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  1. #1

    Mary Wells - post My Guy at motown

    Been reading more about Miss Wells and the period during which she left motown.

    Of course we all know My Guy was a massive hit and then the subsequent drama of her departure.

    had she stayed, some sources cite Whisper You Love Me as the follow up. but that was HDH. and the tradition at motown was the hit producer got the next single. So that probably would have been When I'm Gone.

    And her sexy smokey vocals are somewhat in the vein of Diana on Where Did Our Love Go

    so had Mary stayed, what do you think she would have done? Would most of the Brenda Holloway work gone her way? would HDH have struck gold with her and Whisper? would HDH have been split then between the sups and mary?

  2. #2
    HDH had a sure fire hit recorded on Mary Wells the song One Block From Heaven.It is included on the Vintage Stock album. Im surprised HDH never recorded it with The Supremes.It would have made a great album cut or B side
    Last edited by Zantellor; 12-04-2018 at 11:30 PM.

  3. #3
    Good thread that makes good conversation.

    To clear up what you touched on with the follow up to "My Guy","When I'm Gone" was the sure fire follow up and "Whisper You Love Me Boy" was to follow that. Both the tracks and vocals to "Whisper" were recorded in the same two day period as "My Guy": March 2nd & 3rd 1964. As for the proven producer getting the singles:that was in effect as long as what other producers brought in to challenge it fell below it in quality. If someone else's song was stronger than yours they could very well come out on top,seldom did that happen though.

    To answer your question directly, Mary would have gone on to have major success. It would've been very interesting to hear Smokey keep her in tune with the times. Furthermore, listening to her sing on a Motown record with the sound at it's peak in 1966 is also great to consider. Berry Gordy's plan was to fill the vacant slot with Brenda Holloway, but due to politics and a lack of "cooperation" it didn't happen. Not spending more time in Detroit hurt Brenda in my opinion.

    "Whisper" is a good tune, but I think Smokey would've come up with a catchier song in the same vein and got it taken off the release schedule. The Supremes probably wouldn't have gotten the promotion, Mary's leaving moved them up the line a bit. In fact, Motown had to beg Dick Clark to allow them to join his tour which gave "Where Did Our Love Go" room to breathe.

    All in all, Mary shouldn't have left Motown. Hiring a lawyer to negotiate a contract with much better terms after her 21st birthday was the way to go. She was too emotional and Herman Griffin didn't make anything better. He got her more money than she knew what to do with at the time only for her career to stall. In addition to that she signed damn near everything away to leave so her decision was costly in the grand scheme.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    Been reading more about Miss Wells and the period during which she left motown.

    Of course we all know My Guy was a massive hit and then the subsequent drama of her departure.

    had she stayed, some sources cite Whisper You Love Me as the follow up. but that was HDH. and the tradition at motown was the hit producer got the next single. So that probably would have been When I'm Gone.

    And her sexy smokey vocals are somewhat in the vein of Diana on Where Did Our Love Go

    so had Mary stayed, what do you think she would have done? Would most of the Brenda Holloway work gone her way? would HDH have struck gold with her and Whisper? would HDH have been split then between the sups and mary?
    Good question Sup Fan. I'm pretty sure that "When I'm Gone" would've been the follow up to Mary Wells' "My Guy" had she stayed at Motown. Also think that "He's The One I Love" & "Whisper You Love Me Boy" had major hit potential. And I believe Mary would've recorded Kim Weston's "Looking For The Right Guy" for either a single or an LP track.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    would HDH have been split then between the sups and mary?
    I feel that Mary Wells would've done more work with Smokey Robinson (with the occasional song with H-D-H and other Motown writer/producers). Anyway, Mary truly could've taken her one of the A-listers at Motown during their peak years in the '60s (just imagine having both The Supremes and Mary Wells churning out hits at Motown).

