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  1. #1

    The Life and Sad Ending of Mary Wells


  2. #2
    Thanks for posting this video presentation. There were numerous pictures that I had never seen before as I am sure others have not either.

    One glaring omission was the fact that he failed to mention the book on Mary Wells that was authored by the esteemed Peter Benjaminson. I heartily recommend anyone who wants more precise and specific details on her life to purchase his book. It is worth it's weight in gold.

  3. #3
    Thanks for sharing. She is one of those few artist I wonder what would have happened had she stayed with Motown. Like would the song "Don't Mess With Bill" have been given to her. Did she ever regret leaving Motown?

  4. #4
    As I understand it, Mary did express regret over jumping ship. She was pressured by husband Herman and others when Morty Craft, who was at 20th Century-Fox Music at the time, dangled a carrot she couldn’t resist, offering her $250,000 up front (this would translate to around $2 million today) and on top of that he gave her the impression that a film contract would be forthcoming as well. She wasn’t making anywhere near that kind of money at Motown and the offer seemed too good to be true, which it was. I can’t think of many folks who would turn their noses up at something like that. The movie contract never materialized (probably because Craft had no intention of following through on that one to begin with). She was only 21 and had stars in her eyes. Although her 20th Century recordings were quite good, they didn’t have the distinctive Motown sound despite the involvement of a number of Motown folks like Robert Bateman. Still, the recordings were good, but deejays viewed her as being disloyal and were reluctant to play her records. Much has been said and written about the possibility of Gordy strong-arming folks in the industry not to play or promote her post-Motown records, but that’s mostly been debunked. It just was a bad decision on her part and she struggled for the rest of her life because of it.

  5. #5

    At her peak with Motown

    This has got to be one of the worst decisions in music history, she had just came out with My Guy the year before. She really was the first lady of Motown and that is one thing we did not have on Motown were individual female artists. I am quite sure that with Smokey writing for her she would have had a few more top 10 hits in the 60's.

  6. #6
    Even after she defected, Motown had some great tracks on her which, in my opinion, could have been big hits with the proper post-production, but which Motown clapped together as-is for the Vintage Stock album.
    Perhaps there was some stipulation in her severance package which prohibited Motown from doing that, or perhaps Gordy was just finished with her and said to hell with it. Tracks like “Honey Boy” (covered by The Supremes), “One Block from Heaven,” “Everybody Needs Love” (covered by Gladys & Pips), “When I’m Gone,” and “I’ll Be Available” (covered by Brenda), all could have been great with the proper care given in post-production.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by BigAl View Post
    As I understand it, Mary did express regret over jumping ship. She was pressured by husband Herman and others when Morty Craft, who was at 20th Century-Fox Music at the time, dangled a carrot she couldn’t resist, offering her $250,000 up front (this would translate to around $2 million today) and on top of that he gave her the impression that a film contract would be forthcoming as well. She wasn’t making anywhere near that kind of money at Motown and the offer seemed too good to be true, which it was. I can’t think of many folks who would turn their noses up at something like that. The movie contract never materialized (probably because Craft had no intention of following through on that one to begin with). She was only 21 and had stars in her eyes. Although her 20th Century recordings were quite good, they didn’t have the distinctive Motown sound despite the involvement of a number of Motown folks like Robert Bateman. Still, the recordings were good, but deejays viewed her as being disloyal and were reluctant to play her records. Much has been said and written about the possibility of Gordy strong-arming folks in the industry not to play or promote her post-Motown records, but that’s mostly been debunked. It just was a bad decision on her part and she struggled for the rest of her life because of it.
    Thanks for information. Greatly appreciate it. I understand a bit better why she decided to get out of her contract. I will check out those Motown songs you mentioned. Which 20th Century songs would you recommend?

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Luciano View Post
    Which 20th Century songs would you recommend?
    Almost all of her 20th Century sides are good, even if they lack the Motown magic.
    My favorites from that period are:
    Ain’t It the Truth
    He’s a Lover
    Everlovin' Boy
    Why Don’t You Let Yourself Go
    Never, Never Leave Me
    Use Your Head
    Time After Time
    Gordy maintained that, had she recorded “Never, Never Leave Me” for Motown, he could have made it a hit.
    Last edited by BigAl; 02-07-2021 at 06:33 PM.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by BigAl View Post
    Almost all of her 20th Century sides are good, even if they lack the Motown magic.
    My favorites from that period are:
    Ain’t It the Truth
    He’s a Lover
    Everlovin' Boy
    Why Don’t You Let Yourself Go
    Never, Never Leave Me
    Use Your Head
    Time After Time
    Gordy maintained that, had she recorded “Never, Never Leave Me” for Motown, he could have made it a hit.
    I’d add “Stop Takin’ Me For Granted” which was the B-side of “Ain’t It The Truth” Mary’s first single on 20th. Both sides made the Hot 100 but, unfortunately, did not go too far up the chart. Also take a listen to “Me Without You” which is very reminiscent of the Motown sound and with some improvement to the lyrics could have made it big.
    Last edited by mowest; 02-07-2021 at 06:49 PM.

