Soul Serenade: The Marvelows, “I Do”

The MarvelowsSometimes the events of the day are overwhelming. There have been a lot of days like that lately. As I write this, a group of Republican members of Congress who were practicing for a charity baseball game were targeted by a shooter who wounded several of the people on the field, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. There will be lots of analysis of this event in the coming days but the bottom line is that it’s hard not to be concerned about the very future of this country.

And sometimes even music doesn’t help quell the anxiety, but writing about the music that I love is what I do, and to not do that today would indicate some sort of surrender to the powers of evil that are afoot in this world. I’m not quite ready to give up on hope just yet, and I hope you’re not either.

So let’s talk about the Marvelows this morning, a Chicago vocal group that laid one indelible single on the world in 1965. They got together in the late 1950s. The original lineup included Melvin Mason, brothers Frank and Johnny Paden, Sonny Stephenson, and Jesse Smith. The inclusion of Smith was particularly crucial to the group because it was his mother that suggested to the group that they look up an old schoolmate of hers, Johnny Pate.

Pate had recently scored a job as the head of Midwest A&R for ABC/Paramount Records. Working with Pate, the Marvelows recorded four songs for the label including “A Friend,” “My Heart,” “Hey, Hey Baby,” and “I Do.” It was that last song that secured the Marvelows a spot in music history. Ironically, “I Do” was written specifically to be used as a vocal warm-up for the group, but it turned out to be a #7 R&B hit and crossed over to the #37 spot on the Pop chart.

The following year, Smith left the Marvelows and was replaced by Andrew Thomas. At the time, there was a group on the west coast called the Marvellos. Seeking to avoid confusion, the Chicago group changed their name to the Mighty Marvelows, and released a second single, “In the Morning,” in 1968. It reached #24 on the R&B chart and was the only other charting single for the Mighty Marvelows. It wasn’t for lack of trying though. Other singles like “I’m Without a Girl,” “Fade Away,” “Your Little Sister,” “You’re Breaking My Heart,” and “Wait Be Cool” failed to chart.

ABC/Paramount released the group’s one album, The Mighty Marvelows, in 1968 but by the following year, the group was done, save for a brief reunion in 1974. The J. Geils Band covered “I Do” on their 1977 album Monkey Island, as well as on their 1982 live album Showtime!

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