The Velvelettes were a 60's female vocal group founded in 1961 by sisters Carolyn and Millie Gill with cousins Bertha Barbee-McNeal and Norma Barbee (both from Flint, Michigan) on the Western Michigan University campus, where they were students.
The group signed to Motown Records, but weren't given top priority, as other female vocal groups were attracting audiences and recording hits. While the group awaited their chance at stardom, they recorded backing vocals for more established Motown girl groups, including The Marvelettes, Martha & The Vandellas, and The Supremes.
The Velvelettes got their break in 1964 with "Needle In A Haystack" which peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-1964. The group recorded its follow-up, "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'", and spent time on various Motown-sponsored tours as an opening act.
With a song on the charts and a place on several concert tours, The Velvelettes began recording an album. Despite burgeoning success, the members of the group began to disagree about the music they were recording. Half wanted to record more mature songs and thought the material was trite, while the other half didn't want to rock the boat so early in their career.
Motown became apprehensive about the group's potential, and wary of the expense of the recordings. Not wanting to let good time and money go to waste, the label released two additional singles, "Lonely Lonely Girl Am I" and "A Bird In The Hand," as the group endured several line-up changes. Both singles flopped, and Motown cancelled the scheduled release of the group's eponymous debut album.
The last Velvelettes recordings included "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You," which became their last American single. They officially broke up in early to mid 1970.
The group reunited in 1984, when the Gill sisters and Barbee cousins re-recorded their original hits with some new songs for the album One Door Closes. The group continues to tour today.
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