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  1. #1

    Is Mary Wilson The Most Successful Non-lead Singer Ever?

    I'm using the present form of the verb due to Mary's ongoing popularity. It seems to me that there is no other non-lead group member [[Motown or other label) who established themself as an entertainer [or otherwise). Are there others?

  2. #2
    I would say she's definitely one of them. I think it depends on how you define the situation. For instance Ringo would be considered a non lead member of the Beatles. But I think if you narrow it down to Motown then yes Mary is definitely up there in that category. Even though she didn't have a successful career after the Supremes, I'd even say Flo is up there too in terms of popularity and being well known.

  3. #3
    I do think overall though it's something we should admire Mary for. Not many backup singers achieved what Mary did.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    I'm using the present form of the verb due to Mary's ongoing popularity. It seems to me that there is no other non-lead group member [[Motown or other label) who established themself as an entertainer [or otherwise). Are there others?
    I would say you are probably correct if we are discounting Jermaine Jackson. Whilst she did not establish a successful solo singing career on record she did continue to secure live gigs. Not all of them were great, but she did secure some decent ones, and of course she had great success with her first book.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebrock View Post
    I would say you are probably correct if we are discounting Jermaine Jackson. Whilst she did not establish a successful solo singing career on record she did continue to secure live gigs. Not all of them were great, but she did secure some decent ones, and of course she had great success with her first book.
    I think you are probably correct; I forgot all about Jermaine! Good point.

  6. #6
    Telma Hopkins

  7. #7
    Kelly Rowland

  8. #8
    Jane Wiedlin from the Go gos too. it's gets a bit murky when you look at rock bands because the different members can often go and reform groups or do solo work.

    as for more "traditional" backup singers, there's also Denice Williams, who started in Wonderlove

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by khansperac View Post
    Telma Hopkins
    That's the first person I thought of too. Her career in television has spanned almost 50 years.

  10. #10
    Harold Melvin?

  11. #11
    When i put Jermaine Jackson's name forward i was narrowing it down to Motown artists only.

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    Harold Melvin?
    Don't think Harold sang lead on Bluenotes albums even after Teddy's departure.
    I met Harold Melvin in the 80's and he did not hold back in his criticism of Teddy, and Teddy was very scathing of Harold when i spoke with him. It would be a gross understatement to say this pair did not see eye to eye.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebrock View Post
    Don't think Harold sang lead on Bluenotes albums even after Teddy's departure.
    I met Harold Melvin in the 80's and he did not hold back in his criticism of Teddy, and Teddy was very scathing of Harold when i spoke with him. It would be a gross understatement to say this pair did not see eye to eye.
    Harold sang most of the lead on their hit HOPE THAT WE CAN BE TOGETHER SOON with Sharon Paige.

    I'm not sure but I believe Harold also sang lead at times in earlier editions of the Blue Notes, long before Teddy joined. As I recall, Teddy was originally a drummer for the group until they heard his voice. But once they really hit in the 70s, I wouldn't be surprised if many people thought Teddy was Harold Melvin. I know I did, since he was singing the lead. This probably just added to the problems between the two.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    Harold Melvin?
    I was trying to think of other groups and situations where the group name contains a lead name that isn't necessarily the lead singer. Only example I can come up with might be a splintered group, like the Shirelles. I think at one time Beverly toured as "The Shirelles", Shirley toured as "Shirley and Her Shirelles" and Doris toured as "Doris and the Shirelles", although I don't think Doris sang lead with the group.

  15. #15
    Harold did sing lead even when Teddy was there.
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Harold sang most of the lead on their hit HOPE THAT WE CAN BE TOGETHER SOON with Sharon Paige.

    I'm not sure but I believe Harold also sang lead at times in earlier editions of the Blue Notes, long before Teddy joined. As I recall, Teddy was originally a drummer for the group until they heard his voice. But once they really hit in the 70s, I wouldn't be surprised if many people thought Teddy was Harold Melvin. I know I did, since he was singing the lead. This probably just added to the problems between the two.

