1966 Martha and the Vandellas – I’m Ready For Love
A manager hired lead singer Gloria Williams and backup singers Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard to perform in a six woman group he named The Del-Phis. The group performed at local events beginning in 1957. Two members left and were not replaced. When a third member left, she got replaced by a singer from The Fascinations, Martha Reeves. The group recorded a few singles that did not chart beginning in 1960.
Martha left the group and found work at Motown as a secretary. The group reunited as The Vets in 1961 and began singing background vocals for other Motown artists. They sang on Marvin Gaye’s first hit, Stubborn Kind of Fellow.
When Mary Wells failed to show up for a recording session, The Vets were used to record a demo. The demo was impressive enough to earn the group a contract at Motown. Gloria decided that a career in show business was too challenging and dropped out of the group, leaving them a trio that Berry Gordy named the Vandellas. When the group began recording, they became Martha and the Vandellas.
The group began charting in 1963 when the record Come And Get These Memories reached #29 on the Hot 100 and #6 on the R&B chart. They followed that with Heat Wave, which topped the R&B chart and peaked at #4 on the Hot 100.
Annette became pregnant and got married and left the group in 1964. She was replaced by Betty Kelley, who sang on most of the group’s hits.
The group had a total of a half-dozen top ten hits on the Hot 100. After a rough patch in late 1965 and early 1966, the group reached #9 on the Hot 100 with the single I’m Ready For Love, one of many tunes written and produced for them by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.
In 1967, Motown renamed several of their groups to more emphasize the lead singers. The Supremes became Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Miracles became Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, and Martha and the Vandellas became Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The group fired Betty that year after she missed a few shows and Martha’s sister Lois replaced her.
The name change may have jinxed the group. Their next single, Honey Chile, only reached #11 on the Hot 100, and they never again reached the top forty on the chart.
In 1974, Martha left Motown to pursue a solo career that was not successful.
Rosalind and Annette have toured with additional support as The Original Vandellas, while Martha began appearing with two of her sisters as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.
They inducted members of the group into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995: Martha, Rosalind, Annette, Betty, and Lois.
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