This Elgins biography is only a little shorter than the soul singers' success streak. :(
Its members didn't lack talent. They were Sensations! Gems in the Five Emeralds in the late 1950s! As the more modest- (and gloomy-)sounding Downbeats, Johnny Dawson, Robert Fleming, and Cleo "Duke" Miller sang behind Marv Johnson and on Lupine before making their way to Motown's Tamla label by 1959.
Three years later, they had very few singles to their credit. Reportedly, two.
Another four years followed before one particular addition made a difference. Her name was Sandra Mallett (later Edwards), singer of 1962's "It's Gonna Be Hard Times" and "Camel Walk" with the Vandellas.
When she became a Downbeat in 1966, the group had new reason to hope. On the VIP subsidiary, the Holland-Dozier-Holland-penned "Darling Baby" was ready to debut. But at Berry Gordy's behest, his company distributed the records with the Temptations-rejected group name, "The Elgins."
Despite limp promotion, "Darling Baby" charted, mainly for R&B at #4. Over half a year later, "Heaven Must Have Sent You" reached the Top 50 and 10 for pop and R&B, respectively. Motown deemed the Elgins worthy of an album, so they issued one under the title of their first hit.
(Go to this page for their discography!)
Aaaaand that's the peak of the Elgins biography, at least at Motown. The next year, they disbanded, having failed to sustain their commercial momentum.
Motown did care enough about the group to release "Heaven" and "Put Yourself in My Place" again in 1971. As a pleasant surprise, both songs made the Top 20 in the U.K. The Elgins were back in action, touring the Isles with new female lead Yvonne Vernee-Allen.
Producer Ian Levine got the Elgins (original Dawson, veteran Vernee-Allen, and new guys Jimmy Charles and Norbert McClean) back into the studio. While Sandra Edwards recorded on her own at Motorcity, the ensemble's latest "Heaven Must Have Sent You" came from that label in 1989, as did the albums Take the Train and Sensational.
Yup, long after Motown and the public had muttered "meh," the Elgins kept on ticking.