Margaret Little was born in Detroit on August 7th 1945. She was the oldest of 3 children. Her parents divorced when she was very young and her father, a member of the Four Kings who recorded for Fortune Records, was absent for most of her formative years.
Her early years were no different to her peers; she attended Central High School in Detroit. Her first son was born in 1961; Margaret was only 16 years old and had to drop out of school for a year. She graduated, aged 19, in 1964.
She moved to Flint in 1965 but only stayed for a year or so before returning to Detroit in 1966.
Margaret had always been surrounded by music but had no great aspirations to make it her career. One day she was overheard singing along to some records by a guy she knew called Bobby. He asked her to do something a capella and impressed with what he heard persuaded to audition for Motown.
Bobby was friendly with some of the artists and promoters at Motown and soon arranged an audition that took place at the Graystone Ballroom. The details of what songs she sang, which Bobby chose for her, or who was there are long forgotten. She was told that vocally she wasn’t what that were looking for and was “a little plain” in the looks department. Downhearted but no defeated she returned home.
Soon after Margaret was introduced to ‘Gene’, who lived in the 6 mile area, by Bobby, she thinks they might have been relatives of some sort. Gene, who was older then her, was keen to do something with her music wise so took her to meet Richard ‘Popcorn’ Wylie. She cannot recall how they knew each other, he might have been Popcorn’s barber, but when she first met Gene he didn’t seem to have a job and she was never clear about what his normal occupation was.
She recalls meeting Popcorn on two occasions. At the first meeting Popcorn gave her the sheet music and lyrics for the two tracks he thought she should record. As Margaret couldn’t read music Popcorn ran through the songs with her and showed her how it wanted them to go. After some practice she went back, on her own, to a house on the West side that had a recording studio set up in the basement. After some further rehearsal Margaret put her vocals on the band tracks that had already been recorded. As she recalls Popcorn and her were the only people present for the majority of the night. At one point some girls dropped in to add some backing vocals but they were not there for too long.
After the session she went home and waited for Gene to let her know what would happen next. Margaret had no details of what the business arrangement between Gene and Popcorn was or any clear idea about what Gene was planning to do to launch her career.
Margaret heard nothing from Gene for a few weeks so decided to visit him. Gene had already pressed the records up and agreed to give her one copy from the stock that he had. He said he’d be in touch.
She gave that copy of the record to her mother which was the last time she saw it. After her mother died she went with her sister back to the family home to search for the record but it could not be found. Nothing seemed to be happening at all. She listened out to see if the song got any radio play but it would appear that it never did.
She went back to Gene and asked if she could have another copy of the record for herself but he wouldn’t let her have one. She recalls that he said he didn’t want any copies “getting out there” until it was promoted but that never happened. In essence nothing happened.
Sometime after Margaret left Detroit, to move once again to Flint, and lost contact with him. She has never seen him since.
When I contacted Margaret it was probably the first time she’s spoken about her ill-fated recording career for more than 40 years. Her parents, and siblings, were aware of what she’d done but she had never told her husband, who she met after leaving Detroit, or her children. In truth she really had forgotten about it to the point where she only vaguely recalled ‘Love Finds A Way’ and had no recollection of ‘I Need Some Loving’.
After my initial call she told her family who were shocked to hear her story. I sent her copies of the tracks over. She said it was wonderful to hear them again.
Margaret was really thrilled that people liked her songs. She considered it a “decent record” and reflected that the reason she didn’t do anything further was because she was not "hungry enough" to want that kind of lifestyle. She took the view that it wasn’t her time and wasn’t meant to be. She had no regrets about this whatsoever.
Margaret has worked hard all of her life and at times things have been rough but she has come through it all and has had “a happy life”. She doesn’t think that going after stardom would have been the right thing for her. She had many enjoyable years working for General Motors, has a large extended family and is happy with her lot. Knowing her work is recognised and appreciated just adds another layer of happiness.
Margaret had a small stroke a few years ago which has had some effect on her long- term memory so it has taken some time for us to work through the chronology of events. Margaret now spends time with her family and works as a Church secretary three days a week.
- The Four Kings released 2 records on Fortune. If anybody can supply recordings Margaret would like to hear them.
- Margaret’s 45 was pressed on Genebro, A Division of ‘A Go Go Recording Co’
- I have been unable to find any further information on the songwriters J. Brooks or H. Stone
- The backing singers are unknown but Louvain Demps has confirmed that it is not The Andantes who did occasionally do sessions for Popcorn.
- The mysterious Gene is possibly Eugene Brooks and there could be a connection to the aforementioned co-writer J. Brooks
- The Margaret Little 45 has some connection to the Larry Wright 45 on A-Go-Go (AG 345) records, which was released around October 1966 (ZTSC 121125 & 121126). As indicated Genebro is a division A-Go-Go. Both 45s state they are ‘Bandwagon Productions’. I have never seen any other Popcorn related 45s with this annotation. The latter part of 1966, as the time that Margaret recorded her tracks, fits with the timeline that we established
- In my opinion this is one of the best records to ever emerge from Detroit. The band track for ‘Love Finds A Way’ is of epic proportions with Mike Terry at the top of his game. Margaret accepts that she is not the best singer in the world and Betty Winston or Pat Lewis could have delivered a stronger performance but it is the fragility and vulnerability of Margaret’s vocal delivery that just makes it all feel right. You can hear that the girl just gave it what she had.
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