On this day in music history: May 13, 1967 – &…

On this day in music history: May 13, 1967 – “Jimmy Mack” by Martha & The Vandellas hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 on April 15, 1967. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the second chart topping single for the Motown vocal trio fronted by lead singer Martha Reeves. By 1966, Martha & The Vandellas find themselves in slump chart wise, not having scored a big hit since “Nowhere To Run” in the Spring of 1965. Though “I’m Ready For Love” (#2 R&B, #9 Pop), pulls them out of the doldrums, Martha Reeves openly expresses her displeasure to Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr. over being regulated to “second tier status” by label mates The Supremes. Taking Reeves’ opinions to heart, Gordy makes a commitment to help put Martha & The Vandellas back on top, rallying the creative team at Motown to work closely with the group. While assembling tracks for their next album, among the unreleased masters found in Motown’s vault is the song “Jimmy Mack”. Recorded at Motown’s Studio A on March 2, 1964, the track is shelved by Billie Jean Brown, the head of the label’s Quality Control department shortly after being cut. Finally deemed suitable for release, the song is pulled from the vault, and included on the album “Watchout!” in November of 1966. Radio stations begin playing it as an album track, prompting Motown to issue it as a single on February 3, 1967. The nearly three year old track is an immediate smash, giving Reeves and the Vandellas one of their biggest hits. The original stereo LP release of “Watchout!” includes an alternate performance of “Jimmy Mack” that differs significantly from the hit version which was originally mixed into mono only. In 2005, Tom Moulton remixes the original hit version into true stereo for the first time, using the original three track multi-track master tape, and is released on “The Motown Box” box set. The non-LP B-side of “Jimmy Mack” titled “Third Finger, Left Hand” (also written by HDH), also becomes a fan favorite. Though it does not surface on an album until the release of their second UK greatest hits album in 1973, and not in the US until 1987 on the compilation “Compact Command Performances: 24 Greatest Hits”.