As the earliest Motown girl group to achieve stardom, The Marvelettes gave the company its first #1 hit on the pop charts with “Please Mr. Postman” in 1961. The Marvelettes set Motown up for success and charted a glamorous course for groups such as the Supremes and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas to follow.
In 1961, Inkster High School students Katherine Anderson, Juanita Cowart, Georgia Dobbins, Gladys Horton, and Georgeanna Tillman, then known as the Casinyets, entered a talent competition that earned the top three acts an audition with Motown. Although the Casinyets placed fourth, one of their teachers persuaded Motown executives to hear their audition, too. Motown agreed to sign the group if they could bring an original song to record. Georgia Dobbins wrote an early version of “Please Mr. Postman,” which Motown songwriters Brian Holland, Robert Bateman, and Freddie Gorman polished. Berry Gordy renamed the girl group The Marvelettes and signed them to the Tamla label, with Wanda Young replacing Dobbins.
Released in August 1961, The Marvelettes’ first single “Please Mr. Postman” quickly climbed the pop charts, reaching #1 in December. Although they hadn’t yet graduated high school, the teenage singers were stars. A string of hit singles followed, including “Twistin’ Postman,” “Playboy,” “Beechwood 4-5789,” and “Too Many Fish In The Sea” all of which reached at least #35 on the Pop charts and #15 on the R&B charts.
Ill health reduced the group’s numbers and changed its key personnel over the years, including the departures of Juanita Cowart, Georgeanna Tillman, and Gladys Horton, and the addition of Ann Bogan. However, The Marvelettes continued to produce hits for Motown well into the 1960s, reaching the charts multiple times with singles such as “Don’t Mess With Bill,” “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game,” and “My Baby Must Be A Magician.”
In 2017, Billboard ranked “Please Mr. Postman” #22 on its list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. In 2004, The Marvelettes were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and in 2013, The Marvelettes were inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame.
The Marvelettes perform a medley of hits at the Apollo Theater during the 1963 Motortown Revue.
The Marvelettes sing “Don’t Mess With Bill” live on Hullabaloo, 1965.
All of the Members of The Marvelettes
- Gladys Horton
- Katherine Anderson
- Georgeanna Tillman
- Juanita Cowart
- Wanda Rogers
- Ann Bogan
Temptation Melvin Franklin provided the basso profundo vocal for the introduction to The Marvelettes’ 1967 hit, “My Baby Must Be a Magician.”