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  13. #13
    It seems like Motown had a disproportionate number of artists who died from cancer.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by BigAl View Post
    Even after she defected, Motown had some great tracks on her which, in my opinion, could have been big hits with the proper post-production, but which Motown clapped together as-is for the Vintage Stock album.
    Perhaps there was some stipulation in her severance package which prohibited Motown from doing that, or perhaps Gordy was just finished with her and said to hell with it. Tracks like “Honey Boy” (covered by The Supremes), “One Block from Heaven,” “Everybody Needs Love” (covered by Gladys & Pips), “When I’m Gone,” and “I’ll Be Available” (covered by Brenda), all could have been great with the proper care given in post-production.
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    And don't forget that her already-recorded "Operator" would have made the hit, before Brenda got it. And if Mary had stayed, Brenda probably wouldn't have gotten it for an "A" side. She probably would have gotten a few of Smokey's songs written for Carolyn Crawford, Kim Weston, and The Marvelettes. And She probably would have gotten at least a couple gems from Stevenson and Hunter.

  15. #15
    Thank you BigAl, Mowest and Reese! I will take a listen to these songs.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by NativeNuYorker View Post
    It seems like Motown had a disproportionate number of artists who died from cancer.
    Lots of heavy smokers... Also, increased awareness of prostate cancer and lack of early detection...

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    This has got to be one of the worst decisions in music history, she had just came out with My Guy the year before. She really was the first lady of Motown and that is one thing we did not have on Motown were individual female artists. I am quite sure that with Smokey writing for her she would have had a few more top 10 hits in the 60's.
    Date wise didn't Mary disavow her Motown contract when she turned 21 around May 13, 1964? Almost two months after the release of My Guy. This begs the question of what how much was earning from Motown during those years between records sales and concerts? How much was Motown paying their #1 star when she left?

  18. #18
    Legend has it that her next motown song would've been the cool[whisper you love me],her best post motown song was the classic[dear lover].

  19. #19
    "My Guy" was released in March 1964 & ofcourse became a Number 1 record, shortly after Motown released the 2 sided hit 45 duet with Marvin Gaye.However, Motown kept her tied up in court & legally until Sept. 64 when the corts finally gave 20th Century Fox the green light to release her records, so "Ain't it the Truth" came out Oct. '64....thats along time to be off the charts & airwaves with a new record. Mr. Gordy himself, had nothing to do with Mary not having major success after Motown , but the business itself sure did.

  20. #20
    Motown was smart business wise in NOT releasing any records by her after she left as they would have been hits. Motown wanted to send a clear message to their other artists not to leave.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by arr&bee View Post
    Legend has it that her next motown song would've been the cool[whisper you love me],her best post motown song was the classic[dear lover].
    My favorite post Motown work is definitely Mary's "Serving up Some Soul" lp and even more so the Sequel CD compilation - The Complete Jubillee Sessions" vastly under-rated recordings (my $.02)

  22. #22
    Yes, all Marys' Jubilee Records were GREAT as she & her then husband Cecil Womack wrote & produced "Servin Up Some Soul" and the "Come Together" LP.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    Yes, all Marys' Jubilee Records were GREAT as she & her then husband Cecil Womack wrote & produced "Servin Up Some Soul" and the "Come Together" LP.
    I agree. The CD that combines these two albums, the latter of which was unreleased until the CD came out, are well worth listening to and are a side of Mary that Motown never tapped, more soulful, more bluesy, and the choice of material is very interesting. Some of the arrangements seemed rather sparse, almost unfinished in nature, but Maryís voice is in good shape and she seems to have a real affinity for the material.

    I think the only recordings that havenít been released in full are her Atco recordings. A CD came out on the Ichiban label but for whatever reason it didnít even include the whole Atco album, although it did have a few unreleased tracks. Unless there are a number of additional recordings in the Atlantic vaults there seemed to be no reason why the Ichiban CD couldnít even include all the recordings we were aware of. But that label seemed to be that way; they had a Number of interesting releases but they were always somewhat lacking in that they seemed to have lots of room left over on the CDs which they didnít fill.

