When the Temptations formed in Detroit in 1960, they were not yet called the Temptations. The group was formed with the name the Elgins. Just before Berry Gordy signed them to Motown’s Miracle Records subsidiary, he found out that there was another vocal group called the Elgins. Their name was quickly changed to the Temptations. But that wasn’t the end of the Elgins name at Motown.
In 1965 the name re-emerged when it was given to a group who had already been the Sensations, the Five Emeralds, and the Downbeats. Gordy had signed the Downbeats in 1962, and convinced them to add vocalist Sandra Mallett, who had washed out on her own at Motown. The first single for the new lineup was called “Darling Baby,” and early copies of the record were credited to the Downbeats. There was something about that Elgins name that Gordy liked though, and soon the Downbeats became the Elgins.
That first single did pretty well, reaching #4 on the R&B chart, and #72 on the Pop chart. It was the next Elgins single however that secured their place in the history of soul music. In July, 1966 “Heaven Must Have Sent You” was released by Motown’s V.I.P. subsidiary. The Holland-Dozier-Holland song reached #9 on the Billboard R&B chart, and #50 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Unfortunately, the next Elgins single didn’t do as well, and by 1967 the group was history. In 1971 “Heaven” was reissued in the UK and did very well. The group was able to tour the UK, albeit without Mallett. In 1989, some of the original Elgins recorded a new version of “Heaven” for Ian Levine’s Motorcity label, and recorded several other things for the label as well. Mallett, by then married and known as Saundra Edwards, also recorded for the label on her own.
Other versions of “Heaven” have lodged themselves in the public consciousness. There was a nice version by Diana Ross & the Supremes, and Bonnie Pointer turned it into a #11 disco hit in 1979. But despite the fact that the Elgins didn’t get to their name first, they did get to “Heaven Must Have Sent You” first. Although they didn’t last very long or have many hits as a group, the Elgins left their mark with a Motown classic.