Martha and the Vandellas (known from 1967 to 1972 as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas) were among the most successful groups of the Motown roster during the period 1963-1967. In contrast to other Motown groups such as The Supremes and The Marvelettes, Martha and the Vandellas were known for a harder, R&B sound, typified by "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave", "Nowhere to Run", "Jimmy Mack" and, their signature song, "Dancing in the Street".
During their nine-year run on the charts from 1963 to 1972, Martha and the Vandellas charted over twenty-six hits and recorded in the styles of doo-wop, R&B, pop, blues, rock and soul. Ten Vandellas songs reached the top ten of the Billboard R&B singles chart, including two R&B number ones. Twelve of the Vandellas' songs charted within the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, with six songs charting within the Top Ten including "Dancing in the Street," "Heat Wave," "Nowhere to Run" and "Jimmy Mack."
In 1961, the group, then known as The Vels, were recording background vocals for Motown acts. Prior to her success as lead singer of The Elgins, Sandra Edwards (then going by her surname Maulett) recorded the song "Camel Walk", in 1962, which featured the Vels in background vocals. That year, the quartet began applying background vocals for emerging Motown star Marvin Gaye, singing on Gaye's first hit single, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" After Mary Wells failed to make a scheduled recording session feigning a short illness, the Vels recorded what was initially a demo recording of "I'll Have to Let Him Go". Motown was so impressed by the group's vocals - and Martha's lead vocals in the song - that the label CEO Berry Gordy offered to give the group a contract. Figuring that being in show business was too rigorous, Williams opted out of the group. With Williams out, the remaining trio of Ashford, Beard and Reeves renamed themselves Martha and the Vandellas, choosing the name "Vandella" as a mixture of two things - Reeves lived in the Detroit street Van Dyke and Reeves' idol was Detroit singer Della Reese. The group signed with Motown on September 21, 1962.
Following their signing to Motown in 1962, Martha and the Vandellas struck gold with their second release, the first composition and production from the famed writing team, Holland--Dozier--Holland, titled "Come and Get These Memories". It became the Vandellas' first Top 40 recording, reaching number twenty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaking at number six on the R&B chart. Their second hit, "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave", became a phenomenal record for the group, reaching number four on the Hot 100 and hitting number one on the R&B singles chart for five weeks. It became their first million-seller and eventually won the group their only Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
The group's success continued with their second Top Ten single and third Top 40 single, "Quicksand", which was another composition with Holland-Dozier-Holland and reached number eight pop in the late fall of 1963. Around that time, Beard, who was pregnant with her first child and set to get married, chose to leave her singing career behind by 1964. Betty Kelly, formerly of The Velvelettes, was brought in shortly afterward to continue the Vandellas' rise.
The next two singles, "Live Wire" and "In My Lonely Room"(#6 R&B Cashbox) were less successful singles, failing to reach the Top 40. However, their next single, "Dancing in the Street", rose up to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also found global success, peaking at #21 on the UK Singles Chart in 1964. In 1969, "Dancing in the Street" was re-issued and it was plugged heavily on radio stations. It did not take long for the song to peak at #4 in the UK, thus making the song one of the all time favourite Motown single releases ever. The song became a million-seller, and one of the most played singles in history.
Between 1964 and 1967, singles like "Wild One" (US #34), "Nowhere to Run" (US #8; UK #26), "You've Been in Love Too Long" (US #36), "My Baby Loves Me" (US #22; R&B #3), "I'm Ready for Love" (US #9; R&B #2; UK #29) and "Jimmy Mack" (US #10; R&B #1; UK #21) kept the Vandellas on the map as one of the label's top acts. The Vandellas' popularity helped the group get spots on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Mike Douglas Show, American Bandstand and Shindig!. Throughout this period, the Vandellas had also become one of the label's most popular performing acts.
In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Martha and the Vandellas #96 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. ~SOURCE: Wikipedia
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