“Please, Mr Postman” had five writers, Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland and Robert Bateman. This is probably because the song came out of Motown. They were famous for having teams of people write their songs. In fact “Please, Mr Postman” was Motown’s first number one song. This is the second girl group to hit the top of the charts, the first being the Shirelles who we saw earlier in the year.
Barry Gordy started out running a record store in Detroit that specialized in jazz. When the store went bankrupt, he decided to become a record producer. He formed Motown (a blend of the word motor and town, which is what they call Detroit these days: Motor Town) and began bringing in acts that he felt he could record. His first label was going to be named Tammy records after the song by Debbie Reynolds, but because of copyright concerns, decided to change the name slightly to Tamla Records. The first group to chart on Tamla was The Miracles, who sang the song “Shop Around.” It went to number two on the pop chart and Barry knew he was on to something.
The girls that make up the Marvelettes all knew each other in high school. The first incarnation of the Marvelettes consisted of Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Georgia Dobbins, who was replaced by Wanda Young before the group actually signed their first contract. They all grew up in Inkster, Michigan and went to Inkster High School. Inkster is a part of the greater Detroit area.
When they first got together, they were all in high school except Georgia Dobbins who had already graduated. They were a quintet to begin with and called themselves the Marvels. They entered a contest in which the top three prizes was a chance to audition for Motown Records. The Marvels came in fourth, but their teacher convinced Motown to listen to them also. Barry Gordy liked them but insisted on a name change and so they became the Marvelettes. They liked their audition, but wanted an original song, so Georgia Dobbins went home and wrote “Please Mr. Postman” in one evening.
She took the song back to Motown where they passed it around to their team of songwriters so that changes could be made. After writing their first song, Dobbins left the group to care for her ill mother even before the recording could be made, She was replaced by Wanda Young and the song was cut.
“Please Mr. Postman” entered the Hot 100 at number 79, then bounced around for fifteen weeks before making its way to number one, which it hit on December 11, 1961. It stayed there for only one week. No other song up to this date had taken so long between entry into the Hot 100 and hitting number one. The Marvelettes continued to chart over the next few years, having their last hit in 1968. Soon after that the group disbanded and, as far as I can tell, never sang together again, although some of the girls did solo work. They never had a second number one. “Please Mr. Postman” was covered by The Beatles and by The Carpenters. The latter also went to number one. It is one of only three songs that hit number one by different artists.
The Marvelettes were nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in both 2013 and 2015, but did not receive enough votes to be inducted either time.