I have a photograph in my office of a very young Don and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas (Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, and Rosalind Ashford) after a show at Bermuda's beautiful Rosebank Theater. I found Martha and the girls to be sweet and accessible and thrilled to have Hit Records.
Martha Reeves was originally from Alabama and had sung with several girl-groups by the time she hit Motown in the early 60's, but when she was offered an audition she showed up on the wrong day and blew it. Motown staffer Mickey Thompson who had found her singing in a Detroit club liked her energy and way with people and hired her as his assistant.
When Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording session, Reeves and the other two girls she sang with as the Vels (They sang backup on the great Marvin Gaye's first records) were asked to cut a demo of the tune Mary had been scheduled to do. (Wells had serious addiction problems and missing sessions was routine.) They killed it. Barry Gordy heard the demo and was knocked out by Martha's strong voice and signed the group to Motown, changing their name to Martha & the Vandellas.
Lighting struck on their second release, "Heat Wave," going to #4 on the Hot 100 and #1 R&B, selling over a million platters and earning them a Grammy nomination. At this point I should point out that the famed writing/producing team of Holland–Dozier–Holland were hot as a pistol and provided some stone smash songs for the Vandellas and other Motown acts; and the House Band was the fabulous Funk Brothers who played on virtually all the early Motown Hits.
Meanwhile Martha & the Vandellas went on to have 26 chart singles between 1963 and 1972, with Ten Top 10's on the Hot 100 including: "Heat Wave," "Quicksand," "Nowhere to Run," "Jimmy Mack," "Bless You" and "Dancing in the Street," that was a lot of gold and dough.
Their biggest hit was "Dancing In The Street," there was a time when everywhere you went in 1964 that song was playing, falling just short of #1 at #2, and became their "Signature Song," and one of the most covered and popular songs of the Golden Era of Rock and Roll (including a duet with Mick Jagger and David Bowie).
Dancing in the Street" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 as only the second female group (The first were The Supremes). Here they are in the mid-60's on the telly with passable picture and great augmented sound...this one will take you back. @therealdonrocks
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