supremes, but don’t get me started.) The saga has it all: Drugs! (Wanda Rogers), Mental Collapse!! (Wyanetta Cowart), Murder!!! (the estranged husband of Rogers’s sister Adoria mistook another sister for Adoria, shooting and killing the sister at their mother’s house). There’s a lot of self-pity and whining in these sometimes incoherent pages, especially by Anderson-Schaffner, about what might have been if the group hadn’t been so neglected. If I didn’t know I was reading about the Marvelettes, I’d swear it was Martha Reeves explaining why she didn’t become Stevie Wonder. The Marvelettes’ passivity is maddening. O.K., we don’t know what it was like to fear for your job and how hard it was to get the boss’s ear. But some of the women were frozen out of their own recording sessions and replaced by in-house singers. Anderson-Schaffner posed for albums she never performed on and promoted them on the road.
Refreshingly, not every Marvelette supports the overlooked narrative. In Taylor’s book, Horton says the group was encouraged to do show tunes, the Motown path to playing the Copacabana, but demurred: “It’s not that we were pushed aside, it’s just that I knew we couldn’t do it.” She felt that, while the Supremes could sing Andrews Sisters’ material, “the Marvelettes could not keep up.” So whom do you believe? It doesn’t matter. Both Anderson-Schaffner’s and Horton’s versions are at the bull’s-eye of the Marvelettes matrix.
Jul 28 14 8:07 PM
Which brings us to that movie Jennifer Hudson did about talented young women having their lives shredded by a greedy record label in the ’60s. Hudson’s Effie is tossed out of her group, but not before defending her turf like a madwoman. Her fight makes it easier for Effie to live with herself when she loses. But the Marvelettes let the train roll over them.
In 1990 a British label reunited the ex-Marvelettes Horton and Rogers for an album featuring jumped-up remakes of “Bill” and “Beechwood.” There are also some non-Marvelettes on it, as there are with Horton on the rare occasions she performs. She’s the only member who still does, though not in a unit called the Marvelettes. Larry Marshak, a concert promoter, holds the Marvelettes trademark. Widely reviled in the business, Marshak specializes in multiple editions of the same faux oldies act, so “the Marvelettes” can be appearing in Boston and Washington, D.C. — on the same night.
In 1964 Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote “Where Did Our Love Go.” That the Marvelettes were allowed to reject it tells you how much Motown prized the group in that period. Rogers had dismissed the composition as “ridiculous, the most pitiful tune we’d ever heard.” The song then passed to you know who, who were humiliated at having to accept their enemies’ discards and would have vetoed it if they’d had the power. When the Supremes bowed at the Copa the following year, Diana Ross demanded that Berry Gordy drag Horton downtown (she was opening the next night at the Apollo Theater) for a large ringside serving of humble pie. The rest is history.
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