Today in Music History (Aug 21): Motown released its first #1 song

August 21, 1961 - Motown released its first #1 hit

Motown records certainly became a juggernaut in the music world, but its future wasn’t so certain on August 21, 1961. It was on that day that its Tamla imprint released “Please Mr. Postman,” the debut single by The Marvelettes. The song absolutely took off, becoming first Motown single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also became a million seller and set the stage for a decade of sheer dominance by the label.

Though they were later overshadowed by the Supremes, the Marvelettes created a wonderful string of hits during the mid-60s. Gladys Horton and Georgia Dobbins formed the Casinyets (or "Can't Sing Yets") in their hometown, Inkster, Michigan, with backing vocalists Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta (usually spelled "Juanita") Cowart, and Katherine Anderson.

August 21, 1961 - Motown released its first #1 hit

Motown records certainly became a juggernaut in the music world, but its future wasn’t so certain on August 21, 1961. It was on that day that its Tamla imprint released “Please Mr. Postman,” the debut single by The Marvelettes. The song absolutely took off, becoming first Motown single to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also became a million seller and set the stage for a decade of sheer dominance by the label.

Though they were later overshadowed by the Supremes, the Marvelettes created a wonderful string of hits during the mid-60s. Gladys Horton and Georgia Dobbins formed the Casinyets (or "Can't Sing Yets") in their hometown, Inkster, Michigan, with backing vocalists Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta (usually spelled "Juanita") Cowart, and Katherine Anderson.

In 1961 the quintet, then called The Marvels, entered the Inkster High School talent show, where they finished fourth. Though only the first three winners could win the prize of a trip to audition for the new Motown record company, an exception was made and they were allowed to audition as well. In April they did this for Motown executives Brian Holland and Robert Bateman, with the girls alternating lead parts. Berry Gordy, who walked in when Georgia was singing lead, scheduled a second audition, after asking if the group had any original material.

At the next audition, Georgia arrived with pianist William Garrett, who had also written a few tunes. Flipping through his briefcase, she was drawn to a song that had only a few lyrics and no music. Georgia liked the title and wanted to change the tune from what Garrett had initially intended to be a blues song into something more favorable for a young girl group. Garrett agreed, as long as he was given songwriting credit along with Georgia. Georgia, who had no previous songwriting experience, took the tune home and reconstructed it into a song whose lyrics pointed to a girl missing her boyfriend who has been far away for a long time. That song turned out to be their first single and greatest hit, "Please Mr Postman."

The group returned to Motown with the song and a new member, Wanda Young (later Rogers), who replaced Dobbins (whose church-going father was against the idea of his daughter singing in night clubs), giving them, like The Shirelles before them, two lead singers. They auditioned for Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson, and received a recording contract.

Motown gave the Marvels the star treatment. Gordy renamed the group The Marvelettes and had "Please Mr. Postman" re-written for the group. Vocal coaches, etiquette teachers, fashion advisors, and others also worked on the group's image, and in the summer of 1961 their first single, "Please Mr. Postman," was released on the Tamla imprint, with Gladys Horton as the lead voice. The song proved to be a slow burner, not even entering the Billboard Pop Chart (now known as the Billboard Hot 100) until September 4th of that year. The song took fourteen weeks to hit number on the pop chart, a record for its time. And it became an all-time classic.

Portions of this article are licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikepedia article the Marvelettes

 
Song of the Month - Teri Tobin - "You Are"
Album of the Month - Krishawna - "Full Disclosure"
Choice Cut - Brother Reggie - "Send for Me"

Leave a comment!