  16. #16
    Not sure if Kelly would fall in this category especially when it became the three of them and Most of their biggest hits were split leads.
    Quote Originally Posted by khansperac View Post
    Kelly Rowland

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by marybrewster View Post
    I was trying to think of other groups and situations where the group name contains a lead name that isn't necessarily the lead singer. Only example I can come up with might be a splintered group, like the Shirelles. I think at one time Beverly toured as "The Shirelles", Shirley toured as "Shirley and Her Shirelles" and Doris toured as "Doris and the Shirelles", although I don't think Doris sang lead with the group.
    Doris sang lead on their hit DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE, WELCOME HOME BABY, BLUE HOLIDAY and some album tracks.

  18. #18
    The only other I can think of is Kool & The Gang. Robert “Kool” Bell was not the lead singer in their hot making glory days...

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by blackguy69 View Post
    Not sure if Kelly would fall in this category especially when it became the three of them and Most of their biggest hits were split leads.
    Great point. The same could be argued for Jermaine.

  20. #20
    Well she definitely was able to keep herself in public view and being a member of the Supremes helped. The Gown exhibition was also a clever move of her. Which other group at Motown had that many elaborate outfits? Also seems Mary was, more than the other members, always there when there needed to be a representative for the Supremes. As for solo singing career probably not the most successful. Probably will get told off by Marv for saying that lol. Bless him .
    I always thought of Robbie Williams as a background singer when we was member of Take that but he already had a few leads here and there. He was just overshadowed by Gary Barlow.

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Doris sang lead on their hit DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE, WELCOME HOME BABY, BLUE HOLIDAY and some album tracks.
    Yes I was a bit confused when I read that. Thinking:" didn't she sing lead on Dedicated to the one I love?".

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by reese View Post
    Harold sang most of the lead on their hit HOPE THAT WE CAN BE TOGETHER SOON with Sharon Paige.

    I'm not sure but I believe Harold also sang lead at times in earlier editions of the Blue Notes, long before Teddy joined. As I recall, Teddy was originally a drummer for the group until they heard his voice. But once they really hit in the 70s, I wouldn't be surprised if many people thought Teddy was Harold Melvin. I know I did, since he was singing the lead. This probably just added to the problems between the two.
    I originally thought Harold was the lead singer on If you don't know me by now. I think most people did.
    They had a couple of other fine lead singers after Teddy left. I think one was called Vince Ebo. He had an excellent voice.
    Perhaps Harold did originally sing lead, and i know Teddy was originally just the drummer.

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by TYK1986 View Post
    Well she definitely was able to keep herself in public view and being a member of the Supremes helped. The Gown exhibition was also a clever move of her. Which other group at Motown had that many elaborate outfits? Also seems Mary was, more than the other members, always there when there needed to be a representative for the Supremes. As for solo singing career probably not the most successful. Probably will get told off by Marv for saying that lol. Bless him .
    I always thought of Robbie Williams as a background singer when we was member of Take that but he already had a few leads here and there. He was just overshadowed by Gary Barlow.
    Mark Owen also had a few leads with Take That.

  24. #24
    And Howard Donald lol .

  25. #25
    The Jackson 5 was never just Michael. Jermaine was always singing lead since their national debut.

  26. #26
    I think she could be a good candidate for this.

    And I also think at least Jermaine and Kelly were in a different category because they sang or shared leads on songs that were hits in the group they came out of.

    Good thinking here and a good thread. I think what it really shows was the impact of the Supremes.

  27. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebrock View Post
    I originally thought Harold was the lead singer on If you don't know me by now. I think most people did.
    They had a couple of other fine lead singers after Teddy left. I think one was called Vince Ebo. He had an excellent voice.
    Perhaps Harold did originally sing lead, and i know Teddy was originally just the drummer.
    That was David Ebo, I believe. He replaced Teddy.