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  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyluckyme View Post
    I guess you are correct. I didn’t know it had ever been released in full on CD. Well obviously at those price gouging efforts, it is due for a re-release in a more complete form. The other problem with the Ichiban releases were in my opinion not good quality and the sound on them was very muddy. I bought several of them and they all seem to have that problem: the Dionne Warwick, the sweet inspirations, Patti Labelle and the bluebells and this one.

    thanks for the information.

  26. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by kenneth View Post
    I guess you are correct. I didn’t know it had ever been released in full on CD. Well obviously at those price gouging efforts, it is due for a re-release in a more complete form. The other problem with the Ichiban releases were in my opinion not good quality and the sound on them was very muddy. I bought several of them and they all seem to have that problem: the Dionne Warwick, the sweet inspirations, Patti Labelle and the bluebells and this one.

    thanks for the information.
    I'm glad I bought my copy of THE TWO SIDES... when it was first released because that Amazon price is ridiculous.

    Re Mary's Ichiban (Atco) release, I can only surmise that they didn't include the Atco album in its entirety was because the selections on Side 2 were standards and maybe they felt they would clash with the rest of the cd. Just a thought.

    Also, the liner notes on the Ichiban set mentioned that there were some Mary unreleased recordings that had been destroyed in a fire that claimed many unreleased Atlantic recordings.

    Re the sound on the Ichiban releases, I have to admit that I didn't hear anything bad. But I was so glad to have many of those items on cd that I probably would have been happy with anything.

    There have been recent Real Gone/Soul Music Store releases from the Sweet Inspirations and the Bluebelles that have expanded the music on their Ichiban sets. I imagine the sound might be better on those. I don't believe they did one on Mary, as of yet.
    Last edited by reese; 02-12-2021 at 10:21 AM.

  27. #27
    Gigilo seemed promising in the disco era.

  28. #28
    Mrs. Wells was doomed once she was entangled with that crazy Womack family.

  29. #29
    Do you know the Womack family? Mary could not have had a finer husband then Cecil Womack. Cecil was a WONDERFUL person and treated Mary like a Queen. They were married from 1967-1977 and it was Mary that ended the marriage and it had alot to do with the music business.She did not get involved with Curtis Womack until a year later. Curtis was a great person but more of a partier then Cecil. I knew Friendly, Jr. & Bobby too plus their parents & they were all wonderful people. I lived with Mary & Cecil in '74-'75.

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    Do you know the Womack family? Mary could not have had a finer husband then Cecil Womack. Cecil was a WONDERFUL person and treated Mary like a Queen. They were married from 1967-1977 and it was Mary that ended the marriage and it had alot to do with the music business.She did not get involved with Curtis Womack until a year later. Curtis was a great person but more of a partier then Cecil. I knew Friendly, Jr. & Bobby too plus their parents & they were all wonderful people. I lived with Mary & Cecil in '74-'75.
    Nice post, and happy to hear that you have good news and happy life experiences with this wonderfully talented family.

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by motony View Post
    Do you know the Womack family? Mary could not have had a finer husband then Cecil Womack. Cecil was a WONDERFUL person and treated Mary like a Queen. They were married from 1967-1977 and it was Mary that ended the marriage and it had alot to do with the music business.She did not get involved with Curtis Womack until a year later. Curtis was a great person but more of a partier then Cecil. I knew Friendly, Jr. & Bobby too plus their parents & they were all wonderful people. I lived with Mary & Cecil in '74-'75.
    No, I dont know them...Bobby was a child molester. He stated that in his book. And then sam Cooke's daughter marries another Womack. Who goes behind his brother. All are signs of dysfunction. All I do is laugh at you trying to wear "that badge of honor"

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by dvus7 View Post
    No, I dont know them...Bobby was a child molester. He stated that in his book. And then sam Cooke's daughter marries another Womack. Who goes behind his brother. All are signs of dysfunction. All I do is laugh at you trying to wear "that badge of honor"
    sorry, I don't understand your insult.

  33. #33

    True, but...

    Quote Originally Posted by tmd View Post
    This has got to be one of the worst decisions in music history, she had just came out with My Guy the year before. She really was the first lady of Motown and that is one thing we did not have on Motown were individual female artists. I am quite sure that with Smokey writing for her she would have had a few more top 10 hits in the 60's.
    This freed Smokey up to write hit, memorable, classic songs for my favorite group The Temptations. I'm pleased with the results. It's unfortunate that these artists did not get sound advise. However, I do think she was correct about The Supreme's benefitting more from her efforts than she did.

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