Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 18: Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas - “Dancing in the Street,” "Jimmy Mack,” “Heat Wave” - is 72-years-old today.

Martha Rose Reeves was born in Eufaula, Alabama, and grew up in Detroit, Michigan. Her family was very active in the Detroit's Metropolitan Church church and its choir.

In 1957 she first teamed up with Rosalind Ashford, Gloria Williams and Annette Beard in a group then known The Del-Phis. By 1961, the Del-Phis had changed their name to The Vels and recorded unsuccessful singles for Checker and Checkmate Records. They also provided backup vocals for Marvin Gaye's hit single, "Stubborn Kind of Fellow.”

After recording what was initially a demo for the late Mary Wells, Motown offered the group a recording contract. After Gloria Williams left the group, the group changed their name to Martha and the Vandellas. With her brassy and gospel-reared alto vocals, Martha and the Vandellas ascend from background singers to hits such as "Come and Get These Memories" and "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave.”

After "Heat Wave" became the group's first million-seller, Martha and the Vandellas quickly rose to become one of the label's top draw both as recording stars and as a successful live act. Martha was the one consistent member of the group staying throughout all the group's incarnations and lineups, including adding Martha’s youngest sister Lois Reeves.

Among the singles released that became signature hits for the group are "Quicksand,” "In My Lonely Room,” "Live Wire,” "Nowhere to Run,” "A Love Like Yours (Don't Come Knocking Everyday),” "I'm Ready for Love,” "Jimmy Mack,” "Honey Chile" and the group's most popular single, "Dancing in the Street.”

Despite their success, Martha and the Vandellas were overshadowed by The Supremes and the group's lead singer, Diana Ross. Many of the group's recordings remain in the vaults of Motown. Other issues—including that standard girl group struggles, a relentless recording and touring schedule and other matters led to a disbanding of the Vandellas in 1968. A new lineup soon reemerged, only to disband again in 1972 after issuing their Black Magic album.

In 1973, Martha planned to continue releasing solo work with Motown, but when the label moved from Detroit to Los Angeles, she ended her 12-year association with the label. Martha released her first solo album in 1974 for MCA. Featuring the singles, "Power of Love" and "Wild Night,” the album was a critically favored smash, though it failed to generate commercial success as did Reeves' subsequent follow-ups on other labels including Arista and Fantasy.

She released one album on Arista, working with Clive Davis, and two albums on the Fantasy label. In the early 1980s, she performed in a Broadway production of Ain't Misbehavin' and reunited with original members of the Vandellas in 1989 recording for the London-based Motorcity Records, issuing the single "Step into My Shoes" and also touring.

In 1995, Reeves and the Vandellas were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and were inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

Martha Reeves continues to perform and record.


For more about Martha, visit her Website at -


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