Styling their sound after barbershop quartets, The Elgins, originally named the Sensations and later the downbeats, was first comprised of Norman McLean, Johnny Dawson, Cleo “Duke” Miller, and guitarist Robert Fleming. After signing to Motown on the Tamla label in 1962, the group struggled to find their footing, but Berry Gordy was determined to see them succeed. In 1964, he suggested the group add a female vocalist and recommended Saundra Mallet Edwards.
Berry Gordy assigned the iconic trio Holland-Dozier-Holland to work with the group on their debut album, Darling Baby on the V.I.P. label. Prior to the release, Berry Gordy made one more change: he renamed them the Elgins. Their first single “Darling Baby” was released in 1965 ahead of the album’s release, and the group finally placed on the charts, with it topping out at #4 on the US R&B as well as #72 on the pop charts. Following the success, they released their next single “Heaven Must Have Sent You” that same year. It charted higher and faster with it reaching #9 on US pop charts and entering the top 50 of the US R&B. After their album’s release in 1966, they promoted one more single “Understand My Man” (1966). While it still entered the charts, it was significantly lower than the previous two.
The Elgins – Put Yourself In My Place
The Elgins – Heaven Must Have Sent You
By 1967, Saundra Mallett left The Elgins and was replaced by singer Yvonne Vernee Allen. Although songs were recorded during this time, they were not released. With the group’s popularity waning, the group decided to call it quits to focus on their families. However, come 1971 the group had newfound popularity in the UK with the re-release of their hit song “Heaven Must Have Sent You”. Capitalizing on the unexpected success, the group reformed and toured throughout Europe. Eventually, they would sign with another label and continue to tour and record new music.Spotify Discogs
The Elgins’ name change came days after their first single “Darling Baby” went into production. As a result, some records were sent to radio stations under the name ‘The Downbeats.’
Motown Junkies. n.d. Elgins. [online] Available at: <https://motownjunkies.co.uk/artists/e-f/elgins/>.
Goldberg, M., 2012. The 5 EMERALDS/DOWNBEATS/ENGINS. [online] Uncamarvy.com. Available at: <https://www.uncamarvy.com/5Emeralds/5emeralds.html> [Accessed 18 October 2022].
Rizik, C., 2018. R.I.P. Johnny Dawson of Motown’s The Elgins. [online] SoulTracks – Soul Music Biographies, News and Reviews. Available at: <https://www.soultracks.com/story-johnny-dawson-elgins-dies>.
Soulwalking.co.uk. n.d. The Elgins Page. [online] Available at: <http://www.soulwalking.co.uk/The%20Elgins.html>.