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Lonely You'll Be - Johnnie Mae Matthews

To go back seven posts, to before we were interrupted by the sad news of Scott Walker's death, we were talking of Mary Wells' debut single for Motown, the self penned "Bye Bye Baby". Apart from Berry Gordy, who gave himself a credit for setting it to music, there was another claimant to the authorship by the name of Johnnie Mae Matthews who later said she'd completed the song when Mary Wells had come to her with just the chorus, Personally, I don't buy it. I may be wrong, but Mary seems to have a real proprietary feel about her as she sings "By By Baby", taking her chance by the neck and hanging onto it for dear life.

But Berry Gordy himself did acknowledge Johnnie Mae's importance in Motown's early days. She had already had the experience in 1958 of setting up her own record company, with the prescient name of the Northern Recording Company, in Detroit, and was first port of call for Gordy whenever he needed advice.

Besides being the first black woman in the world to set up her own recording label, she was no mean singer as this piece of proto Tamla shows, her vocal phrasings strongly influenced by Smokey Robinson - or was it the other way round? Certainly there's more than a hint of the instrumental break here on the Miracles' "If You Can Want" which came out a year after this in 1968, and I can't help wondering if Robert Plant heard it too.

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