Martha Reeves & The Vandellas were an American girl group signed to Motown from the early 1960s to the early 1970s.
Rosalind Ashford, Annette Beard and then-lead singer Gloria Williams founded the group as The Del-Phis. They began performing at clubs and providing backing vocals. Martha Reeves eventually joined and the group recorded for several different labels with little success.
Martha then tried for a solo career, and producer William “Mickey” Stevenson offered her an audition at Motown. Martha showed up on the wrong day (silly Martha) and ended up becoming his secretary instead. The group were also at Motown and had begun recording backing vocals. Berry Gordy recorded a demo of the group, and impressed by Martha’s vocals, offered them a contract. Gloria Williams left and the remaining members became The Vandellas (or Martha & The Vandellas).
They went on to become one of the most successful Motown girl groups, scoring hits throughout the 1960s, appearing on various TV shows and magazines, and making many live performances. Their signature song “Dancing In The Street” has become not only an anthem of Motown but an anthem of the 1960s as a whole.
Annette Beard left in 1964 and was replaced with Betty Kelley (formerly of The Velvelettes). Betty Kelley was then fired in 1967 after missing several shows and fighting with Martha Reeves, and Lois Reeves (Martha’s sister) was brought in as her replacement. The group’s name was then changed to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. Martha briefly left the group due to illness, and Rosalind Ashford left permanently, being replaced by Sandra Tilley (also of The Velvelettes). The group disbanded in 1972.
Martha, who had negotiated out of her Motown contract when the company relocated to Los Angeles, went on to have a critically successful (but commerically unsuccessful) solo career. The original trio (who had all sued Motown for royalties by then) reunited to record for Ian Levine’s Motorcity Records around 1990, and have occasionally reunited for various concerts since. Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard continue to perform as “The Original Vandellas”, while Martha and her sisters Lois and Delphine Reeves tour as “Martha Reeves & The Vandellas”.
Marvellous Motown currently recommends seven songs by Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – click on the link above for our archive or click on a specific song below: