The Elgins Biography

US-born Johnny Dawson, Cleo Miller and Robert Fleming, later replaced by Norbert McClean, sang together in three Detroit vocal groups in the late 50s, the Sensations, the Five Emeralds and the Downbeats. Under the last of these names, they recorded two singles for Motown Records in 1959 and 1962. Also in 1962, Saundra Mallett (later Saundra Mallett Edwards) issued ‘Camel Walk’ for Tamla, backed by the Vandellas. Motown suggested that she join forces with the Downbeats, and the new unit was named the Elgins after the title originally used by the Temptations when they first signed with Motown. In the fiercely competitive climate of Motown in the mid-60s, the Elgins were forced to wait three years before they could issue a single, but ‘Darling Baby’ - written and produced by Holland/Dozier/Holland - reached the US R&B Top 10 early in 1966. ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’, which also exhibited the traditional Motown sound of the period, matched that success, but after one further hit in 1967, the group broke up.

In 1971, the Elgins enjoyed two unexpected UK Top 20 hits when Motown reissued ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’ and the former b-side ‘Put Yourself In My Place’. The Elgins re-formed to tour Britain, with Yvonne Allen (a former session vocalist) taking the place of Saundra Mallett, but plans for the revitalized group to renew their recording career foundered. In 1989, Yvonne Allen, Johnny Dawson, Norman McLean and Jimmy Charles recorded a new arrangement of ‘Heaven Must Have Sent You’ for producer Ian Levine. They continued working for his Motor City label in the 90s, releasing Take The Train and Sensational. The original lead vocalist on all their Motown material, Saundra Edwards, was also recording for the same label.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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