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Mable John

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Mable John (Bastrop, Louisiana, November 3, 1930) is an American Rhythm & Blues vocalist who was the first female signed by Berry Gordy to Motown’s Tamla label.

At a very young age, she and her parents moved to Arkansas, where her father got a job in a paper mill. There four brothers (including Rhythm & Blues singer Little Willie John) and two sisters were born. In 1941, after her father was able to secure a better job, the family moved to Detroit, where two additional brothers were born. The family lived in a new housing development at Six Mile and Dequindre Road. She attended Cleveland Intermediate School, and then Pershing High School, which is at Seven Mile and Ryan Road. After graduating from Pershing High School, she took a job as an insurance representative at Friendship Mutual Insurance Agency, a company run by Berry Gordy’s mother, Bertha. Later, she left the company and spent two years at Lewis Business College. She subsequently ran into Mrs. Gordy again, who told Mable that her son Berry was writing songs and was looking for people to record them. Gordy began coaching her and would accompany John on piano at local engagements. This continued until 1959, when John performed at the Flame Show bar on John R Street at the last show that Billie Holiday did in Detroit, just weeks before Holiday’s death.
The same year, John began recording for Gordy. First she was signed to United Artists, but nothing was released there. Eventually, she became one of the first artists signed to Tamla, Gordy’s own label. In 1960, she released her first Tamla single, “Who Wouldn’t Love a Man Like That?,” a blues number, to no success.

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