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‘PLEASE MR. POSTMAN’

MEMORIAL FOR MOTOWN LEAD SINGER
GLADYS HORTON

By Larry Buford


She sang one of the most famous lines in Pop Music history: "Deliver de letter, the sooner de better!" She was Gladys Horton - former lead singer, and co-founder of Motown's famous all-female group, The Marvelettes - who passed away on January 26th. A memorial service for her took place on Tuesday, February 22nd, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park located in Hollywood Hills, California.

During this high-spirited celebration of Horton's life, long-time friend and cohort Betty Kelley who sang with Martha Reeves and the Vandellas said, "[from now on] every time we hear 'Mr. Postman', we'll know that Gladys finally received her letter!" The roughness in her voice on that recording really projected the urgency of a lover pleading for a message from her boyfriend.

Horton also sang lead on subsequent Marvelettes recordings like "Playboy", "Twistin' Postman", "Beechwood 4-5789", and "Too Many Fish in The Sea", among others. Legend has it that co-writer of "Postman" Robert Bateman who also served as one of Motown's early engineers came up with the idea to put an echo on the "deliver de letter" line during the vamp. While other engineers contested his method in accomplishing what he wanted with the limited technology they had at the time, he used some old fashioned Yankee ingenuity and got the desired result. At one time, the Los Angeles Times did an article about one of the co-writers, Freddie Gorman, a member of the Motown group called "The Originals", who had actually become a postman later in his life. Also, "Postman" history reveals that it was Marvin Gaye on drums!

The service was attended by many friends and family members. Horton's son Vaughn Thornton said he did not realize how famous his mom was because they did not grow up in the Motown lifestyle after his mom's departure from The Marvelettes in the 1960's. He said, "Mom still gave us a rich upbringing." He learned even more when Horton moved the family from Inkster Michigan to California, and they lived with legendary singer Mary Wells for a while. Horton's Motown family in attendance at the service included: Janie Bradford (who co-wrote "Money [That's What I Want]"), Claudette Robinson (The Miracles), Scherrie Payne (The Supremes), Susaye Greene (The Supremes), Cornelius Grant (The Temptations' bandleader), Richard Street (The Temptations), Marvin Marshall (former bandleader for The Temptations and The Supremes), and Clara Jackson Ruffin (former wife of singer Jimmy Ruffin). Acknowledgements from Motown's The Velvelettes and Congresswoman Maxine Waters were offered as well. Jon Bauman, former member of the group Sha Na Na, made some heartfelt comments, and brought some (in-the-works) good news to the surviving members of The Marvelettes about troubling imitators.

Original Marvelettes member Katherine Anderson-Schaffner opined that the early Motown experiences were very challenging, and let the audience know that after "Postman" became Motown's first number one Pop hit, "'Postman' sales helped Motown grow!" Two other original members seated front row, Juanita Cowart Motley, and Georgia Dobbins chimed in agreement. Dobbins, by the way, was co-creator of "Postman" but had to drop out of the group before the song got to the recording phase.

In his Message of Comfort titled "This Marvelous Life", Minister Wayne C. Hopkins said, "Gladys not only cared, but cared to take the extra step…taking care of her family."

 


Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer. Author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” (Steuben Pub.) www.amazon.com. Visit the author at www.editorialbylarry.com

(213) 220-8101 Photo available upon request

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