  6. #6
    That´s a very interesting thread. IMHO a Brenda Holloway has not the charisma of Mary Wells, she was a star. It´s an intersting question, if she stayed, she would have been a great Motown Superstar ? When we compare it to all the other Motown Artist, they were in the shadow of The Supremes, Marvin Gaye too. Maybe when Mary remained at Motown, so Smokey worked with her, not with the Marvelettes. So "Don´t mess with Bill" or "The hunter" would be perfect songs for her on the other hand, when we see, that she did HDH songs "WYLMB", "YLTWB", "HB" or "OBFH", then it´s the question, if The Supremes had a chance to become Superstars ? How it would be sounds, Mary Wells sings "Where did our love go"? IMHO her voice was made for Smokey songs !

  7. #7
    it seems many, many years ago I saw a Motown release schedule "When I'm Gone" backed by "Whisper You Love Me, Boy" was to be Marys next release. As you know she had a few double sided hits already with the major one being "You Lost The Sweetest Boy"# 22 Hot 100 backed by "Whats Easy For Two"#29 Hot 100 & both being Top Ten on the Soul Charts. Her duet with Marvin Gaye was a double sided hit as well. Before those "operator" as the flip of "Two Lovers" had gotten quite a bit of airplay and "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right" even made the Hot 100.Motown had MAJOR plans for Mary. She was well liked by many of the big movers & shakers in the industry, like Dick Clark.She listened to and was influenced by the wrong people, mainly Herman Griffen & Robert West.

  8. #8
    interesting idea about her taking those mid-60s Marvelettes songs. hadn't thought of that but the sound and style of "sophisticated soul" would have worked perfectly with Mary.

    She also had big support from the Beatles. so had she stayed and had more hits with Motown (a label the beatles greatly admired) it's easy to think that she would have continued to occasionally tour and appear with them.

    what was she like live? i've seen a few minor clips (like the motown at apollo). do you think she would have been able to do Vegas and Copa? I adore her unreleased MOR tracks and the Second Time Around material. she certainly had a great voice for that, even though she wasn't the most powerful singer or one with the largest range.

    And i wonder how she would have done on more "traditional motown sound" songs like what HDH really became known for. more upbeat and harder driving material

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    it seems many, many years ago I saw a Motown release schedule "When I'm Gone" backed by "Whisper You Love Me, Boy" was to be Marys next release. As you know she had a few double sided hits already with the major one being "You Lost The Sweetest Boy"# 22 Hot 100 backed by "Whats Easy For Two"#29 Hot 100 & both being Top Ten on the Soul Charts. Her duet with Marvin Gaye was a double sided hit as well. Before those "operator" as the flip of "Two Lovers" had gotten quite a bit of airplay and "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right" even made the Hot 100.Motown had MAJOR plans for Mary. She was well liked by many of the big movers & shakers in the industry, like Dick Clark.She listened to and was influenced by the wrong people, mainly Herman Griffen & Robert West.
    Both "When I'm Gone" & "Whisper You Love Me Boy" were included on TCMS-1964 and both were scheduled to be released (with "Guarantee For A Lifetime" & "I'll Be Available" as the respective B-Sides of each single). And yes, Mary Wells career was derailed by listening to the wrong people.

  10. #10
    Mary would have had some themed albums of course. "Mary Wells Sings Jazz" (Ella, Dinah etc), "Mary Wells Sings Songs From The Movies" or "Sings The Standards" maybe. Then there would have had to be another album with Marvin Gaye. I can hear her singing Tammi's "I Can't Believe You Love Me" too. Wonder if her "Recorded Live" album will ever see a CD release?

  11. #11
    but did she have the presence and personality to have been the start of a TCB or on the Bob Hope special or featured on Rodgers & Hart Today?

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by sup_fan View Post
    And i wonder how she would have done on more "traditional motown sound" songs like what HDH really became known for. more upbeat and harder driving material
    Think You Lost the Sweetest Boy. She took that HDH material to church and back to the revival. Mary Wells would have handled this material like a pro. The HDH material on Vintage Stock was good to great filler material, but would not have been mega hits.