  28. #28
    Christine McGuire was married six times, which makes her the most popular! Of course, she had longer than her sisters to collect husbands, as she died at age 92, while lead singer Phyllis died at 89 and Dorothy died at 84. For the record, Dorothy McGuire the actress was not Dorothy McGuire of the McGuire sisters.

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by TYK1986 View Post
    Yes I was a bit confused when I read that. Thinking:" didn't she sing lead on Dedicated to the one I love?".
    Touche'. I guess I, like probably most of the general public, considered Shirley to be the lead singer. I forgot about a few singles that Doris lead on.

    But that leads to this: if a group has over 50 singles, and a member sings lead on three of them, are they considered a lead singer?

  30. #30
    Flo Ballard lead on "Buttered Popcorn" but I wouldn't call her the lead singer of the Supremes.

  31. #31
    Jermaine had a solo hit with "Lets Get Serious" Kelly Rowland had some huge dancefloor hits with "When Love Takes Over" [[Uk #1) & "Work [[Freemasons remix)" [[UK #4) & Commander [[UK #9)

  32. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluebrock View Post
    I originally thought Harold was the lead singer on If you don't know me by now. I think most people did.
    They had a couple of other fine lead singers after Teddy left. I think one was called Vince Ebo. He had an excellent voice.
    Perhaps Harold did originally sing lead, and i know Teddy was originally just the drummer.
    I bought my first record, "MY HERO" by the Blue Notes in 1960. I know now, that Harold Melvin was part of that group, but not the lead singer. Singers came and went but Harold remained and I guess became the leader of the group, but not the lead singer. Somewhere along the line, Harold changed the name of the group to Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. I had no idea in the seventies, that Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes was the descendant of The Blue Notes. And at the time, I also thought that the person with that fantastic voice singing lead was Harold Melvin. I guess most people thought that. I was glad when they changed the name to Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Although I would have been even happier if they gave Teddy Bear his just due and call the group Teddy Pendergrass and the Bluenotes

  33. #33
    Quote Originally Posted by benross View Post
    Christine McGuire was married six times, which makes her the most popular! Of course, she had longer than her sisters to collect husbands, as she died at age 92, while lead singer Phyllis died at 89 and Dorothy died at 84. For the record, Dorothy McGuire the actress was not Dorothy McGuire of the McGuire sisters.
    I'm glad that someone on these board is familiar with the McGuire Sisters. They were my SUPREMES of the fifties. Loved them and even sat through the weekly corny Arthur Godfrey show just to see them perform

  34. #34
    They always had a lead but Harold would also lead as well
    Quote Originally Posted by milven View Post
    I bought my first record, "MY HERO" by the Blue Notes in 1960. I know now, that Harold Melvin was part of that group, but not the lead singer. Singers came and went but Harold remained and I guess became the leader of the group, but not the lead singer. Somewhere along the line, Harold changed the name of the group to Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. I had no idea in the seventies, that Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes was the descendant of The Blue Notes. And at the time, I also thought that the person with that fantastic voice singing lead was Harold Melvin. I guess most people thought that. I was glad when they changed the name to Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes featuring Teddy Pendergrass. Although I would have been even happier if they gave Teddy Bear his just due and call the group Teddy Pendergrass and the Bluenotes

  35. #35
    Random reactions and new ideas about possible competitors:

    Ringo: no - because the group was always presented as a quartet
    Jermaine: absolutely yes, because of a string of lps and I would guess more than one hit
    Florence: no, sadly, because though she is remembered she actually met with no success
    Harold Melvin: no, because although his name precedes that of the group he actually had no solo success
    Christine McGuire: no, because the thread questions qualified success, not popularity [[see: Florence)
    Telma Hopkins: no, no solo hits there to my knowlege
    Marilyn & Billy: a qualified yes, because though the group featured [[kinda-sorta) traded lead vocals they were able to establish a career on their own
    Cass Eliott - yes, but an early demise did not allow here the length of career Mary had
    Robbie Williams - maybe, because I don't know if he was individually known when he was with a group [[if so, he's off the list)

