When it comes to the classic female vocalists from Motown's hit-making days, they all seem to get overshadowed by Diana Ross. But that in no way means they are less talented – not by a long shot. In fact, a good number of them were/are even better vocalists than Ms. Ross.

Mary Wells, Kim Weston, Tammi Terrell, Gladys Knight, Supreme members Mary Wilson & Florence Ballard, Brenda Holloway, and Gladys Horton & Wanda Rogers of The Marvelettes just to name a handful.

But there was one female vocalist that recorded for Motown that, in my opinion, beat Diana Ross when it came to vocals better than any other: Martha Reeves.

Martha and The Vandellas had a string of 24 chart singles from 1963-1974, including “Heat Wave”, “Nowhere To Run”, “Honey Chile”, “Jimmy Mack”, “I'm Ready For Love” and the Grammy Award-winning “Dancing In The Street”.

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Martha was born July 18, 1941, in Eufaula, Alabama; before she was even a year old, she and her parents moved to Detroit. She attended Russell Elementary School, was a cheerleader, and competed in school talent shows. After graduating from high school in 1959, she became part of a group named The Del-Phis. While performing at the Twenty Grand Club in Detroit, she caught the ear of Mickey Stevenson of Motown Records. When she showed up for an audition on the wrong day scheduled, an irked Stevenson made Martha his secretary.

Martha and the rest of the group were now called The Vels and recorded backing vocals for some of the other main Motown performers. One of these was one of Motown's drummers, who was given an audition and soon had his debut hit single “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow”. That drummer was Marvin Gaye.

As for the name 'Vandellas', it all depends what you want to believe. The legend says the name came from a mix of “Van Dyke Street” and “Della Reese”, while others claim the name was given to them by Berry Gordy. However, the legend may be true, as Martha herself says the name did indeed come from Van Dyke Street and Della Reese.

Martha & The Vandellas were pushed aside by Berry Gordy so he could make The Supremes the 'front-and-center' female Motown group, thanks to his sexual relationship with Diana Ross. Martha was screwed out of royalties for many years, but her dedication to her fans and love for music kept her persevering. In fact, you should read her bio, “Dancing In The Street: Confessions of a Motown Diva”, of which you can see a picture in the gallery below. You'll also see the house she lived in from 1967-1972, while the Vandellas were still a viable group, crankin' out records.

Awesome songs never get old.....and the music of Ms. Reeves proves it.

Motown's Martha Reeves

 

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