    Somehow, I think she may have remained hitched to Smokey Robinson with only occasional HDH produced material. Brenda Holloway probably would have been even more of an artist in the shadows, not getting the material she inherited after Mary left.

    I don't envision that there would have been two queens in the hive had Mary remained a hit maker. The Supremes emerged just as she left Motown, on a different path that would have eventually rivaled Mary Wells. Diana Ross' personality and drive would eventually have surpassed Mary's talent. Just a couple of opinions based mostly in conjecture.

  13. #13
    Great post,but my question is..would the great but underrated[dear lover]have reached mary if she had stayed,because with the motown machine behind her that little gem would've blown up,anyone else with an opinion on this?

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    Great post,but my question is..would the great but underrated[dear lover]have reached mary if she had stayed,because with the motown machine behind her that little gem would've blown up,anyone else with an opinion on this?
    If Mary Wells had stayed with Motown, I'm sure that all of her hits would've been done by the in-house writer/producers at the label. I could easily see "Dear Lover" being recorded and having great potential on the 'R&B charts' by Barbara Acklin instead of Mary (since Barbara's best known hit singles were written & produced by Carl Davis who co-wrote "Dear Lover").
    Last edited by Motown Eddie; 12-08-2018 at 03:07 PM.

  15. #15
    Thanks motown eddie,now i'm wondering is there a version with barbara singing it?

  16. Quote Originally Posted by Motown Eddie View Post
    If Mary Wells had stayed with Motown, I'm sure that all of her hits would've been done by the in-house writer/producers at the label. I could easily see "Dear Lover" being recorded and having great potential on the 'R&B charts' by Barbara Acklin instead of Mary (since Barbara's best known hit singles were written & produced by Carl Davis who co-wrote "Dear Lover").
    And really, the reason for "Dear Lover' was to recapture and duplicate that Motown feeling and sound. Had Mary remained at Motown, she would have had "The Real Thing" in terms of songs supplied by Motown writers. The only time a Motown artist recorded a non-Motown song was when a Motown producer wanted to do a cover of another artist's hit.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by waitingwatchinglookingforachance View Post
    and really, the reason for "dear lover' was to recapture and duplicate that motown feeling and sound. Had mary remained at motown, she would have had "the real thing" in terms of songs supplied by motown writers. The only time a motown artist recorded a non-motown song was when a motown producer wanted to do a cover of another artist's hit.
    i hear you,but don't sleep on[dear lover]because it's as good as anything she did at motown to my ears.

  18. #18
    Very true arr&bee!

  19. Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    i hear you,but don't sleep on[dear lover]because it's as good as anything she did at motown to my ears.
    Exactly. It was one of her best post-Motown recordings and one of the times where they nailed that Motown Sound as close as possible. I wasn't downgrading the song, but commenting on the fact that the song was recorded by Mary precisely because it was that good. There was an urgent need to get a hit and the feeling was the only way to do so was to create that Motown feeling. "Dear Lover" accomplished what many of her other post-Motown songs didn't.

    Had Mary been at Motown, my thought was Mary would have already had a ton of possible hits at her disposal by Motown's in-house writers already. I don't recall any other time when someone outside of Motown ever approached the company with a song for one of their hit artists, so as great a song as "Dear Lover" is, would the writers have said, "Hey, let's take this to Motown to have Mary Wells record it" knowing Motown was pretty exclusive about publishing and ownership of their songs?

    Might be digging myself into a bigger hole here, so switching gears, another song I wish that had been released was "Love Letters." That one had a fantastic Motown flavor as well. I think the lyrics could have been tweaked a bit, but that song, I always hit REPEAT several times when I play it.

  20. #20
    Are the Andantes backing Mary on her Atco recordings? Sure sounds like them especially on “Dear Lover" and “Love Letters."

