Thursday, October 1, 2020

Original ‘Marvellette’ from Inkster is mourned

Georgia Dobbins
Georgia Dobbins, 78, a founding member of The Marvelettes and co-writer of Motown's first No.1 single, “Please Mr. Postman,” died Sept. 18 following a cardiac arrest.

Born Georgia Dobbins on May 8, 1942, in Carthage, AR, to the late Arlanders and Mecile (Watkins) Dobbins, the first of seven children and the only daughter. Her family moved first to Ypsilanti and then to Inkster. Mrs. Davis discovered her love for singing at an early age in church choirs. In high school, Mrs. Davis, who played the trombone in the school marching band and sang in the school choir, formed a vocal group called The Marvels, which included her fellow glee club members Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Katherine Anderson, and Juanita Cowart.

Following the urging of a teacher, the four girls traveled to Detroit to audition for the fledgling Motown Records. Label founder Berry Gordy Jr. encouraged the girls to come back with an original song.

Dobbins' friend, musician William Garrett, offered her a blues song that he had written. The teenager added lyrics to the instrumental track and reworked it for The Marvels. When the girls performed “Please Mr. Postman” for Gordy, he signed the group to Motown in 1961, changing their name to The Marvelettes. He also enlisted songwriters Brian Holland, Robert Bateman, and Freddie Gorman to add finishing touches to the tune.

“Please Mr. Postman” was released as a single that August. By the end of the year, it had not only topped the R&B charts, but also the Billboard Hot 100. The song marked the very first No.1 single for Motown and was covered by numerous artists, including The Beatles and later The Carpenters, who made the song a No.1 hit once again in 1975.

Dobbins was forced to withdraw from The Marvelettes, and the music industry entirely, before the group even recorded “Please Mr. Postman” by her father who was concerned about her performing while still in her teens. While Dobbins was able to help finish the track and even select her replacement, Wanda Young, she never returned to her musical roots. 

She went on to attend Cleary College in Ypsilanti where she studied business administration.

She married James Lewis Davis on Feb. 5, 1966 and he preceded her in death on July 4, 1969.

Known for her big smile and big heart, she worked at Farmer Jack Supermarket as a cashier for 35 years. Also, she enjoyed working in the bakery on Paczki Day and the floral department where she was able to use her gardening skills. She retired in May of 2006. 

In 2005, however, Dobbins had the opportunity to tell her story, thanks to the play Now That I Can Dance, which tells the story of The Marvelettes. Playwright and founding artistic director of the Detroit Mosaic Youth Theater, Rick Sperling, interviewed Dobbins for the play. Now That I Can Dance proved to be a hit show for the theater, with several revivals over the past 15 years.

Among Mrs. Davis' survivors are her daughter, Kimberly Watts; brothers, Henry Dobbins of Hawaii, Andrew (Charlotte) Dobbins of Michigan and Arlanders Jr (Geraldine) Dobbins of Texas; grandsons, Todd Watts Jr. and Kyle Watts, and a host of nephews, nieces, cousins, and friends. She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers, Walter, Melvin, and Kelvin Dobbins.