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Mildred Gill Arbor

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Information about Mildred Gill Arbor

Profile image of Mildred Gill Arbor

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Navy Blue, Silver
Favorite Food:
Baked Chicken, Green Beans
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Las Vegas, Nevada
Favorite Quote:
Chickey Do.

Birthplace

Born:
10/15/1941
Birth Location:
Brandon, Mississippi

Profession

Category:
MusicMakers
Occupation(s):
Singer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Navy Blue, Silver
Favorite Food:
Baked Chicken, Green Beans
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Las Vegas, Nevada
Favorite Quote:
Chickey Do.

Birthplace

Born:
10/15/1941
Birth Location:
Brandon
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Biography

Singer and performer Mildred Arbor was born in Mississippi to Dora and Reverend Willie Gill, Sr. In the early 1940s, when Arbor was still a child, her family moved from Mississippi to Kalamazoo, Michigan. She was raised in Kalamazoo and attended Western Michigan University.

At Western Michigan University, Arbor met Bertha McNeal and they formed a singing group in 1961 called the Velvelettes, which included Arbor’s younger sister, Carol Street, McNeal’s cousin, Norma Fairhurst, and Street’s friend, Betty Kelley. After the quintet won an Alpha Phi Alpha talent contest at the University, fellow student and nephew of Berry Gordy, Robert Bullock, suggested they audition for Gordy’s Motown Records. The Velvelettes signed to Motown in late 1962 and started recording in January of 1963. They recorded two singles in 1963: "There He Goes" and "That's The Reason Why." In 1964, the Velvelettes recorded and released the single "Needle In A Haystack" on Motown’s VIP Records, which peaked at #45 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The group then recorded "He Was Really Sayin' Somethin',” which peaked at #64 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at #21 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

In September of 1964, Betty Kelley left the Velvelettes to join Martha and the Vandellas. The remaining four Velvelettes continued to perform and released the singles “Lonely Lonely Girl Am I” and "A Bird in the Hand (Is Worth Two in the Bush)" in 1965, and "These Things Will Keep Me Loving You,” in 1966, which later became a hit in the United Kingdom peaking at #34 on the UK Singles Chart. The Velvelettes also performed on the Dick Clark Caravan of Stars tours, and the “chitlin circuit” that consisted of the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York; the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.; the Uptown Theatre in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Royal Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland; the Regal Theatre in Chicago, Illinois; and the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan.

In the late 1960s, Arbor, Fairhurst and McNeal left the group and were replaced by Sandra Tilley and Annette Rogers-McMillan. Then, in 1969, Street married and disbanded the Velvelettes. Arbor went on to become a registered nurse at McLaren Hospital in Flint, Michigan, where she worked for over thirty years. She also retired from the Flint Board of Education Health Occupations as a program coordinator/instructor.

In 1984, four of the original Velvelettes, Arbor, Fairhurst, McNeal and Street, reunited. In 1990, the group re-recorded their original hits and new songs for the album One Door Closes for Motorcity Records. Motown Records then released The Very Best of the Velvelettes in 1999, The Velvelettes: The Best Of in 2001, and The Velvelettes: The Motown Anthology in 2004. The Velvelettes are the only Motown group of the classic era still performing with the “original” line-up.

Arbor has one daughter, two sons, and two granddaughters.

Mildred Arbor was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 25, 2014.

See how Mildred Gill Arbor is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mildred Gill Arbor's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers visiting her family in Mississippi
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her mother's family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her parents' reasons for leaving Mississippi
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers her mother's career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers her father's career
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her mother's family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her paternal family's land
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about the Friendship Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mildred Gill Arbor speculates on how her parents met
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her parents' occupations, pt. 2
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her parents and her likeness to them
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Friendship Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls Lincoln Junior High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Kalamazoo Central High School in Kalamazoo, Michigan
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her early musical education
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls the music of her youth
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her strict upbringing
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her classes at Kalamazoo Central High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her musical education at Kalamazoo Central High School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls her aspiration to become a nurse
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers forming The Velvelettes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls signing a contract with Motown Records, pt. 1
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls signing a contract with Motown Records, pt. 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers recording and touring with The Velvelettes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers The Velvelettes' song, 'There He Goes'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Mildred Gill Arbor recalls a mishap at a sock hop performance
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers touring with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers Betty Kelly's move to The Vandellas
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers The Andantes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers working with Stevie Wonder
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about The Velvelettes' repertoire
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her compensation from Motown Records
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers touring with The Velvelettes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers leaving The Velvelettes
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Mildred Gill Arbor explains her decision not to join her church choir
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about the legal rights of Motown Records artists
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers reuniting with The Velvelettes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mildred Gill Arbor remembers recording and touring in London, England
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes balancing her performances with her nursing duties
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her performance schedule with the Velvelettes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mildred Gill Arbor shares what she learned about the music industry
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mildred Gill Arbor reflects upon her career
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mildred Gill Arbor speculates on the challenges to the Velvelettes
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mildred Gill Arbor reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mildred Gill Arbor talks about her children
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes her concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mildred Gill Arbor describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mildred Gill Arbor narrates her photographs, pt. 1
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mildred Gill Arbor narrates her photographs, pt. 2