    ... I would tend to not include anyone such as Freddie Poole, who has maintained a working career by singing with virtually every group ever formed but not had solo success

    Though other ideas are of course welcomed, my original thought pertains to a group member whose name was not well known by other than fanatics of the group they performed with. Though Mary fell short record-sales-wise she became successful as an author, speaker and cabaret performer.
    Last edited by PeaceNHarmony; 05-03-2021 at 08:44 PM.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    Random reactions and new ideas about possible competitors:

    Ringo: no - because the group was always presented as a quartet
    Jermaine: absolutely yes, because of a string of lps and I would guess more than one hit
    Florence: no, sadly, because though she is remembered she actually met with no success
    Harold Melvin: no, because although his name precedes that of the group he actually had no solo success
    Christine McGuire: no, because the thread questions qualified success, not popularity [[see: Florence)
    Telma Hopkins: no, no solo hits there to my knowlege
    Marilyn & Billy: a qualified yes, because though the group featured [[kinda-sorta) traded lead vocals they were able to establish a career on their own
    Cass Eliott - yes, but an early demise did not allow here the length of career Mary had
    Robbie Williams - maybe, because I don't know if he was individually known when he was with a group [[if so, he's off the list)

    ... I would tend to not include anyone such as Freddie Poole, who has maintained a working career by singing with virtually every group ever formed but not had solo success

    Though other ideas are of course welcomed, my original thought pertains to a group member whose name was not well known by other than fanatics of the group they performed with. Though Mary fell short record-sales-wise she became successful as an author, speaker and cabaret performer.
    Are you basing success in the music industry? On record sales and hits? Your original post says established themselves as an entertainer. I read that as a more broad spectrum in which Telma Hopkins soared.

  37. #37
    Join Date
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    Mama Cass Elliott was a major star.

  38. #38
    What about Nona Hendryx?

  39. #39
    If we’re looking outside of Motown & R&B in general, my clear winner would be Dave Grohl. Not only did he escape the weight of the albatross of coming out of a legendary band, Nirvana, where he clearly was the drummer and not the lead singer, but managed to form his own band and clear identity as leader/singer of Foo Fighters, racking up a long discography of hit singles and albums and becoming a Grammy darling.

    I could also make this argument for Phil Collins since he spent the 5 years as just the drummer/backing vocalist for Genesis but at least in the states the band didn’t crossover in a major way to pop audiences until Phil was the lead singer.

  40. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by Atasteofhoney View Post
    What about Nona Hendryx?
    I love my Nona but sadly she actually had very little measurable solo success.

  41. #41
    Mary is the clear winner of the title, nobody else comes even close.

  42. #42
    Circa i wouldn't really classify Cass Elliot as a non lead singer. I always saw her and Denny as the main singers of the Mamas and the Papas.

  43. #43
    Quote Originally Posted by PeaceNHarmony View Post
    I love my Nona but sadly she actually had very little measurable solo success.
    Although most know Nona as a singer, she’s had success as a songwriter. I know she also does visual arts. She’s not as popular as Mary. I think Mary has this topic thread on lock as the queen.

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by kpitt1204 View Post
    Although most know Nona as a singer, she’s had success as a songwriter. I know she also does visual arts. She’s not as popular as Mary. I think Mary has this topic thread on lock as the queen.
    Hi kpitt - I love my Nona, but I still hold that Mary has the title -

  45. #45
    How about Mike Smith who sang on all the Dave Clark 5 hits. Dave was the leader of the group. Nona Hendryx has had an extremely successful career as a song writer and as a solo artist her concerts are very well attended.

  46. #46
    I don't know if this qualifies as anything, LOL, but what about Eric Woolfson?

    He's the lead vocalist for the Alan Parsons Project. So even though it was Alan's namesake band, Eric takes the credit for all the hits.

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