'Please Mr. Postman:' From Marvelettes To Carpenters Cover
"Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes and later The Carpenters is one of the most successful pop or R&B compositions ever. This ode to snail mail frustration topped the Billboard pop chart twice, as performed by the two (very) different acts, and in its original version was also a #1 R&B hit. It also earned the fairly rare honor of being recorded and released by The Beatles.
The Marvelettes' Original
Some say it takes a village to raise a child. The same could be said of the 1961 #1 hit, “Please Mr. Postman.” The smash-hit by The Marvelettes evoked such a rabid response by people all over the world, two other bands capitalized on its unrelenting success. Despite the overwhelming success of “Please Mr. Postman, the provenance of the song started from an unusual place.
Before The Marvelettes became the wildly popular, sweet-sounding girl group, they were just five girls from a suburban high school in Detroit trying to make it. Here’s the story of the dulcet but sorrowful sounding “Please Mr. Postman.”
One Of The Songs That Made Motown
The talented fivesome of Georgia Dobbins, Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Katherine Anderson landed an audition for Motown Records before Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson. At that time Motown Records wasn’t the powerhouse that we know today and they asked the girls to bring in their own material.
Dobbins, who left the group before they actually recorded the song, got a blues version of “Please Mr. Postman” from her friend, William Garrett. From there she completely rewrote the song, keeping only the title. The powers that be at Motown loved it and quickly went to work on getting it live.
The Marvelettes’ Big Break
Two producers at Motown, Robert Bateman and Brian Holland, along with The Marvelettes, went to work fine-tuning the song. During the recording, The Marvelettes got an assist from Florence Ballard of fellow Motown act The Supremes. She told the burgeoning group to relax. According to lead singer Gladys Horton, her advice was invaluable. “We were all tight - petrified, Florence was a sweetheart, and what she said was dead on." Amazingly, a young, inexperienced Marvin Gaye played drums on the record, hoping to make it in the business.
Perfect Timing For Mister Postman
“Please Mr. Postman” hit #1 in December 1961 and gave the girls from Inkster, Michigan their big break. The timing for the massive hit was perfect. The Vietnam War was heating up and the move to large cities from rural areas was in full swing. Many girls all over the country were waiting hopefully for the postman to deliver a letter from someone special.
More 'Please Mr. Postman' Thank You
As if the tale from Inkster, Michigan to #1 in the country wasn’t improbable enough for Mr. Postman, the legs of the popular song were about to stretch out. In 1963 The Beatles decided they enjoyed “Please Mr. Postman” so much they wanted to cover it. Of course, various music executives thought such a popular American song by five black girls wouldn’t play so well from four mostly unknown, at the time, white guys from the UK.
That’s precisely why the song wasn’t included on their first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles!. However, once that album sold three million records, they wanted to rush a second album to capitalize on their wild popularity. That’s why The Beatles added “Please Mr. Postman," among other R&B covers (such as "Roll Over Beethoven," "You Really Got A Hold On Me," and "Long Tall Sally"), to their second Capitol album, released as With The Beatles in the UK and in shorter form as The Beatles’ Second Album in the US.
The Beatles' "Please Mr. Postman" was also released as the B-side to "Roll Over Beethoven" in Canada.
Even More Mr. Postman?
From the suburbs of Detroit to the lips of the Beatles, by any measure “Please Mr. Postman” defied the odds. But the song wasn't done yet. In 1975, The Carpenters covered “Please Mr. Postman” to the tune of country-pop as opposed to R&B. By 1975, people were ready for more Postman, as their version also made it to #1. Clearly, people loved hearing about the anguishes of snail mail.
The Two-Time #1s: An Exclusive Club
"Please Mr. Postman" is one of nine songs that have become #1s for two different acts. Here's the full list:
“Go Away Little Girl”
Steve Lawrence, 1963
Donny Osmond, 1971
Little Eva, 1962
Grand Funk, 1974
“Please Mr. Postman”
The Marvelettes, 1961
The Carpenters, 1975
Shocking Blue, 1970
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers, 1972
Club Nouveau, 1987
“You Keep Me Hangin’ On”
The Supremes, 1966
Kim Wilde, 1987
“When a Man Loves a Woman”
Percy Sledge, 1966
Michael Bolton, 1991
“I’ll Be There”
The Jackson 5, 1970
Mariah Carey, 1992
Christina Aguilera / Lil Kim / Mya / Pink, 2001