The Debutantes with Stevie Wonder
at Hitsville USA, Detroit 1964
in Vietnam 1969
The Debutantes (1964 - 1969)
The Debutantes came onto the Detroit scene in 1964, soon after Jan McClellan, 14, watched the first Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show and was struck with the idea of having a band in the Beatles genre, but with all girls. Jan recruited two friends and taught them to play guitar and drums.
Before they even had amplified instruments, they auditioned for the Michigan State Fair Teen Scene and scored a spot on the program. Jan's grandfather, Fred Collins, a PR executive and former reporter, made a call to a photographer and got the girls a photo shoot to promote the State Fair performance. The photo shoot took place in the old house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit that served as the recording studio known as Hitsville USA. The shoot tuned out to be with a young Stevie Wonder, who was then 14 and had just released "Fingertips Part II," as well as Marvin Gaye. Hitsville later became Motown Records.
The band made return visits to the Michigan State Fair Grounds Music Shell and appeared on the same bill with Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, The Four Tops, Martha Reeves and the Van Dellas, Buddy Rich & HIs Orchestra, Buddy Greco, Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66, ? and the Mysterians, and the Rationals.
The spectacular Detroit Auto Show at Cobo Hall saw the Debutantes opening for such names as Della Reese, the Woody Herman Orchestra, and Bobby Vinton. In smaller venues they were frequently paired with Bob Seger and the Last Heard or the Kingsmen ("Louie Louie"). The Debutantes made several appearances on the show "Swinging Time" on CKLW-TV, a show similar to American Bandstand, with hosts Robin Seymour and Tom Shannon. They also appeared on the syndicated show "Upbeat" from Cleveland, along with Spanky and Our Gang and the legendary B.B. King.
The band toured most of the 50 states, Canada and the Bahamas. In 1968 they booked a tour in Germany, entertaining U.S. troops at Air Force and Army clubs, and some civilian clubs as well, including the Berlin Playboy Club and the famed Star Club in Hamburg where the Beatles first gained international acclaim. In 1969, The Debutantes brought another four-month tour, to the excitement of troops stationed all over Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Okinawa, and Japan.
Listen on Spotify: