Mary Wells was, to many, 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 the Detroit native’s first R&B No.1 on September 22, 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.”
Thirteen top tenners in a row
“You Beat Me To The Punch” followed Wells’ No.2 soul and No.8 pop hit of just a few months earlier, “The One Who Really Loves You,” 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 10. 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.
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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.
Buy or stream “You Beat Me To The Punch” on the album The One Who Really Loves You.