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1962 and Motown A&R first heard the voice that would become known as “the sound of young America.” A young jazz/blues singer, Martha Lavaille was slaying audiences at Detroit’s famed 20 Grand Nightclub and she was invited her to audition at Hitsville, USA.
Within a year, Martha had taken the reigns of the A&R department, making friends and noticing that musicians showed up on time and got paid. She watched, learned, and whenever she could, sang. And everyone took notice… When Mary Wells couldn’t make a session, Martha was called to the mic. With her group, the Del Phi’s, she recorded “I’ll Have to Let Him Go,” and Martha and the Vandellas was born.
The song was rather forgettable, but Reeves’ sound wasn’t. While waiting for her first hit, Martha (along with Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard) backed Marvin Gaye on his first three releases and sang with him on stage. Soon, however, they emerged from the shadows with “Come and Get These Memories,” followed by an enviable string of hits: “Heat Wave,” “Quicksand,” “In My Lonely Room,” “Nowhere to Run,” “My Baby Loves Me,”, “Love Makes Me Do Foolish Things,” “I’m Ready For Love,” “Jimmy Mack,” and, of course, the Motown anthem, “Dancing In The Street.”
After leaving Motown in 1972, Martha continued to expand her musical horizons, establishing herself as a singer-songwriter with few limitations. She sang rock, jazz, country, gospel, blues and classical. Her singing companions included everyone from the Godfather James Brown and the Boss Bruce Springsteen to opera diva Beverly Sills and gospel king Rance Allen. She headlined a national touring company of the musical “Ain’t Misbehaving,” and for three years toured the UK in the musical review “Dancing In The Street.”
Martha Reeves continues to thrill audiences around the world, and we welcome her back to York!