Martha and The Vandellas Biography

Marvin Gaye’s Backing Singers + Berry Gordy’s Secretary

Biography and Guitar Lessons

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Dancing In The Street

Martha and the Vandellas

Martha and the Vandellas (later known as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas) were a huge success for the Motown label between 1963 and 1971.

Prior to these years, what was to become The Vandellas had been backup singers for other acts such as Marvin Gaye at the Motown hit factory, where Martha worked as a secretary.

One day, Mary Wells missed a scheduled session that The Vandellas were booked to provide backup singing for. Martha stepped in and impressed Berry Gordy so much he signed them on the spot.

Backed by Motown’s hit writers Holland-Dozier-Holland, they released super hits like Heat Wave, Nowhere to Run, Jimmy Mack, and Dancing in the Street.

Nowhere To Run was actually one of the worlds first music videos, Dancing In The Street became one of Motown’s signature songs.

In the aftermath, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas have continued doing sporadic concerts around the world and been inducted to the Grammy and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

Rolling Stone ranked the group #96 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

Martha Reeves is still performing in 2019 at the age of 77.

Guitar Lessons

Jimmy Mack – Step 1

With Jimmy Mack, we get a relatively straight forward arrangement, although there are little variations in there.

Let’s start this off by listening to the complete song and work out the structure.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 1.

Jimmy Mack – Step 2 (Free Preview)

In this step, we learn the intro. The chords are extended and substituted to create more jazzy sounds.

First, learn all examples as the TAB says, then start improvising what shapes you play.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 2.

Jimmy Mack – Step 3

Today we dive deeper into everything that is Jimmy Mack as we explore the chorus.

Start by practicing all examples to the loop as the TAB show, then develop your own variations using substitutes or extensions.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 3.

Jimmy Mack – Step 4

In this step, we crack on with the verse of Jimmy Mack. Four TAB examples cover the entire neck.

Simply practice these to the two loops until they feel natural. To become free, spend some time improvising what shapes you use without looking at the TAB.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 4.

Jimmy Mack – Step 5

Today we make sure the verse and chorus are all good by looking at two examples of how you can play these sections on repeat.

Start by nailing them as written before you start improvising what shapes you use.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 5.

Jimmy Mack – Step 6

In this step, we learn how to put the horn section solo found on the original recording on the guitar.

It’s really easy if you compare it to playing the sax solo of Respect.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 6.

Jimmy Mack – Step 7

Today I play the entire song and give you the TAB for what I play in the video.

I hope playing this song has taught you about extended/substituted chords and that you can apply this technique to any song you play in the future.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 7.

Jimmy Mack – Step 8

Today we finish off our study of Jimmy Mack as it’s your turn to play with the band. Ensure you move around the neck in an improvised way.

Only by actually doing this can you find the best part, only by doing this can you get good at substituting chords on the fly.

Go to Jimmy Mack step 8.

Related Pages

Chords and Guitar Lessons

Jimmy Mack is a song written by Motown’s main songwriting team, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Penned especially for Martha Reeves and The Vandellas.

This song invites us to discuss how you can substitute instead of extending chords to create more interesting sounds.

Go to Jimmy Mack chords and guitar lesson.


Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back
Jimmy Mack, Jimmy. Oh, Jimmy Mack, when are you comin’ back
My arms are missing you, my lips feel the same way too
I tried so hard to be true, like I promised I’d do

Go to Jimmy Mack lyrics.

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