The Velvelettes were an R&B vocal girl group from Detroit, Michigan that became famous during the mid 1960s. They are best known for such danceable crossover favorites as "Needle In A Haystack" (1964) and "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" (1965).
The Velvelettes were formed in 1961 by Bertha Barbee and Mildred ("Millie") Gill who were students at Western Michigan University. The original lineup also consisted of Betty Kelley, Barbee's cousin Norma Barbee, and Gill's younger sister Carolyn ("Cal") who served as the quintet's lead singer. The Velvelettes were signed to Motown in late 1962 after a successful audition, and they began recording the following year.
The Velvelettes made their national debut in late 1963 with "There He Goes," a soulful ballad with a bossa nova beat featuring a young Stevie Wonder on harmonica which was a minor Cash Box chart hit. The group had its first major hit in late 1964 on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts with "Needle In A Haystack," an upbeat, finger-snapping dance tune produced by Norman Whitfield who was a major architect of the Motown Sound. This smash, which became one of The Velvelettes' signature songs, was followed soon after by the similarly upbeat "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin'" (1965), an R&B Top 40 hit with a prominent brass section that was also produced by Whitfield. The Velvelettes also had minor hits with "Lonely Lonely Girl Am I" (1965) and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You" (1966), the latter of which made the U.K. Top 40.
After their commercial peak, The Velvelettes continued performing and recording through the late 1960s, with some personnel changes. Betty Kelley joined Martha & The Vandellas in 1964, and The Velvelettes continued as a quartet until 1967 when Millie Gill and both Barbee cousins quit the group to raise families. Cal Gill then recruited Annette McMullen and Sandra Tilley, and the group continued as a trio before disbanding in 1970. The Velvelettes reunited in 1984 and have continued to perform to the present day as a quartet made up of original members Cal Gill (Cal Street), Millie Gill (Mildred Gill Arbor), Bertha Barbee (Bertha Barbee McNeal), and Norma Barbee.
- Cal Street remembers her early days at Motown as a member of The Velvelettes and her marriage to Richard Street of The Temptations in a 2-part interview with bluesandsoul.com.
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- He Was Really Sayin' Somethin' 1965
- Needle In A Haystack 1964
- Since You've Been Loving Me 1966
(B-side of "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You")
- These Things Will Keep Me Loving You 1966
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