The Downbeats

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The obscure Motown act known as the Downbeats included Johnny Dawson, Cleo Miller, and Robert Fleming. They sometimes accompanied Marv Johnson before he hit on United Artists Records, and cut tracks for…
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The obscure Motown act known as the Downbeats included Johnny Dawson, Cleo Miller, and Robert Fleming. They sometimes accompanied Marv Johnson before he hit on United Artists Records, and cut tracks for the Lupine family of labels. (Although nothing emerged, there are gaping blanks in Lupine's discography which may account for the omission.) The flip of the Downbeats' first Tamla single, "Request of a Fool," was published by Lupine Music, and written by Dawson. The A-side, "Your Baby's Back," is a '50s throwback that dropped early in 1962, the next Downbeats' release didn't surface until December 31, 1965. At Lupine they accompanied Marv Johnson, uncredited, on "Once Upon a Time," a beautiful but neglected doo wop release.

Motown issued "Darling Baby" a Holland-Dozier-Holland production on their VIP label, and credited it to the Downbeats. Sandra Mallett joined Dawson, Miller, and Fleming and sung lead on both sides. Mallett had the single "It's Going to Be Hard Times" b/w "Camel Walk" on Tamla as Sandra Mallett & the Vandellas in 1962. Before Motown shipped "Darling Baby," they slapped new labels on the 45s effectively changing the groups' name from the Downbeats to the Elgins. It was a strange choice, since another group of Elgins recorded for Congress Records ("Ritha Mae") and a '50s group from Southern California also used the name.

Lackadaisical promotion doomed "Darling Baby," a tune adapted from Lamont Dozier's solo release "Dearest One" on Melody Records, June 1962. "Dearest One" is the first song credited to the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, and is similar to "Darling Baby." Another Elgin single, "Heaven Must Have Sent You," birthed eight months later, it did better than "Darling Baby," but never blew up.

An album followed by another single, "I Understand My Man," came out, then nothing. The only other Elgin record to surface on Motown was a re-release of "Heaven Must Have Sent You," in 1971. In the late '80s, Ian Levine recorded a revised group of Elgins that consisted of Dawson, Jimmy Charles, Norman McClean, and Yvonne Vernee-Allen; he recorded Mallett solo as Sandra Edwards.