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Interview:
Andantes Finally Getting Their Due In Motown Annals
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

Decades after standing in the very deepest shadows of Motown, the Andantes are starting to get their due.

The trio -- Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps and Jackie Hicks -- spent the '60s and early '70s as something of a Hitsville USA secret. They provided background vocals for an estimated 20,000-plus sessions and can be heard on dozens of hits by virtually every major Motown artist, particularly the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder.

The three also stood in as the Supremes, backing Diana Ross on many of group's songs recorded in 1968-69.

"We recorded so many things behind so many people," says Dembs, 69, who now resides in Georgia and recalls that the Andantes were so busy they had their own office at Hitsville so that producers would know where to find them.

"We were on call 24-7," she adds. "Sometimes we didn't even know who was doing the song we were singing. They just called us in and we went to work."

Demps says that there's been "a little bit" of resentment over the years as the Andantes story has been "kind of hidden" in the famed Detroit label's history -- and particularly when they were largely ignored in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," the acclaimed film about Motown's session musicians, the Funk Brothers.

Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr., did acknowledge the group in his autobiography, "To Be Loved," however. And they've started to receive even more notice in recent years.

The Andantes received a Distinguished Achievement Award at the 2006 Detroit Music Awards and were honored at the HAL (Heroes and Legends Awards) last year. And now they've joined forces with author Vickie Wright for a new book, "Motown From the Background: The Authorized Biography of the Andantes," which they'll celebrate from 2-7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 16) at the Motown Soul Food Cafe, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

In addition to signing copies of the book, the trio will be presented with a Spirit of Detroit Award, hold a panel discussion at 4:45 p.m. and have a special cake presentation and cutting at 5:45 p.m.

"This has been a dream of mine for quite a few years," Demps says of the book. "I had been contemplating it but never said anything to Jackie and Marlene. But when I met Vickie...I said, 'Well, maybe this would be more interesting if the three of us did this.'

"We just never thought (Motown) would graduate to such magnitude, with all of the records and the hits and everything. I've always felt that we should get notice of some kind in that story, and I'm so happy it's finally happening."

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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