ARTIST OF THE WEEK
The Elgins life span is a brief one, featuring major mid-60s successes on two classic Holland-Dozier-Holland hits which the writers somehow squeeze into their impossibly busy schedule creating songs for the Supremes, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, and others, causing Lamont Dozier to later lament, “We wanted to do more” with underrated soulful lead voice Saundra Mallett Edwards but “we couldn’t do everything….She was a great singer.”
- Motown Milestone: The U.K. reissue of “Heaven Must Have Sent You” on April 23, 1971 gives the group their greatest chart success – a Top 5 trip – anywhere.
- First Hit: “Darling Baby,” released in late 1965 on V.I.P., reaches No. 4 on the R&B charts and No. 73 on the Pop chart, and the flip side, “Put Yourself In My Place,” also gets airplay, but does not chart in its first incarnation.
- Biggest Hit: Peaking at No. 9, “Heaven Must Have Sent You” does not surpass “Darling Baby” on the R&B Chart, but on the pop chart it hits No. 50. And when it is released for a second time in the U.K. in 1971, it shoots up to No. 3.
- Top Album: Darling Baby, 1966, on V.I.P Records.
- Career Highlight: The re-release of “Heaven Must Have Sent You” in the U.K. causes a huge sensation and calls for a tour. However, Saundra had left the group and show business a couple of years earlier to raise a family so Yvonne Allen is recruited to replace her in the first of the Elgins’ successful European tours in the next few years.
- The Elgins are formed in 1965 when Motown solo artist Saundra Mallett Edwards joins the remaining three members – Robert Fleming, Johnny Dawson, Cleo “Duke” Miller – of the Motown vocal group the Downbeats.
- Saundra was first heard at Motown in 1962, with a dance single, “Camel Walk” backed by “It’s Gonna Be Hard Times,” both recorded with backing by the Vandellas, the first time the Vandellas record under that name. The Downbeats, who had recorded around Detroit under other names for other labels, joined Motown in ’61 and debut a year later with the soulful ballad “Your Baby’s Back.” Neither Saundra nor the Downbeats have much success.
- Downbeats member Duke Miller recruits Saundra to join the group and the new configuration is rechristened at Berry Gordy’s suggestion as the Elgins, after a popular wristwatch. They urge Holland, Dozier and Holland to bring them a song and the result is two tracks intended for the Supremes, “Darling Baby” and “Put Yourself In My Place,” released on V.I.P. in December 1965. The label on the first copies of the single accidentally credits the The Downbeats. Corrected copies are quickly pressed.
- In 1966 the Elgins release Darling Baby, their lone Motown LP, which includes Saundra’s old flipside, “It’s Gonna Be Hard Times” and tracks on which Dawson sings lead. The group releases just one more single, and, although they record some strong new material, it remains in the vault. The Elgins disband when Saundra leaves show business to focus on her family.
- A two-CD collection of released and unreleased Elgins, Downbeats and Saundra’s early solo material is released in the U.K. as The Motown Anthology in 2007.