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    And really, the reason for "Dear Lover' was to recapture and duplicate that Motown feeling and sound. Had Mary remained at Motown, she would have had "The Real Thing" in terms of songs supplied by Motown writers. The only time a Motown artist recorded a non-Motown song was when a Motown producer wanted to do a cover of another artist's hit.
    One thing about the Chicago Soul Sound of the mid '60s is that there were a lot of songs from that era that had a strong Motown influence (think classics like "Rescue Me", "Whispers" & "Higher And Higher" for instance). And we can include Mary Wells' "Dear Lover" in that list as well.

  22. #22
    yes, Andantes & other Motown session people are on "Dear Lover" , I'm not sure about "Love Letters" .Carl Davis & Sonny Sanders had them flown in & out real quick. I love "Whispers(Getting Louder) by Jackie. You know "Selfish One" by Jackie Ross was actually written for Mary but it was never personally presented to her. I was with Mary at a club in Miami & one of the writers came to see her (McKinley) and told her. But as Mary said Jackie did a great job on that song.

  23. #23
    I'll never forgive Herman Griffin...

  24. #24
    [QUOTE=motony;493565]You know "Selfish One" by Jackie Ross was actually written for Mary but it was never personally presented to her.

    One the greatest “non-Motown” Motown recordings!

  25. #25
    [QUOTE=motony;493565]yes, Andantes & other Motown session people are on "Dear Lover" , I'm not sure about "Love Letters." Carl Davis & Sonny Sanders had them flown in & out real quick.

    Thanks for answering motony; I’ve wondered about that for a long time!

  26. #26
    [QUOTE=mowest;493675]
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    You know "Selfish One" by Jackie Ross was actually written for Mary but it was never personally presented to her.

    One the greatest “non-Motown” Motown recordings!
    Mary was in a slump at 20th Century-Fox by that time. Had she recorded the song, even with benefit of Hitsville moonlighters, it would probably have fared no better than her other 20th Century sides. The intro was clearly a nod to "My Guy," which started out with that riff from “Canadian Sunset," while "Selfish One” started out with a few bars of “Tenderly.” It would have been too formulaic for Mary to record, I think. Jackie Ross did a wonderful job with it. Then Mary went to Atco, and they did the same thing with “Dear Lover,” which starts out with a few bars of “Hello, Young Lovers.”

  27. #27
    Does anyone know who provided the backing vocals on Mary’s 20th Century output? Thanks.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    Does anyone know who provided the backing vocals on Mary’s 20th Century output? Thanks.
    Some of it is Cissy Houston and her girls, like on STOP TAKING ME FOR GRANTED and AIN'T IT THE TRUTH.

  29. #29
    Thanks, reese. 20th Century had good intentions with Mary, I’d say.

  30. #30
    they might have had good intentions, but they did not know the record business at that time.(20th Century).

  31. Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    they might have had good intentions, but they did not know the record business at that time.(20th Century).
    Promise her anything but give her...not all that much. (to paraphrase an old ad slogan)

  32. #32
    If Mary was set on leaving Motown, hindsight being 20/20, she might have been better off going to Atlantic instead of 20th Century Fox. I read that they had made some overtures to Mary in 1964 as well.

    Atlantic had plenty of experience breaking records in both the r&b and pop markets, something I don't think 20th Century Fox had done much of. By the time she did sign with Atlantic in 1966, it might have been too late, although she did get a big hit out of the gate with DEAR LOVER.

  33. #33
    Atlantic/Atco signed Mary at just about the same time that they signed Aretha, and most of their PR energies ended up going to Ree. Some years later, Jerry Wexler even said, "We couldn't do nothing with her," which gives you an idea of how he viewed her and where his priorities were. All very sad.

  34. #34
    I agree with reese in the statement that Mary would have been better off going with Atlantic when she first left...Atlantic & 20th were offering the same money but Morty Craft threw it out there VERBALLY to Herman, Robert West & Mary .,that he could get her in movies, that's why they signed with 20th. Then Atlantic got her for a much lower signing fee in late '65.

