About Mary Wells
Adored for her raspy voice and playful delivery, singer Mary Wells was Motown’s first female star. She helped to establish the label’s legendary sound with hits like the 1964 chart-topper “My Guy.”
• Born in Detroit, Wells contracted spinal meningitis when she was three. She later suffered from tuberculosis. None of this stopped her from singing with her school choir or performing in clubs and talent contests.
• In 1960, she auditioned for Motown boss Berry Gordy by singing “Bye Bye Baby,” a song she’d written for Jackie Wilson. Gordy recorded Wells singing the song, and the single became a Top 10 R&B hit that crossed over to the Top 50 on pop.
• Wells became the first Motown female artist to score a Top 40 pop single with 1961’s “I Don't Want to Take a Chance.”
• The singer soon began working with Smokey Robinson, who penned a number of hits for her, including the 1962 R&B chart-toppers “You Beat Me to the Punch” and “Two Lovers.”
• In 1964, Wells’ signature hit, the Smokey-penned “My Guy,” reached No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also one of the first Motown singles to cross over to the UK, where it peaked at No. 5. The song caught the attention of the Beatles, who asked Wells to be their opening act on tour.
• Wells left Motown in 1965 following contract issues and signed with Atlantic Records. The following year, she notched a Top 10 R&B hit with “Dear Lover.”
• “Gigolo,” from Wells’ 10th album, 1981’s In and Out of Love, became a dance club anthem, hitting No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Disco Songs chart.
• In 1992, Wells died from cancer at age 49. She was inducted into the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame in 2017. “My Guy” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of fame in 1999.
BORNMay 13, 1943