Rosalind Ashford
Rosalind "Roz" Ashford-Holmes (born September 2, 1943) is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

 R&B and soul
Soul music
Soul music is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of...

 singer, famed for her work as member of the popular Motown singing group Martha and the Vandellas
Martha and the Vandellas
Martha and the Vandellas were among the most successful groups of the Motown roster during the period 1963–1967...


Early years

Born Rosalind Ashford on September 2, 1943, to John and Mary Ashford in Detroit, Michigan
Detroit, Michigan
Detroit is the major city among the primary cultural, financial, and transportation centers in the Metro Detroit area, a region of 5.2 million people. As the seat of Wayne County, the city of Detroit is the largest city in the U.S. state of Michigan and serves as a major port on the Detroit River...

, Ashford sung in church choirs and learned how to dance in local centers. Developing a passion for music, she joined the glee club and mixed choruses while attending Wilbur Wright High School. According to her, in 1957, her mother and sister helped land her an audition at a local YMCA club where a man named Edward "Pops" Larkins recruited her, Annette Beard
Annette Beard
Annette Beard Sterling Helton is an American R&B and soul singer, most notable for being one of the original members of popular Motown singing group Martha and the Vandellas.-Early years:...

 and Gloria Williams
Gloria Williams
Gloria Williams was an American singer notable for being the original lead singer of an early incarnation of Martha and the Vandellas under the name, The Del-Phis....

 to form a sister group to a male vocal group. Martha Reeves
Martha Reeves
Martha Rose Reeves is an American R&B and Pop singer and former politician, and was the lead singer of the Motown girl group Martha and the Vandellas. During her tenure with The Vandellas, they scored over a dozen hit singles, including "Jimmy Mack", "Dancing in the Street" and "Nowhere to Run"...

, contrary to belief, was not an original member of the Del-Phis, as she was a member of another group. Reeves would not join until 1960.

Naming themselves the Del-Phis, the group performed in local benefit parties all over Detroit and also performed at YMCA parties and high school functions before the group got serious about music around 1960 shortly after Reeves joined the group. The following year, they released "I'll Let You Know" on the Chess Records label subsidiary Checkmate. The record did not go anywhere and two follow-up records where they changed their name to the Vels including "Camel Walk" and "There He Is (At My Door)" also failed to bring any national interest to the group. The group later became Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye
Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. , better known by his stage name Marvin Gaye, was an American singer-songwriter and musician with a three-octave vocal range....

's background singers on hit singles such as "Stubborn Kind of Fellow
Stubborn Kind of Fellow
"Stubborn Kind of Fellow" is a 1962 single by Marvin Gaye, released on the Motown subsidiary Tamla. The single was historic in many ways for the Washington, D.C.-bred singer and former Moonglows member, for it was the first major hit record for the singer on Motown after three failed singles and an...

" and "Hitch Hike".

After Martha recruited Roz, Gloria and Annette to back her on a demo record intended for Mary Wells
Mary Wells
Mary Esther Wells was an American singer who helped to define the emerging sound of Motown in the early 1960s...

 titled "I Have to Let Him Go", Motown president Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy
Berry Gordy, Jr. is an American record producer, and the founder of the Motown record label, as well as its many subsidiaries.-Early years:...

 offered to give Reeves, who was then holding a secretarial job for the label, a recording contract with her and her background singing partners. Choosing the name Martha and the Vandellas, the group signed to Motown in September 1962 and issued the intended demo recording as their first single.

Martha and the Vandellas

Following a successful performance while performing at the Motortown Revue
Motortown Revue
The Motortown Revue was the name given to the package concert tours of Motown artists in the 1960s. Early tours featured Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, Barrett Strong, and The Contours as headlining acts, and gave then-second-tier acts such as Marvin Gaye, Martha & The...

, the Vandellas scored a hit with their second single, "Come and Get These Memories
Come and Get These Memories
"Come and Get These Memories" is an R&B song by Motown girl group Martha and the Vandellas. Their second single released under Motown's Gordy Records subsidiary, "Memories" became the group's first hit single, reaching number 29 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart, and number-six on the Billboard...

". The song, one of the first major compositions by the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland
Holland–Dozier–Holland is a songwriting and production team made up of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr. They are considered to be one of the greatest songwriting teams in popular music...

, charted at the top ten of the American R&B singles chart
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, is a chart released weekly by Billboard in the United States.The chart, initiated in 1942, is used to track the success of popular music songs in urban, or primarily African American, venues. Dominated over the years at various times by jazz, rhythm and blues, doo-wop, soul,...

