The Marquees were a short-term Washington, D.C., group who evolved from the Rainbows. Chester Simmons, Reese Palmer, James Nolan, and Marvin Gaye sang with the Rainbows at various times; Simmons was a founding member and the latter three filled in for missing Rainbows when needed. The group was part of a group of district singers who congregated in Bo Diddley's basement studio. Diddley's place overran with talent, including Billy Stewart and the Four Jewels.
Diddley hooked the mellow-singing Marquees up with a record deal with Okeh Records that produced "Hey Little Girl Schoolgirl" b/w "Wyatt Earp" in 1957. Thinking he had made it, Gaye showed his religious father a copy of his exodus into secular music, but Marvin Gaye, Sr. was unimpressed and peeved at the whole ordeal. The Marquees' enthusiasm faded when the single faltered, but they kept their irons in the fire.
The Marquees loved the Moonglows, and Gaye went on a mission to get next to the Moonglows' Harvey Fuqua when the group appeared at the Howard Theater. Gaye's bugging coerced Fuqua into arranging an audition in an alley outside the Howard; the Marquees impressed Fuqua so much that he fired the Moonglows after the gig and hired the Marquees. He canceled a gig in Baltimore and took the Marquees to Chicago where he added Chuck Barksdale (who had recently quit the Dells) and recorded as the New Moonglows on "12 Months of the Year" in 1959; they also supplied backing vocals to Chuck Berry's "Almost Grown" and "Back in the U.S.A."
Later in 1959, the New Moonglows released a second single, "Mama Loochie," with Gaye on lead. Lacking the magic of the old Moonglows, Fuqua disbanded the group in 1960 and sent everybody back to Washington but Marvin Gaye and Chuck Barksdale, who lived in Chicago and had reunited with the Dells. Fuqua and Gaye ventured to Detroit, where Fuqua set up some record companies that he eventually sold to Berry Gordy. Both Fuqua and Gaye married sisters of Gordy; Fuqua headed Motown's Artist Development Department along with producing and writing, while Marvin Gaye became a superstar whose life ended tragically at the hand of his father in 1984.