THE ANDANTES – MOTOWN’S UNCREDITED GHOST BACKGROUND SINGERS

ANDANTE is a music term which describes the tempo.  It means the tempo should be played at a walking pace, 76 to 108 beats per measure.  It is written that while two members of the singing group were singing at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit, the piano accompanist suggested the name for them. While singing background vocals on many, many Motown recordings, the Andantes were made up of Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow and Louvain DempsPat Lewis, who sang for Golden World Records and Hot Buttered Soul, Isaac Hayes’ background singers, joined the group after they left Motown.  I remember that Michigan Chronicle Entertainment Writer, Steve Holsey, would frequently write about these mystery girls who were un-credited for their background singing on countless Motown records.  Just like the Temps singing background on Little Stevie Wonder’s song, “Contract On Love,” many Motown acts sang background or did hand claps on other artists’ recordings for the extra money and the love of performing in the studio, especially since they hung around there all the time anyway; but the Andantes and the Funk Brothers were different.  Just like the Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band made up of highly skilled Jazz musicians, the Andantes never got their day to shine in the sun as an out-front Singing Group.  Oh sure, Motown promised them over and over again that they would get that opportunity but it appears the record company didn’t want to lose their prize background group to stardom; who would spice up their headliners recordings if the Andantes became headliners, too?  Well, this article about MOTOWN’S UNCREDITED GHOST BACKGROUND SINGERS, hopes to introduce you to this phenomenal group of young ladies that you’ve heard on countless 60’s and 70’s Motown recordings but never received a formal introduction.  Andrew Hamilton, writer for the All Music Guide, wrote that historians say the Andantes have performed background vocals on over 20,000 recordings… 20,000!  Now, I don’t know if this is a true statement or not but I’m willing to bet that it’s either true or not that far off.  More importantly, the Andantes made their mark on such Classic Hits as “How Sweet It Is,” “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone” by Marvin Gaye, “It’s Growing” and “Just Another Lonely Night” by the Temptations, “Don’t Mess With Bill,” “Destination Anywhere” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game” by the Marvelettes, “My Guy” by Mary Wells, “I Can’t Help Myself,” “Reach Out I’ll Be There” and “Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops and on and on and on.  This incredible track record makes the Andantes super successful and hopefully, well paid… except Motown never gave them credit for what they did.  You can pull out your old vinyl albums and search the credits, you won’t find the name Andantes listed.  Man, I wish we could have a do-over for their careers because I feel cheated out of who knows what kinda music we would’ve gotten from them as recording artist singing their own records.  Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change things but we can point out that you’ve heard them for decades but didn’t know who you were listening to.  Unfortunately, we can’t show you videotaped performances of the Andantes singing background back in the Motown days because they didn’t go on TV appearances or on the road with Headliners; they were confined to the recording studio, putting that special magic on everybody else’s records.  In a way, they were held back from moving out-front because of their greatness in the background.  Arguably, not a bad gig… if they would’ve been given credit for their greatness.

“Sandfordway” was nice enough to post this upcoming audio recording on YOUTUBE.  This is a mix of the Four Tops song, “Ask The Lonely,” with Levi Stubbs’ awesome lead vocals pushed down and the Andantes background vocals made to stand out.  This gives you a clear shot at hearing the contribution they made on numerous Four Tops songs.  The other Four Tops are still singing background, catching the lower harmonies and the Andantes are picking up the high harmonies; it’s like a background group duet, so to speak.  Check out how you’ve been enjoying the Andantes on this smash hit Four Tops classic since 1965, “Ask The Lonely.”

posted by sandfordway

Not only could the Andantes sing like Angels but it’s said they could slap the background vocal arrangements together in no time.  This makes them doubly valuable to the studio recording process.  Here’s another example of their vocals standing out over the trackand lead vocals so you can’t miss the clarity, the beautiful blend, the excitement they brought to a song.  Enjoy the Andantes singing backing vocals for Marvin Gaye’s smash hit rendition of, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”

posted by mosogotam

 

