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The Velvelettes





The Velvelettes are one of three "all original" Motown groups from the 1960's, and one of the few "Girl Groups" still performing today. Raised in Flint and Kalamazoo, Michigan, they set Motown on fire with their stylized vocal harmonies as part of Berry Gordy's legendary record company. Their first introduction into "Hitsville USA" came in 1962. The ladies were performing at a talent show at Western Michigan University. In that audience was Robert Bullock, Gordy's nephew. He liked the act and suggested The Velvelettes audition for his uncle's company. They successfully passed an audition and were offered the chance to record for the label. According to Norma Fairhurst, "getting the recording contract was the easy part, getting our parents approval was the toughest part. I cried until my mother and father allowed me to sign. All of us had to work on our parents until they finally gave in." The group's first release, produced by William "Mickey" Stevenson entitled "There He Goes" was released by Motown through I.P.G. Records (Independent Producers Group) out of Los Angeles. Though the record did not do well nationally, there was some regional success in Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, thus starting the ladies on their way to a budding recording career. During the early years at Motown, friendly competition was both encouraged and promoted among the artists. Carolyn (Cal) Street recalls, "There was a Battle of the Stars for local Detroit artists at the Twenty Grand Club (a hand-out for local talent) and the audience would judge the acts. I remember us competing with The Supremes one evening and Smokey Robinson was the Master of Ceremonies. The Velvelettes received the loudest applause, thus declaring us the winner! It's both amazing and flattering to think that we actually beat The Supremes in that contest!" Winning was not everything to the ladies. In order to remain at Motown, Berry Gordy had to keep his promise to their parents that singing engagements and recording schedules would not interfere with them completing their education. "He never let us get away with anything and had the greatest respect for our parents' wishes. In some ways he was worse than our parents, but thinking back, I'm thankful for the way he handled the group. He'd tell us to plan for tomorrow and that we would not be stars forever." recalls Street. This kind of discipline made The Velvelettes unique from other groups, but it did not stop them from scorching the pop charts with "Needle In A Haystack" then, a quick follow-up with "He Was Really Saying Something". Both tunes went to the top 40 in the US and Europe. "Needle" held the number one spot on the pop charts for several weeks in Michigan, Illinois and Ohio during the golden era of the Motown Sound. Subsequent releases, "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You", "Lonely, Lonely Girl Am I" and "A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush" realized success in various markets throughout the States and Europe. The group also was also featured on a Motown Box Set released in 1993. Today, the ladies work in their communities helping young people fulfill their dreams in the entertainment field and hey truly believe that "our children are our future - they are our greatest natural resource." Bert McNeal says that "when we were young Motown looked out for us and served as a role model in our lives. Therefore, it is our hope that in some way we can be role models for today's youth." The Velvelettes will keep you dancing. Their show is an endless stream of Motown classics that will keep you rocking and rolling. Whether it's jazz, the blues, R&B, slick urban pop or The Sound of a Still Young America, The Motown Sound...The Velvelettes do it all.

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