Gladys Horton, Marvelettes co-founder, dies at 66

She was lead vocal on No. 1 hit 'Please Mr. Postman'

Gladys Horton, co-founder of the Motown Records vocal group the Marvelettes, died Jan. 26 in Sherman Oaks, Calif. She was 66.

Horton died in a nursing home where she was convalescing from a stroke, her son Vaughn Thornton told the Associated Press.

Formed in rural Inkster, Mich., outside Detroit, as a quintet, the Marvelettes were Motown’s first major girl group. The Shirelles-styled unit’s lineup was in flux for the first two years; Horton took over lead vocals from 1961 from Georgia Dobbins, who co-wrote the group’s first and biggest hit, “Please Mr. Postman.”

That song, a No. 1 pop and R&B hit (covered by the Beatles in 1963), was the first of several top 10 R&B singles featuring Horton as the trio’s lead voice. She fronted the group on the crossover hits “Playboy” (No. 4 R&B, No. 7 pop, 1962), “Beachwood 4-5789” (No. 7 R&B, No. 17 pop, 1962) and the top R&B 45s “Someday, Someway” (No. 8, 1962), “As Long as I Know He’s Mine” (No. 3, 1963) and “Too Many Fish in the Sea” (No. 15, 1964).

The Marvelettes had already been supplanted in popularity by the Supremes by the time Horton exited the group in 1967; her vocal role had been usurped by Wanda Young, wife of the Miracles’ Bobby Rogers.

Horton rejoined Young in 1990 for an album on Motor City Records and performed live occasionally under the group rubric in later years.

She is survived by two sons.