  35. Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    I agree with reese in the statement that Mary would have been better off going with Atlantic when she first left...Atlantic & 20th were offering the same money but Morty Craft threw it out there VERBALLY to Herman, Robert West & Mary .,that he could get her in movies, that's why they signed with 20th. Then Atlantic got her for a much lower signing fee in late '65.
    Just got home and saw you already made the point that was the crucial selling line for Mary- "MOVIES" Morty Craft was making promises, any promise to get Mary to sign with 20th.

    From Mary's point of view, and to read her rationale for leaving Motown for 20th, I can see why she would have made the move. I didn't realize that she really did put a lot of thought into her move and used a fairly analytical approach. As Reese said, hindsight is always 20/20 and even Mary realized that. Still, from a purely business point of view she felt justified and I'm not sure how many others would have made any other decision. Everyone keeps forgetting that Motown hadn't yet reached its epic proportions as a label, so who wouldn't go somewhere where the money was promised to be bigger?

  36. #36
    oh Mary did get big money from 20th, one of the biggest record deals of its day, but that money went real quick...she had too many people on the payroll and too many people to take care of.Remember she was only 21 and I know what my wants were at 21 & they sure outweighed the need .

  37. #37
    Motown may have "just started to build up" but 20th Century Fox had just got off the ground the year before Mary signed. They were 20th Fox Records before '63 (formed in 1958) but not with much success. So Mary was in a no-win situation either way!

  38. #38
    I'm sure that mary came to regret her choice down the road,but who amoung us would've had the wisdom to say no at twenty one?

  39. Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    I'm sure that mary came to regret her choice down the road,but who amoung us would've had the wisdom to say no at twenty one?
    Exactly. According to Peter Benjamin's book, Mary gave it deep thought and her decision made sense to her from a purely financial standpoint. Think about the others who left Motown in later years AFTER Motown had become a juggernaut. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't. Had Mary been older, maybe she would have made a different choice. Then again, if someone is waving dollars and movie offers in front of your eyes, you could be 50 and still make the same choice.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    I'm sure that mary came to regret her choice down the road,but who amoung us would've had the wisdom to say no at twenty one?
    I know she had. It's just sad...

  41. #41
    Quote Originally Posted by mowest View Post
    Does anyone know who provided the backing vocals on Mary’s 20th Century output? Thanks.
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    Mary's earliest 20th Century Fox recordings were produced by Robert Bateman and Andere Williams in Detroit (I believe recorded at United Sound), as well as some of the tracks (and her vocals) recorded in New York. In Detroit, The Andantes were probably NOT used, despite most of the musicians being Motown musicians (Funk Brothers + other part-time Motowners). I would guess the might have used the popular Detroit backups used by Golden World and Solid Hitbound producers (Winston Sisters, Pat and Diane Lewis, Joyce Vincent). In New York, the producers likely used The most prolific NY backups like Cissy Houston, Margie Hendrix, The Cookies, The Warwick Sisters.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-23-2018 at 07:41 PM.

  42. #42
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Mary's earliest 20th Century Fox recordings were produced by Robert Bateman and Andere Williams in Detroit (I believe recorded at United Sound), as well as some of the tracks (and her vocals) recorded in New York. In Detroit, The Andantes were probably NOT used, despite most of the musicians being Motown musicians (Funk Brothers + other part-time Motowners). I would guess the might have used the popular Detroit backups used by Golden World and Solid Hitbound producers (Winston Sisters, Pat and Diane Lewis, Joyce Vincent). In New York, the producers likely used The most prolific NY backups like Cissy Houston, Margie Hendrix, The Cookies, The Warwick Sisters.
    Thank you, robb_k.

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance View Post
    There was an urgent need to get Mary a hit, and the feeling was the only way to do so was to create that Motown feeling. "Dear Lover" accomplished what many of her other post-Motown songs didn't.

