GLADYS HORTON, co-founder of Motown girl group THE MARVELETTES, has died at the age of 65. Her son, VAUGHN THORNTON, said she died on Wednesday January 26th in a nursing home in Sherman Oaks, California, where she had been recovering from a stroke.
GLADYS formed the group at high school in the Detroit suburb of Inkster with friends WANDA YOUNG, KATHERINE ANDERSON, JUANITA COWART and GEORGINA DOBBINS. Originally called the CASINYETS (“Cant Sing Yet”!), they soon became the MARVELS and were signed to the fledgling Motown empire. Soon dubbed the MARVELETTES, they provided GORDY with his first no.1 pop single – ‘Please Mr. Postman’ and during their time at Motown different line ups of the MARVELETTES achieved a further 23 pop hits … yet , sadly too many people see the group as Motown second stringers!
In 1962 COWART and DOBBINS left the outfit, leaving the MARVELETTES as a s trio. In the mid 60s SMOKEY ROBINSON took over responsibility for the group and he insisted that new member WANDA YOUNG take over lead vocals from GLADYS because he wanted their records to have a softer, more sophisticated sound. Then in ’67 Ms. HORTON quit to look after her disabled son, SAMMIE. “I didn’t want to travel,” she said in a 1985 interview… “I had to spend my time caring for my son. I’m an orphan, so I don’t have any family I could leave him with while I was carrying on with my singing career.”
GLADYS eventually moved to the Los Angeles area and performed periodically in the 1980s and ’90s, though for complicated legal she couldn’t use the MARVELETTES’ name. RON BREWINGTON of the Los Angeles chapter of the Motown Alumni Assn. said in tribute , “I never heard her say anything about frustration. It was always ‘Sammie, Sammie, Sammie. What does he need? What’s he doing? What can I do for him?’ That’s a mother, a real mother….She loved people, loved to sing. That was her pride and joy was to sing. She just loved to sing and to make people happy.”
“GLADYS was a very, very special lady, and I loved the way she sang with her raspy, soulful voice,” Motown founder BERRY GORDY said in a statement. “We will all miss her, and she will always be a part of the Motown family.”
GLADYS HORTON, who was born May 30, 1945, is survived by her sons, SAMMIE COLEMAN and VAUGHN THORNTON; and two grandchildren.