The Elgins was an American vocal group on the Motown label, active from the late 1950s to 1967. Their most successful record was “Heaven Must Have Sent You”, written and produced by the Holland–Dozier–Holland team, which was a hit in the US in 1966, and in the UK when reissued in 1971.
Founding members Robert Fleming, Johnny Dawson, Cleo “Duke” Miller and Norman McLean recorded together for various small labels in Detroit prior to their Motown days, as the Sensations, the Five Emeralds, and the Downbeats, and also recorded as the Downbeats for Motown in 1962. The record company suggested that they add female lead vocalist Saundra Mallett, who had recorded unsuccessfully for the label, backed by The Vandellas; she later married and became Saundra Edwards. The new group’s first single release was “Darling Baby”, issued in December 1965; early copies credited the record to the Downbeats, but Berry Gordy wanted to use the name Elgins, which had previously been one of the names used by The Temptations. The record rose to no. 4 on the Billboard R&B chart and no. 72 on the pop chart, and its B-side, “Put Yourself in My Place”, also made the pop chart. Several months later, they issued “Heaven Must Have Sent You”, which again reached both the R&B and pop charts, becoming their biggest pop hit. They also released an album,
. However, their follow-up single, “I Understand My Man,” was less successful, and the group broke up in 1967.
With the continuing popularity of Motown records in the UK, “Heaven Must Have Sent You” was reissued in 1971 and rose to no. 3 on the UK singles chart. “Put Yourself in My Place” was also reissued and made the chart. With Saundra Mallett Edwards being unwilling to rejoin the group, the Elgins toured the UK with former session vocalist Yvonne Vernee Allen taking her place. In 1989, Allen, Dawson, McLean and Jimmy Charles recorded a new arrangement of “Heaven Must Have Sent You” for producer Ian Levine, and made several further recordings for Levine’s Motorcity label in the 1990s. Saundra Edwards also made separate recordings for the same label. She died in February 2002.
Recordings of the group, including the album, Darling Baby, all the singles and unreleased recordings up to 1968, can be found on The Motown Anthology released in 2007. In addition, a British import CD paired their sole album for Motown with one by The Monitors, another group that recorded for Motown with limited success, and which featured future Temptation, Richard Street.