Mary Esther Wells, R&B singer and “The Queen of Motown,” was born on May 13, 1943. Wells helped bring black music to mainstream America as on of Motown’s first superstars.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, Wells overcame unbelievably difficult odds. As a very young child she contracted spinal meningitis, resulting in temporary paralysis, hearing loss and partial blindness in one eye. When she regained her health she had to learn how to walk all over again. Not only was she determined, she was incredibly talented. By the age of ten she moved from singing with the church chorus to performing in nightclubs around Detroit. In 1960, she wrote and recorded her first song to hit the R&B charts, “Bye Bye Baby” peaked at number eight.
In 1962, Wells released three major songs that elevated her career. “The One Who Really Loves You”, was her first big hit. “You Beat Me to the Punch” was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best R&B Recording. “Two Lovers” sold more than a million copies. These releases made her Motown’s first female star and successful solo artist. In 1964, Wells released “My Guy” which sold more than a million copies and was the number one R&B single of the year. The Beatles declared Mary Wells their favorite American singer, calling her “their sweetheart” and invited her to England to tour with them.
Wells left the music industry in 1974 to raise her family. She returned to recording in 1981 and had her last single to hit the charts. In 1989, Wells was presented the Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. She died July 26, 1992, from cancer.
In 1999 her song “My Guy” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Mary Esther Wells, “The Queen of Motown” and the Beatles “Sweetheart”, She Made History and helped bridge the Motown sound with mainstream music forever changing radio and the records on our shelves.