The Marquees – Wyatt Earp

Before soul music began, back in the Forties and Fifties, there was doo wop and gospel. And before Marvin Gay became better known as Marvin Gaye, he was one-quarter of The Marquees.

This song, co-written with Bo Diddley, was their only single, released in 1957 on the OKeh label.

Marvin’s not the lead singer – that wouldn’t come ’til two years later – but his voice is there in the mix. I’m wondering whether Diddley, who co-wrote this song and had hired The Marquees as his backing vocalists, might be playing the rock’n’roll-sounding guitar, which really comes into its own in the second half of the song.

Formed that same year in Washington D.C., The Marquees failed to make a name for themselves beyond the local D.C. scene and were turned down by Chess, despite Diddley’s endorsement.

That changed after they met Harvey Fuqua, the founder of a more successful doo wop group, The Moonglows (and later a key figure in the success of Motown), who took The Marquees to Chicago and changed their name to Harvey Fuqua & The New Moonglows.

They recorded several sides for Chess, including Mama Loocie – Marvin’s first lead vocal in 1959 – and earned extra money as session singers for Chuck Berry.

When the band split in 1960, Marvin followed Fuqua to Detroit and worked as a studio musician until he caught the ear of Motown founder Berry Gordy, who signed him to his subsidiary label Tamla.

At which point he added an E to his name, probably in tribute to Sam Cooke, one of his influences and idols. At first Marvin, who also worked as a session drummer, had planned to be a supper-club singer, performing jazz standards, but Gordy wanted him to appeal to a younger audience.

It wasn’t a bad idea.

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