As Martha Reeves and the Vandellas took the stage to accept their induction into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame last night (Sept. 16) in Sharon, Pa., Reeves told the story of how the group came about. “A group was formed called the Del-Phis, and I was invited to be a part of it. Once we met, our voices blended, and I’ll show you what I mean.” And with that, she and the Vandellas treated the crowd to an a cappella rendition of their hit “Come and Get These Memories.”
Reeves and the Vandellas were one of 13 harmony and doo-wop groups inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the six-year-old music museum in Western Pennsylvania. The induction ceremonies, hosted by Mary Wilson of the Supremes and author Jay Warner, paid tribute to classic R&B groups like the Impressions, the Whispers, the Isley Brothers and the Charioteers; early harmony groups like the Four Lads, Danny & the Juniors, the Five Satins and the Merry Macs; and pop groups like the Association, the Commodores and Earth Wind & Fire.
The Association turned its induction appearance into a family reunion, as 10 past and present members of the band appeared on stage to accept their Harmony Awards. “I’m so proud to be a part of this,” said Association member Larry Ramos. “I am so overwhelmed by all the talent that’s here.”
Many of the new groups were introduced on stage by past inductees into the Vocal Hall. When Tony Butala of the Lettermen introduced the Association on stage, he joked that the group had turned a song the Lettermen rejected — “Never My Love” — into a major hit.
Other inductees included the Whispers (inducted by Charlie Thomas of the Drifters), the Impressions (welcomed by members of Jay and the Americans) and the descendents of the Merry Macs (receiving their awards from the Manhattan Transfer). Many of the inductees took a moment to recall bandmates who had passed away. “Curtis Mayfield is looking down on us and saying ‘Hey, keep on pushing,'” said the Impressions’ Fred Cash.
Also honored were the acoustic-era group the Peerless Quartet, whose members included recording pioneers Henry Burr and Steve Porter. “My mother gave me a record by the Peerless Quartet,” said David Gillies, the great grand-nephew of group member Arthur Collins. “The title of the song was ‘When I’m Gone, You’ll Soon Forget.’ And then I got a call from the Vocal Group Hall of Fame at the same time, remembering the Peerless Quartet.”