Paula Anderson, lead singer for the Marvelettes, took time out of her busy schedule to talk to this journalist about her upcoming show at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts as the opening act for Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Revue on Saturday, April 9 at 8:00 p.m.
The Marvelettes have a long history starting back in the 1960s in Detroit when Gladys Horton and Georgia Dobbins put together four singers in high school. Dobbins had to leave the group due to family issues early on but others such as Wanda Rogers, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanette Cowart and Katherine Anderson joined later as did others.
“Being in Detroit and around the home of music, just about everyone thought they wanted to be part of the music biz back then. I personally started in the group in 2000. I went to an audition. I went in thinking I knew it all. Once I got there, I thought this is Motown and to be a part of that is something special. So, I did what I needed to do. I went to several auditions and I finally got through the door and it’s been wonderful ever since.
“Motown was very particular about who carried on the Marvelettes’ name. As a Marvelette, the others and myself have made sure to keep the integrity of the music. I learned a lot from the lead singer at the time I started with the group. Thus, when she stepped down, I was able to step up and take her place. Motown is loved universally. It shaped music in a very big way” said Paula who is performing nightly with The Marvelettes in Las Vegas at the Rio’s Crown Theatre where they share the bill with The Platters and the Coasters in between going out on the road.
The Marvelettes made history as the very first girl group selected by Berry Gordy to sing for Motown. One can say the Marvelettes set the tone for the girl groups who followed like the Supremes and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The public snapped up over a million copies of the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” which became a big hit for them. The Marvelettes had an eight-year run on the Billboard Music charts. They scored 23 Billboard Hot 100 singles. Of these hits, three were top pop singles, nine were top R&B singles and their debut song was #1 on both charts.
Smokey Robinson wrote some of the Marvelettes’ hit songs. “Smokey Robinson wrote “Don’t Mess with Bill,” and “The Hunter Captured by the Game.” With Motown it was about being a family. Artists from the label worked with other artists. Marvin Gaye also worked with us. Many may not know that Marvin played the drums. He played drums on some of our songs. Oftentimes various Motown artists became part of each other’s projects” explained the Marvelettes lead singer.
“We have been abroad and it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to travel. We went to Austria, Canada and Mexico. Being part of the Marvelettes has afforded me that opportunity. I am fortunate that my husband is in the business so he understands. It makes it all the more wonderful to come home to him after traveling.
The current Marvelettes are Paula Anderson (lead) originally from Queens who has been with the group 11 years. California’s Sarah Melensum (spelling of names unconfirmed) has been with the Marvelettes for eight years and New Yorker Tanja Foster who has also been with the group eight years as well.
Other singers that sing with the Marvelettes are Deborah Sherman and Annette Bland McCoy. “We have a wonderful rapport together. When you are out on the road you look out for one another. We get out there and do our jobs while having fun at the same time” said Paula of her relationship with her fellow Marvelettes. “I love the music and the fact we are still out there performing this type of music. There is a big demand for it. We are always happy to see young people at our concerts that come out to hear our music with their parents and grandparents.”
The Marvelettes will be singing the song Beachwood 4-5789 (1962) for the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts audience. “You know some of the men in the audience have approached us and said they actually called the Beachwood number. I think some of these gentlemen expected us to answer. I can’t tell you where Beachwood 4-5789 will connect but it’s definitely a phone number,” chuckled Anderson.