. Their second hit, "(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave
(Love is Like a) Heat Wave
" Heat Wave" is a 1963 hit single penned by the Holland–Dozier–Holland songwriting team and made popular by Motown girl group Martha and the Vandellas. It was originally released in July 1963, on the Motown subsidiary label Gordy, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Hot...

", helped the group to distinguish themselves from the other girl groups in the label including the pop-oriented Marvelettes
The Marvelettes
The Marvelettes were an American singing girl group on the Tamla label. Motown's first successful female vocal group, the Marvelettes are most notable for recording the company's first #1 Pop hit, "Please Mr...

 and the doo-wop-influenced Supremes
The Supremes
The Supremes, an American female singing group, were the premier act of Motown Records during the 1960s.Originally founded as The Primettes in Detroit, Michigan, in 1959, The Supremes' repertoire included doo-wop, pop, soul, Broadway show tunes, psychedelic soul, and disco...

 with a rougher, brassier gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

-influenced sound.

Reeves was a brassy alto while Annette was a deep contralto, and Rosalind was a high soprano . Like the Supremes' Florence Ballard
Florence Ballard
Florence Glenda Ballard Chapman was an American singer and a founding member of the Motown group The Supremes. From 1963 until 1967, Ballard sang on 16 Top 40 hit Supremes' singles, ten of which hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. In 1967, Motown CEO Berry Gordy decided to remove Ballard from...

, the Marvelettes' Wanda Rogers and The Four Tops' Abdul "Duke" Fakir, Ashford registered as the high background vocal in Vandellas records. After "Quicksand
Quicksand (song)
"Quicksand" is a 1963 dance single by Motown girl group Martha and the Vandellas. Built under almost the same gospel-inspired delivery of their previous hit " Heat Wave", this time lead singer Martha Reeves explains how her loved one brings her "closer" to him explaining that his love was like...

" gave the group a third top forty pop hit, Beard left to start a family with her new spouse. Reeves recruited a former member of The Velvelettes
The Velvelettes
The Velvelettes was an American singing girl group, signed to Motown in the 1960s.-Early years and establishment:The group was founded in 1961 by Bertha Barbee McNeal and Mildred Gill Arbor, students at Western Michigan University. Mildred recruited her younger sister Carolyn , who was in 9th...

, Betty Kelly, to replace her.

With Kelly, the group continued their success with signature songs "Dancing in the Street
Dancing in the Street
"Dancing in the Street" is a 1964 song first recorded by Martha and the Vandellas. It is one of Motown's signature songs and is the group's premier signature song.-Martha and the Vandellas original:...

", "Nowhere to Run", "I'm Ready for Love
I'm Ready For Love
"I'm Ready for Love" is a 1966 single by Motown girl group Martha and the Vandellas. Scoring their biggest hit since "Nowhere to Run" peaked at #8 on the pop singles chart, this tune, which had the narrator longing to be in love with her object of affection, rose to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and...

", and "Jimmy Mack
Jimmy Mack
"Jimmy Mack" is a 1967 pop/soul single recorded by Martha and the Vandellas for Motown's Gordy imprint. Written and produced by Motown's main creative team, Holland–Dozier–Holland, "Jimmy Mack" was the final Top 10 hit for the Vandellas in the United States, peaking at number 10 on the Billboard...

". Ashford remained in the group when Kelly was replaced by Martha's sister Lois Reeves
Lois Reeves
Sandra Delores Reeves , better known as Lois Reeves, is an American singer, most notable for being the younger sister of Motown legend Martha Reeves, for having replaced popular Martha and the Vandellas member Betty Kelly as member of her sister's group in 1967, and for later singing background...

 in 1967, but finally left in 1969. She was replaced by yet another Velvelette, Sandra Tilley. Ashford married (last name, Holmes) and began a career with the local Detroit telephone company. In the mid-1980s, she reunited with Martha and fellow original Vandella Annette Helton for a UK tour and recordings on Ian Levine's "Motor City Records." In 2005, the three performed in Atlantic City at the Vocal Group Hall of Fame induction ceremonies and a week later in the Baltimore/Washington area. Now retired, Ashford-Holmes and Helton periodically perform as "The Original Vandellas,"

Later years

In 1978, Rosalind was convinced to join Martha and Annette in a reunion performance while performing for a benefit concert for actor Will Geer. Eleven years later, the three original Vandellas recorded the single, "Step Into My Shoes" for the London-based Motorcity Records label. Since then, she and Annette have continued to perform often billing themselves as The Original Vandellas sometimes reuniting with Martha for benefit concerts. In 1995, she was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as member of Martha and the Vandellas. She continues to perform today.
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