As a strange twist, the Andantes, who sang background vocals with the Four Tops on many of their Motown releases, sang background vocals with the Four Tops on this #3 R&B hit for Martha and the Vandellas in ’66.  Only thing… though Martha Reeves is on the Lead Vocals, the Vandellas didn’t sing on this track at all… the background is all Andantes and Four Tops.  Wild, huh?  That’s record making magic for you.  The song was written by William Mickey Stevenson, Sylvia Moy and Ivy Jo Hunter.  Funny story… my son played Little League baseball with Ivy Jo’s son in the early 90’s.  We knew Ivy Jo only as “Mr. Hunter.”  All the parents were wondering what this guy did for a living because he drove a big SUV when they first came out.  I heard him yell to one of the kids from the backstop after making a play… something like… “That’s how it goes when the rabbit got the gun.”  My mind went immediately to the Marvelettes’ song, “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game.”  I said to myself, “could this be Motown writer, Ivy Jo Hunter?”  Within seconds of that thought, I talked myself out of it… you know… he didn’t look anything like I would have imagined him to look… you know… stupid thoughts like that.  Anyway, you know kids… if they think it, they act on it.  I can’t imagine why kids cared about what somebody did for a living except to wonder how he could afford to buy his son all that brand spanking new, expensive Catcher’s equipment.  So one of the kids on the team asked, “Mr. Hunter, what do you do for a living?”  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say all the parents leaned in Mr. Hunter’s direction, anticipating his answer.  He said, “I’m a songwriter.”  Boom!  That’s when I knew I wasn’t so stupid after all.  He was driving that big SUV because “Dancing In The Street,” the hit Ivy Jo Hunter wrote with Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson for Martha & the Vandellas, was still being licensed for worldwide TV commercials every summer.   Alright, back to the Andantes; check them out singing exceptionally in the background with the Four Tops on this Martha & the Vandellas song, “My Baby Love Me.” 

posted by wpaulvandyk

In their earlier days at Motown, the Supremes and Martha & the Vandellas could be found singing background for other acts at the label.  Well, once you hit it big with your own recordings, what’s the likelihood you’d want to back someone else up on wax unless it was some special recording.  It seems Motown didn’t want to lose the Andantes as background singers so their dream of recording as themselves was put off.  But the Andantes could be the difference in a song sounding completed.  Why else would Motown have them singing background on recordings by female singing groups?  Here we find them contributing greatly to the artistic success of this Supremes song, “Love Child.”

posted by Max13460

 

The Marvelettes’ 1967 Top Ten R&B hit, “My Baby Must Be A Magician,” was written and produced by Smokey Robinson with Wanda Rogers on Lead Vocals and everyone recognized the guest voice at the beginning of the song, Melvin Franklin, Bass singer for the Temptations.  But what most people didn’t realize, nor would they even fathom in those days that a Singing Group would have another Singing Group sing their background vocals.  Well, here’s one more example of the Andantes’ masterful work; they sang the backing vocals to this song by the Marvelettes.  They hit those signature high notes that distinguish a song beyond what regular 3-part harmony would normally do.  You’ve heard them for years without realizing it; now pay close attention to the background singing of the Andantes.

posted by Ady Manifold

 

Well, you’ve heard the Andantes sing background on classic Motown hits, now it’s time for you to hear them up front on their own record.  Finally, after many promises, Motown allowed the Andantes to record their own song.  Bup, bup, bup, bup!  Hold on… before you get too excited, remember we’re talking about that super political 60’s animal, Motown Records.  Somehow, when it came to doing what’s right by the artist that helped to make Motown great, there was always a catch.  The record label insisted on non-Andantes member (at the time) Ann Bogan, leading the Andantes record, “Like A Nightmare.”  Say what, Berry Gordy?  You figure it out.  One can only speculate that Motown didn’t feel confident enough in the Andantes’ Lead Singing capabilities.  Plus, they didn’t push the record at all.  I was itty bitty at the time but I still knew other Motown songs from 1964; I don’t remember hearing this one.  Ann Bogan replaced Gladys Horton in the Marvelettes in ’68 and became known for that association at a time when that group’s success was declining along with all of Motown.  None the less, this is as close as it gets to an Andantes Motown record.  It was released on Motown’s VIP label… this is the Andantes (sorta) singing the Holland-Dozier-Holland song that sounds a lot like, “Heatwave,” by Martha & the Vandellas, this is “Like A Nightmare.”

posted by retep13

 

Well, when Motown relocated to Los Angeles in ’72, the Andantes were not called upon to make that move.  Ian Levine, a British songwriter and producer, came along in 1987 and began a project to record former Motown artists on his newly formed, Motorcity Records label.  He recorded 850 songs by 108 former Motown recording artists by the mid 1990’s.  One of the groups Ian recorded was the Andantes, who he allowed to record as a featured Singing Group.  Of course they recorded the background vocals for all the other artists as well… you know… who could’ve done it better?  Pat Lewis had joined the group at this point and one of the songs they recorded and videotaped was, “Lightning Never Strikes Twice.”  Louvain sang lead and in this simplistic Music Video, you can see (from left to right) Louvain, Pat, Marlene and Jackie in the flesh.  Well, I hope this article gave you a sense of who these mysterious UNCREDITED GHOST BACKGROUND SINGERS are and how much of a powerful impact they had on the success of Motown Records.  They deserve a ton of credit and should be place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.  But more importantly, you should now know those gorgeous voices when you hear them behind those Motown Records super stars.  The Andantes and the Funk Brothers are the gasoline that ran the tremendously talented engine of Motown recording artists.  Music Industry, give these ladies their just rewards, their bouquet of roses while they can still smell them… Lord knows they deserve all the accolades they can possibly be given.  Peace.

posted by IanLevine