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Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar

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Saideh Browne

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Air Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2013

We're talking to author Peter Benjaminson, who penned Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown's First Superstar. 

 

EXCERPT: CHAPTER 15: JACKIE WILSON AND CARL DAVIS

In 1965, while Mary Wells and Maye James-Holler were staying at the Sheraton Hotel in Manhattan waiting for their luxury apartment to be decorated, Wells decided to go to a Jackie Wilson concert. Since she was now an international superstar, Wilson's handlers couldn't help noticing that she was in the audience. Since they also knew that she had written her first song for Wilson, they would have been terribly remiss had they not invited her backstage after the show. Wilson reminded Wells of how much he admired her singing. Wells reminded him sincerely that she thought he was a great artist and that she had admired his music for years. Not one to miss a cue, Wilson, who was separated from his wife, immediately invited her to dinner. She accepted, and they went out to a fancy restaurant. He immediately heightened his appeal to Wells by educating her on what he saw as some of the nuances of high living, a likely turn-on for the semi-fatherless girl from inner-city Detroit.

When Wilson asked Mary if she would like a drink and she suggested scotch and water, he told her a lady always drinks pink ladies and raspberry daiquiris and ordered her one of each, so she could choose. After she picked one and drank it, he told her, "This is as far as I ever want to you go, just a small drink every night." From Wells's point of view, "He had finesse, he had ...class. He knew the best places to eat. He knew how to conduct himself as a gentleman." To top it all off, over the next few days, she said, Wilson brought her $25,000 worth of clothing.

Then the trouble began...

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