Motown sound and style in Norwich festive show from Martha Reeves

Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas arrive with a festive show. Picture: MP Promotions

Motown legends Martha Reeves & The Vandellas arrive with a festive show. Picture: MP Promotions - Credit: Archant

Aged 75, she remains as busy as ever and this week returns to the Waterfront with the Vandellas for a pre-Christmas hit-packed show that is a chance to see a genuine music legend.

When looking for the perfect presentation of the Motown sound and style, few fit the bill as well as Martha Reeves & The Vandellas.

It was 1962 that a young jazz/blues singer with the unlikely name of Martha Lavaille was spotted by Motown's artist and repertoire director William 'Mickey' Stevenson bringing audiences to their feet at Detroit's famed 20 Grand Nightclub, singing songs made popular by singers the likes of Gloria Lynne and Della Reese.

He invited her to audition at the new Motown headquarters, Hitsville, USA. Though the audition never happened, within a year, Martha had herself taken the reigns of the company's A&R department.

When people say she started at Motown as a secretary, Reeves corrects them, laughing, 'I was never a secretary. I was a singer who could type.'


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She saw that musicians showed up on time and got paid. She watched, learned, and whenever opportunity presented itself, she sang.

Then when Mary Wells couldn't make a session, her opportunity arose. Martha was called to the mic and with her group, the Del Phi's, she recorded I'll Have to Let Him Go, and Martha and the Vandellas was born.

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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 Gaye's original back-up singers 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.

Over the next decade, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas would be a consistent presence on the charts. And 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 — even classical. Her singing companions included everyone from the James Brown and Bruce Springsteen to opera diva Beverly Sills and gospel king Rance Allen.

Now aged 75, she remains as busy as ever and this week returns to Norwich with the Vandellas (sisters Lois and Delphine) for a pre-Christmas hit-packed show that is a chance to see a genuine music legend.

'We will be performing all the hits – the songs people have requested over the years,' she says of what to expect. 'We love connecting with our audience. It never gets old to me. The sound today coming through the airwaves is a very different sound to Motown, but if you play a Motown song you are on to a winner.'

t Martha Reeves & The Vandellas play the Waterfront, King Street, Norwich, on December 18, 7pm, £22.50, 01603 508050, www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk

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