ClassicRockHistory.com presents The Top 10 Marvelettes Songs in our continuing series on the great Motown musical acts. The Marvelettes played a significant role in the Motown story for various reasons. First and foremost, they were the first Motown act to achieve a number one single for the label with their recording of the song “Please Mr. Postman.” Their album Please Mr. Postman was also one of the first full length LPs to be released on Motown Records. Along with The Miracles, The Marvelettes turned a lot of heads when their music was first heard at the dawn of the Motown era.
For everyone who has ever been a member of a high school Glee club, the story of The Marvelettes may be twice as interesting. High School friends Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart and Georgia Dobbins were all members of Michigan’s Inkster High School Glee Club. It wasn’t long until the girls went from singing in the high school auditorium to the professional concert stage when they were signed in 1960 to Motown Records’ Tamla label while still in High School. At the time, just before signing, Wanda Young replaced Georgia Dobbins in the group. (Wanda Young would eventually be the last Marvelette standing towards the end of their career). Motown put the strength of the label behind them having Marvin Gaye and Smokey Robinson compose many of the songs the Marvelettes recorded. The exception was “Please Mr Postman,” which was written by an unknown songwriter named William Garrett who gave it to Georgia Dobbins to rewrite.
The Marvelettes recording career lasted from 1961 to 1970. The group released twelve albums which also included a live record and a few greatest hits packages. Their only album to break the Billboard Top 100 Pop albums charts was the The Marvelettes Greatest Hits released in 1966. Four of their albums did much better on the Billboard R&B charts breaking the top 100. The group released close to thirty singles during their ten year run. The Marvelettes had three top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and over half of their singles broke the Billboard Top 40. The group probably would have had even more success but they suffered under the shadows of The Supremes who Motown heavily supported and promoted.
# 10 – Twistin’ Postman
We open up our top 10 Marvelettes Songs list with one of the groups earliest singles. The song “Twistin’ Postman,” was the follow up single to the group’s number one record “Please Mr. Postman.” The song was also written as a sequel to the story of the young girl waiting for a letter from her boyfriend. In the sequel the letter is finally delivered. Chubby Checker’s Twisting craze was out of control at the time. Every rock artist was writing Twist based songs or at least titles.
# 9 – I’ll Keep Holding On
This great “Nowhere To Run To,” style song both in production and melody stands also as a great Marvelettes song. Despite it’s striking similarity to Martha and The Vandellas song which came out just a few months before in 1965 ,the Marvelettes had a top 40 hit with the song. Since they were both Motown acts, no one was suing anyone over copyright infringement if one thinks the songs were too similar.
# 8 – Too Hurt To Cry, Too Much In Love To Say Goodbye
The great song “Too Hurt to Cry, Too Much in Love to Say Goodbye” was released by the Marvelettes in 1963 as a non-album single. The song did not fare well on the charts as it failed to even break the Billboard Hot 100. Nonetheless, its a great song that stands as a favorite among fans of Motown Records and The Marvelettes. The song was written by the legendary songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland who were often credited simply as Holland–Dozier–Holland. The song was also recorded by The Supremes who did not have much of a hit with the song either.
# 7 – Forever
“Forever,” is one of those great songs that just hits that sentimental spot in your heart the first time you hear it. The song was released as the b-side to the single “Locking Up My Heart” in 1963. Both songs were released on the Marvelettes third album titled Playboy.
# 6 – Too Many Fish In The Sea
With the song’s great “You Can’t Hurry Love,” style beat, “Too Many Fish In The Sea,” was a big hit for the Marvelettes. The song was released in 1964 on the Marvelettes Greatest Hits album. Released as a single, “Too Many Fish In The Sea,” broke the Billboard Hot 100 top 40 peaking at number 24. The song was written by Norman Whitfield and Eddie Holland. Norman Whitfield would go on to write and produce so many of the great Temptations songs released on Motown Records
# 5 -Beechwood 4-5789
Remember when phone numbers started with words describing the locality of the home phone. So many songwriters used that to their advantage in the 50s, 60s and even early 70s using phone numbers as song titles. “Beechwood 4-5789,” was one of the Marvelettes most popular songs. The song was released on the great Playboy album. It was issued as the third single from the album. The song became a top 20 hit for the group peaking at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was written by Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson and George Gordy. The Carpenters recorded a version of the song in 1982.
# 4 – Playboy
“Playboy,” was the title track to the Marvelettes third album. The album was released in 1962. The song was written by Marvelettes lead singer Gladys Horton along with Brian Holland, Robert Bateman and Mickey Stevenson. The song was a very successful single for the Marvelettes as it brok the Billboard Top 10 pop charts peaking at number seven. It would become tied with Don’t Mess With Bill as the second most successful Marvelettes singe ever released.
# 3 -The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game
Smokey Robinson wrote a lot of hits for the Motown label. “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” was one of them, The great song was recorded by the Marvelettes in 1967. Motown released it as a single from the Marvelettes 1967 album titled Marvelettes. The song became a huge hit for the band as it broke the Billboard Hot 100 top 20 peaking at number 13. The song had even greater success on the Billboard R&B Charts where it went all the ways up to number 2.
# 2 – Don’t Mess With Bill
The great song “Don’t Mess With Bill,” stood as a great comeback song for The Marvelettes. The song’s sultry minor key chord progression and sinister grooving bass line captured audiences immediately. It was literately a chorus to die for in so many ways.
# 1 – “Please Mr. Postman
We close out our Top 10 Marvelettes songs list with the biggest hit of their career. “Please Mr.Postman,” was the Marvelettes only number one record. However, the legacy of the song grew even wider when The Beatles recorded it and released it on their second UK album titled With The Beatles. The Carpenters recorded a version of the song and had a number one hit with it in 1975. The song started out as a blues song written by local musician William Garrett. However Georgia took the song and rearranged it for the Marvelettes auction for Motown, Thge song then went thiorugh additional writing changes and more songwriters were given credit for the song. There has been disputes over the years as to who actually wrote the song. Nonetheless, the sings has been credit to as many as five songwriters including Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland and Robert Bateman.