Betty Kelly

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Betty Kelly
Martha and the Vandellas (l-r): Rosalind Ashford, Betty Kelly and Martha Reeves in a 1966 promotional photo.
Background information
Birth name Betty Kelly
Born (1944-09-16) September 16, 1944 (age 70)
Origin Attalla, Alabama, United States
Genres R&B, soul
Occupations Singer
Years active 1961–1967
Labels Gordy
Associated acts Martha and the Vandellas


Betty Kelley (born September 16, 1944) is a former American singer, most famous for her tenure in the popular Motown singing group Martha and the Vandellas.[1]

Early years[edit]

Born in Attalla, Alabama, Kelley's family moved to Detroit, Michigan when Kelley was a child. Like many children growing up in the city, Kelley found herself aspiring for a career in music. In 1961, she joined Motown singing group The Velvelettes.[2] Kelley was not part of the group when the band had a hit with "Needle in a Haystack", which became a hit in 1965. A year before, Kelley was recruited by Motown president Berry Gordy to replace departing Martha and the Vandellas member Annette Beard as a member of the group led by Martha Reeves and featuring Rosalind Ashford.

Martha and the Vandellas[edit]

Betty Kelley joined what became the most famed lineup of the Vandellas, coming in quickly to record the single "Live Wire", which was similar to earlier Vandellas singles such as "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" and "Quicksand". The group found bigger success with what became signature songs including "Dancing in the Street", "I'm Ready for Love", "Nowhere to Run" and "Jimmy Mack". The lineup of Reeves, Ashford and Kelley helped the group become international stars gaining popularity from performances from The Ed Sullivan Show, Shindig! and American Bandstand. Kelley was often mistaken for being an original member of the group despite the fact that Beard had sung on the group's earlier singles, often lip-synched by Kelley when the group performed on TV. Kelley's vocals contrasted from original member Beard's. Kelley was fired from the group in the summer of 1967—about the same time that Florence Ballard was fired from the Supremes—and was replaced by Martha's younger sister Lois Reeves with the group's name changed to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas.

Later years[edit]

After her Motown years, Betty moved to California, where she worked for Bank of America until retirement. Kelley is said to have fully retired from music after she became partially deaf in one ear. In 1995, Betty Kelley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Vandella alongside Martha and Lois Reeves, Annette Beard, Rosalind Ashford, and Sandra Tilley. She remains connected to her Motown family, participating with Janie Bradford's Annual Heroes & Legends Awards, working with other artists at music festivals such as "Sunset Junction," and most recently attending a special artist family night of "Motown: The Musical" on Broadway.


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: Martha & the Vandellas". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Biography: The Velvelettes". Allmusic. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 

^ Clemente, John (2000). Girl Groups -- Fabulous Females That Rocked The World. Iola, Wisc. Krause Publications. pp. 276. ISBN 0-87341-816-6. ^ Clemente, John (2013). Girl Groups -- Fabulous Females Who Rocked The World. Bloomington, IN Authorhouse Publications. pp.623. ISBN 978-1-4772-7633-4 (sc); ISBN 978-1-4772-8128-4 (e).