Mary Wells was, in many ways, the first lady of Motown, and even if she’s largely remembered by a pop audience for her ‘My Guy’ anthem, she recorded many other great sides for the label. One of them, ‘You Beat Me To The Punch,’ became her first R&B No. 1 on 22 September 1962.
The track was produced by Smokey Robinson and written by the great composer and frontman with Ron White. The song, with backing vocals by the Love-Tones, also went to No. 9 on the pop chart, as Motown’s crossover powers grew stronger by the month. On the R&B survey, it had the distinction of ending Booker T & the MGs’ four-week tenure at the top with the towering instrumental ‘Green Onions.’
‘You Beat Me To The Punch’ followed Detroit native Wells’ No. 2 soul and No. 8 pop hit of just a few months earlier, ‘The One Who Really Loves You,’ which was also written and produced by Robinson. Another No. 1 was to come in ‘Two Lovers,’ as Wells put together an outstanding run in which her first 13 R&B chart entries all made the top ten. The last of those, 1964’s ‘Ain’t It The Truth,’ was after she had made the ill-fated decision to leave Motown for the 20th Century label.
The lyrical impact of ‘Punch’ was such that it inspired an answer record, as Vee-Jay’s ‘Duke of Earl’ himself, Gene Chandler, exploited the theme for a top 30 R&B hit of his own before the end of the year, ‘You Threw A Lucky Punch.’ After that, the original was recorded by various other artists including Motown’s own Temptations, on 1965’s Temptations Sings Smokey album, and by Barbara McNair, in another mid-’60s version that wasn’t released until 2003.
‘You Beat Me To The Punch’ is on the album The One Who Really Loves You, which can be bought here.