    Had Mary been at Motown, my thought was Mary would have already had a ton of possible hits at her disposal by Motown's in-house writers already. I don't recall any other time when someone outside of Motown ever approached the company with a song for one of their hit artists, so as great a song as "Dear Lover" is, would the writers have said, "Hey, let's take this to Motown to have Mary Wells record it" knowing Motown was pretty exclusive about publishing and ownership of their songs?
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    Many people forget that Barrett Strong was working in Chicago with Carl Davis at Okeh, Constellation, and ATCO Records, on songwriting and assisting in production. It was he and ex-Motowner, Sonny Sanders, who helped add Motownish elements into The Chicago Sound, especially used with Mary Wells and The Artistics' early, Okeh material (such as the super-Motownish "This Heart of Mine", "So Much Love in My Heart", "I'll Come Running", and "Loveland". Strong wrote several of Mary's ATCO songs, and was involved in the production of "Dear Lover".
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-24-2018 at 03:15 PM.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    I agree with Reese in the statement that Mary would have been better off going with Atlantic when she first left...Atlantic & 20th were offering the same money but Morty Craft threw it out there VERBALLY to Herman, Robert West & Mary .,that he could get her in movies, that's why they signed with 20th. Then Atlantic got her for a much lower signing fee in late '65.
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    Mary would probably have done somewhat better going directly to Atlantic, who not only had the infrastructure in place to market R&B/Soul artists' records, but had a large contingent of Detroit producers under their distribution umbrella, from which to choose to handle production of Mary's recordings. Even Robert West, himself, was producing his Falcons for them for released on Atlantic's flagship label (Atlantic Records). Also, Mary's ex-husband/self-appointed advisor, Herman Griffin was producing for Atlantic distribution of his Hit/Hit Productions labels (Himself, The Moments, Ruby Yates). And, In addition, Wilbur Golden's Correc-Tone/SonBert Records and their recording studio, and producers, Robert Bateman, Popcorn Wylie, Herman Griffin, and arranger Sonny Sanders were available. Also, Atlantic distributed Ollie McLaughlin's Karen, Carla and Moira labels, as well as issuing McLaughlin's Barbara Lewis and Deon Jackson on Atlantic.

    Wexler could have farmed out Mary to any of those Detroit producers. They could have ended up using Robert Bateman and Andre Williams, as they did with 20th Century Fox, or they might have used Robert West, or Ollie McLaughlin, or even gone to Carl Davis, Barrett Strong, and Sonny Sanders in Chicago, as they did when she came to ATCO. Had she gone to Popcorn Wylie at Correc-Tone, her material and recording may have sounded more "Motownish", and had a higher quality. But the distributors wanting to keep a good relationship with Berry Gordy/Motown would still likely have hurt sales of her records, and resulted in a similar situation to what really happened.
    Last edited by robb_k; 12-24-2018 at 11:11 PM.

  45. Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
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    Many people forget that Barrett Strong was working in Chicago with Carl Davis at Okeh, Constellation, and ATCO Records, on songwriting and assisting in production. It was he and ex-Motowner, Sonny Sanders, who helped add Motownish elements into The Chicago Sound, especially used with Mary Wells and The Artistics' early, Okeh material (such as the super-Motownish "This Heart of Mine", "So Much Love in My Heart", "I'll Come Running", and "Loveland". Strong wrote several of Mary's ATCO songs, and was involved in the production of "Dear Lover".
    Strong and Davis did excellent work with their productions. It always fascinates me that the appeal of what Motown was doing was so strong, even Chicago was trying to fit into that Detroit vibe. Seems for a hot minute, there was a great Chicago Sound, but it couldn't get enough traction to hit as big or as consistently on the charts as Motown. Then I realize it all goes back to how far sighted Berry was in developing the careers and images of his artists as opposed to just getting hits.

  46. #46
    Quote Originally Posted by robb_k View Post
    ...as well as issuing McLaughlin's Barbara Lewis and Deon Jackson on Atlantic.
    Mary's and Barbara's styles were similar. Both had that "flutey" timbre. I could easily envision Mary singing "Baby I'm Yours" or "Make Me Your Baby," although Barbara did them perfectly of course. Too bad McLaughlin didn't get a chance with her. It might have been a good pairing.

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