Gladys Horton, who was a teenager when she led the Marvelettes in the Motown hit “Please Mr. Postman,” has died at the age of 66. Horton died on Wednesday in a nursing home in the Los Angeles area where she had stayed after suffering a stroke last year, her son, Vaughn Thornton, said in a statement on Thursday.
“My mother died peacefully,” Thornton said. “She fought as long as she could.” Horton, who was raised by foster parents in the Detroit suburb of Inkster, formed a singing group with friends while in high school. That group, originally called “The Casinyets” short for “can’t sing yet,” caught the attention of Berry Gordy’s Motown studio and changed their name to the Marvelettes.
“Please Mr. Postman,” featuring the 17-year-old Horton’s bluesy lead vocals became Motown’s first No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 when it was released in 1961. Horton was also the lead singer on a string of later hits, including “Beechwood 4-5789” (1962) and “Too Many Fish in the Sea” (1964). She was replaced by Wanda Young as lead singer in the group in 1965 and left the Marvelettes in 1967.
Horton had been living in California since the early 1970s.