The Marvelettes (1960-1972)

The Marvelettes were an all-girl group whose original members were Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Georgia Dobbins.  They came together in a high school glee club in their home town of Inkster, Michigan in 1959. In 1960, they auditioned at year-old Motown records where founder Berry Gordy praised their talent but told them they needed to create an original song.  Georgia Dobbins in response wrote “Please Mr. Postman” in 1961. The girl group was signed to Motown records and became the first all-girl group on the label. “Please Mr. Postman” was released and became their first song to reach No. 1 on the R&B charts.

The following year taking advantage of the nation-wide dance craze, the twist, they released “Twistin’ Mr. Postman” in 1962 which reached the top 50 on the pop charts and “Playboy” which hit No. seven on the pop charts.  Nonetheless their career stalled by 1963 and they soon claimed that they were cast in the shadow of other Motown acts that were later signed including Mary Wells, the Supremes, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.  That concern led to internal dissention among the Marvelettes as Georgia Dobbins left the group in 1964.

In 1965, the Marvelettes released “Don’t Mess With Bill” which placed them again in the top ten on the R&B and pop charts.  The group also made mistakes as in 1964 when they passed up Motown songwriting team Holland-Dozier-Holland’s song, “Where Did Our Love Go,” which was subsequently recorded by the Supremes and became that group’s second million-selling hit.

Personnel changes also took a toll on the Marvelettes. In 1963 Juanita Cowart left the group following an anxiety breakdown, Georgeanna Tillman fell ill with sickle cell in late 1964 which forced her to stop performing in 1965 which left only three Marvelettes to record and tour. Even as the group faced multiple adversities it still produced three hit records between 1966 and 1967, “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” “When You’re Young and in Love,” and “My Baby Must Be A Magician.” By 1967 singer Gladys Horton left the group to marry and Anne Bogan replaced her.

The last Marvelettes hit “Destination Anywhere” was released in 1968.  Although the group had officially stopped making music by 1969, they continued to tour and Motown released four singles by them between 1969 and 1971, none of which were commercially successful. The Marvelettes officially disbanded in 1972 when some members decided not to move to Los Angeles when Motown relocated there.

Gladys Horton attempted a solo career and then tried unsuccessfully to reestablish the Marvelettes in the early 1980s but the other members were not interested. Horton signed with Motorcity Records, a small Detroit label and worked with them until 1990. Georgeanna Tillman died of sickle cell in January of 1980. Wanda Young, one of the early members but not an original Marvelette, married Bobby Rogers of the Miracles, and Katherine Anderson married Joe Schaffner who managed the Temptations.