Members of the Vandellas and the Marvelettes, whose 1960s hits included “Heat Wave” and “Please, Mr. Postman,” have sued Motown, claiming the record company broke contracts by failing to pay royalties.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court, seeks unspecified damages.
It asks Motown to conduct an audit and pay any money due under longstanding contracts.
A Motown spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
“Motown’s accounting has been woefully deficient and inconsistent with the terms of the agreement,” the suit alleged. “The Vandellas have been damaged in an amount which is presently unknown to them.”
Betty Kelley, Annette Beard Helton and Rosalind Ashford Holmes, members of the Vandellas, claimed Motown failed to abide by terms of a 1986 settlement agreeing to pay royalties for their work. The group was headed by lead singer Martha Reeves.
The Marvelettes plaintiffs, Katherine Schaffner, Wyonetta Cowart Motley and Georganna Tillman, alleged Motown broke a series of 1961 contracts by “exploiting master recordings” by the group and failing to pay royalties.
The groups’ rhythm and blues classics are still staples in many radio markets.
Martha and the Vandellas recorded “Heat Wave,””Dancin’ in the Street” and “Jimmy Mack.”
Marvelettes’ hits include “Please, Mr. Postman,” which was covered by the Beatles and other groups, as well as “Beechwood 4-5789” and “Don’t Mess With Bill.”