RIP: Gladys Horton

Posted January 28, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

‘Marvelletes’ co-founder and lead singer dies at the age of 65

Before Motown Records found their starlet in Diana Ross, they had Mary Wells, Martha Reeves and Gladys Horton. Gladys Horton, co-founder of girl group The Marvelletes, passed away at the age of 65 on January 26, 2011 in a Sherman Oaks, Cali. nursing home due  to complications of several strokes.

At the upstart of the label, Motown signed the Marvelletes, their first girl group, in 1961. Because of Horton’s powerful lead vocals, Berry Gordy was impressed at their audition and released their first single, “Please Mr. Postman.” Coming right out the gate, the song was a major hit; climbing straight to No. 1 pop. Later on, Wanda Young joined the group later on to help out in lead support. Although the two shared leads on a number of the Marvelletes’ hits, Horton provided the leads to some of their most remembered cuts: “Playboy,” “Beechwood 4-5789” and “Too Many Fish In the Sea.” The hit soon dried out for the Marvelettes, as Motown fixed their attention on younger talent like the Temptations, Martha & the Vandellas and the Supremes. “Don’t Mess With Bill,” sung by Young, was the group’s big comeback. With Smokey Robinson being reacquainted as principal songwriter with the Marvelettes, he contributed “Don’t Mess With Bill” just in time for the group’s first “greatest hits” compilation. It went gold and reached No. 3 R&B and No. 7 pop. Several hits followed, including “The Hunter Gets Captured By the Game” and a remake of the Van McCoy tune, “When You’re Young and In Love.”

In 1967, Horton left the group to take care of her handicapped son and eventually moved to California to marry; leaving the future of the group in peril.

Horton had retired from the music world, but rebounded by forming a Marvelettes tribute group. She performed regularly until she suffered a stroke last year.

Katherine Schaffner, a close friend of Horton’s, proclaimed that she was always a fighter. “She fought a good fight, and I guess maybe last night she just gave up fighting.”

ABOVE CLIP: The Marvelettes, with Gladys Horton (lead), singing a medley of their hits circa 1963 at a Motortown Revue at the Apollo Theatre, New York.


Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes Dies at 66 –
Gladys Horton, Member of Motown’s Marvelettes, Has Died – NPR

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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