When The Marvelettes auditioned for Motown, the label didn't have their full songwriting machinery in place, so they asked the girls to bring in material. William Garrett, a songwriter friend of group member Georgia Dobbins, offered this to The Marvelettes when she asked if he had anything for them to sing. He wrote it as a blues song, but Dobbins completely rewrote it (she saved only the title) and taught it to lead singer Gladys Horton. Before The Marvelettes recorded it, Dobbins left the group to care for her mother. Motown producers Robert Bateman and Brian Holland worked on the song with The Marvelettes and crafted it into a hit. Holland, along with his brother Eddie and Lamont Dozier
, went on to write many other Motown classics.
Marvin Gaye played drums on this song. He was 22 at the time and trying to break into the business.
Part of this song was written by a postman who helped complete the lyrics. His name was Freddie Gorman and his mail route included Brewster public housing where members of The Supremes lived. Gorman also sang with the Motown group The Originals. He passed away in 2006.
Hal - Atlanta, GA
The Marvelettes were five teenage girls from Inkster, Michigan. This was their first single and their only #1. They went through many member changes before breaking up in 1969.
Waiting for a letter and other mail-related storylines were common in songs of this era, when the postal service provided a primary means of communication ("Return To Sender
" was a hit for Elvis the following year). This song describes a woman awaiting a letter from her lover - something unlikely to happen in the internet age.
This was the first #1 hit for Motown Records. Motown soon flourished into a legendary label with hundreds of hits.
When they recorded this song, it was the first time The Marvelettes had ever been in a recording studio - their singing experience was in choirs and glee clubs. They got some help from Florence Ballard, who was a member of another Motown girl group, The Supremes. Ballard suggested they loosen up, stretch out the word "postman," and add "oh yeah" backing vocals. "We were all tight - petrified," Gladys Horton said. "Florence was a sweetheart, and what he said was dead on."
The Marvelettes' follow-up single "Twistin' Postman" (a #34 American hit) tried to capitalize on the dance craze and also continued the story of the woman who waits for a letter from her boyfriend. In the continuing story, the woman begins to lose hope on ever receiving a letter and then finally receives one.
Jerro - New Alexandria, PA
This was #1 US hit for the Carpenters, who covered it on their 1975 album Horizon. Featuring Karen Carpenter on drums and a guitar solo by Tony Peluso, it was their biggest hit ever worldwide, reaching #1 in the US, Australia, Germany, Japan and several other countries, as well as reaching #2 in the UK and Canada. Richard Carpenter later said that he wished they never did the song, as by that stage of their career, they should not have been covering oldies.
The Beatles recorded this in 1963. Sung by John Lennon, they played it at many of their early concerts. The song was one of three Motown cuts, along with "You've Really Got A Hold On Me
" and "Money (That's What I Want)
" that The Beatles released on The Beatles' Second Album
. Motown head Berry Gordy agreed to a lower rate for use of the songs, as he was thrilled to have The Beatles recording tracks from his roster.
The songwriting credits on this track are a bit murky. The copyright lists Georgia Dobbins, Brian Holland, Freddie Gorman and Robert Bateman, but the music publishing agencies (the ones who send the checks), list just Holland, Bateman and Gorman. William Garrett is listed as one of the writers in some publications.
The 2017 Portugal. The Man hit "Feel It Still
" interpolates the vocal melody from this track, turning "Oh yes, wait a minute Mr. Postman" into "Ooh Ooh, I'm a rebel just for kicks, now."
Samuel L. Jackson sings some of this in the 2019 movie Captain Marvel in a scene where the titular superhero (played by Brie Larson) explains that her name is pronounced "Mar-Vell." In character as Nick Fury, Jackson suggests "Marvel," like The Marvelettes. When she has no idea what he's talking about, he sings "Please Mr. Postman" to provide a guidepost. So, in this universe The Marvelettes helped name Captain Marvel.