'Mr. Postman' twistin' away at Lehman Center with the Marvelettes

DEARDRA SHULER | 5/25/2011, 9:23 a.m.

Paula Anderson, the lead singer of the Marvelettes, took time out of her busy schedule to talk to this journalist about her upcoming show at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts as the opening act for Dennis Edwards and the Temptations Revue on Saturday, April 9 at 8 p.m.

The Marvelettes have a long history, starting back in the 1960s in Detroit, when Gladys Horton and Georgia Dobbins put together a group of four singers in high school. Dobbins had to leave the group due to family issues early on, but others like Wanda Rogers, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta Cowart and Katherine Anderson joined later, as did others.

"Being in Detroit and around the home of music, just about everyone thought they wanted to be part of the music biz back then," said Anderson. "I personally started in the group in 2000. I went to an audition. I went in thinking I knew it all. Once I got there, I thought, 'This is Motown, and to be a part of that is something special.' So I did what I needed to do. I went to several auditions and I finally got through the door, and it's been wonderful ever since.

"Motown was very particular about who carried on the Marvelettes name. As Marvelettes, the others and myself have made sure to keep the integrity of the music. I learned a lot from the lead singer at the time I started with the group. Thus, when she stepped down I was able to step up and take her place. Motown is loved universally. It shaped music in a very big way," she said. Anderson is currently performing nightly with the Marvelettes in Las Vegas at the Rio Hotel's Crown Theatre, where they share a bill with the Platters and the Coasters, in between trips out on the road.

The Marvelettes made history as the very first girl group selected by Berry Gordy to sing for Motown. One could say that the Marvelettes set the tone for girl groups who followed, like the Supremes and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The public snapped up over a million copies of the Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman," which became their first big hit. The Marvelettes had an eight-year run on the Billboard Music charts, scoring 23 Billboard Hot 100 singles. Of those hits, three were top pop singles, nine were top R&B singles, and their debut song was No. 1 on both charts.

Smokey Robinson wrote some of the Marvelette's hit songs. "Smokey Robinson wrote 'Don't Mess with Bill' and 'The Hunter Captured by the Game,'" said Anderson. "With Motown it was about being a family. Artists from the label worked with other artists. Marvin Gaye also worked with us. Many may not know that Marvin played the drums--he played drums on some of our songs. Oftentimes various Motown artists became part of each other's projects," explained the Marvelettes' lead singer.

"We have been abroad--it's been wonderful to have the opportunity to travel. We went to Austria, Canada and Mexico. Being part of the Marvelettes has afforded me that opportunity. I am fortunate that my husband is in the business, so he understands. It makes it all the more wonderful to come home to him after traveling."