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To Hurt to Cry, Too Much in Love to Say Goodbye - the Darnells

Holland-Dozier-Holland do Phil Spector.

When this came out in October, 1963, it was a brazen attempt by HDH to cash in on the success of Phil Spector's "wall of sound" musical style as featured in the singles of the Crystals, in particular their very recent "Then He Kissed Me" released a month earlier in September of the same year.

It is something of a mystery record in that no one knows exactly who the Darnells were. The lead vocal on the record is undoubtedly by Gladys Horton of the Marvelettes, her gravelly voice most famously immortalised on "Please Mr Postman". But sources disagree on who comprise the rest of the group.

The Andantes performed on more hit records than any other female backing group in the history of pop, rock and soul: well over a hundred Hot 100 entries, including "Reach Out I'll Be There", "I Heard it through the Grapevine" and "Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher." They were the house female backing singers for Motown, singing on just about all of the Four Tops' hits, and even strengthening the female sound on many Motown girl groups' records such as those by the Supremes, Marvelettes and Martha and the Vandellas. Sometimes, when groups were on tour and the label wanted to cash in with a new single, they'd save money by flying only the lead - Diana Ross or Martha Reeves - to cut the new release, then shipping her back with the fresh piece of vinyl for the singers and band to learn on tour! So when we hear "Love Child" by Diana Ross and the Supremes, we are really hearing a recording by Diana Ross and the Andantes; the Supremes weren't on it.

But they have generally been accredited as the backing singers that comprise the Darnells, whose only release this is, although some claim that they are joined by some if not all of the other members of the Marvellettes for the recording. Certainly, in an example of typical Motownesque in-house humour, the word "Darnell" has elements of both the words "Andante" and "Marvelettes" in it. The word Andante itself means "a movement, passage, or composition marked to be performed at a moderately slow tempo" while a "darnell" more appositely is a "hidden nook or, in the Middle Ages, a village concealed by nature".

Things were further confused by one John Best of Ontario who sent the marvellously obsessive Motown Junkies website "... a period newspaper cutting and some written statements identifying the Darnells as a pair of Canadian teenagers – Nickie Goudreau and Marilyn O’ Brien, from local group the Pharaohs – fronted by otherwise-unknown vocalist Marline Osouski of Oklahoma. The statements are full of the Pharaohs’ personal memories of coming to Hitsville and meeting some of Motown’s most famous writers and producers; the article even provided a photo of a beaming Nickie and Marilyn signing copies of the single." (see )

So who is backing Gladys Horton on this? Maybe the novice Pharaohs overlaid with a combination of Andantes and Marvelettes. No-one seems to know for sure which seems ironic, and rather sad, as it's one of the few tracks that the Andantes were at least acknowledged in the form of a pseudonym rather than somebody else's name. One single, "(Like a) Nightmare", also written and produced by HDH, was released with the artists' name as the Andantes, but even this had a non Andantes lead singer (Ann Bogan, a soon-to-be Marvelette).

Like all the singers at Motown, the Andantes wanted their own career as a group, but it seems they were so good at picking up a new song and creating a harmony part, that Berry Gordy wanted them at the Detroit studio all the time, rather than elsewhere touring or doing publicity work. They were so talented and experienced they could cut something that would take others two or three as long. It was said that Berry Gordy feared that if they were in any way publicised in their own right, they'd be lured away from Motown in a flash, or, at the very least, he would have to raise their wages to keep them.

When, in 1972, Motown prepared to decamp from Detroit and move to LA, the Andantes went to the office to pick up their monthly salary cheques but they weren't there. All rumours that the company was relocating had been denied, and no-one had told the group that they'd been made redundant. After much complaining, the Andantes, that is Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps, were issued their final payments and given the bad news. "Hidden nook" seems about right.

Barrow and Hicks became office workers for the Michigan Department of Labor and the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department respectively, while Demps, a single mother, headed south to become a childcare worker for mentally disabled children in Georgia.

In an interview in 2018, a 79 year old Hicks said of her years as a backing singer for Motown: “I’ve always been proud of myself and thankful to the Lord to have allowed me to do that,” she notes. “I don’t care how high anybody goes, it does not lower me any lower. Because I know what I did.” *

*(thanks to All Arts ( ) for additional information)


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