“Bye Bye Baby” is the first single by R&B singerMary Wells, released in December 1960 on the Motown label. The song was one of Motown’s earliest hit singles and showcased a much rougher vocal than the singer had during her later years.
In 1960, Wells, then 17 years of age, was a nightclub singer who was struggling to make ends meet in Detroit. She aspired to be a songwriter as well, so she wrote a song for fellow Detroiter and R&B singer Jackie Wilson. She saw Berry Gordy while attempting to deliver “Bye Bye, Baby” to Wilson, and asked Gordy to give Wilson her song. But Gordy, having severed ties with Wilson’s manager to form Motown, asked Wells to sing it herself for Motown. Mary recorded “Bye Bye Baby” in her version of Jackie Wilson’s style. Reports claim that the teen had to record the song 26 times or more, before Gordy had a version he approved for release. According to Detroit music mogul Johnnie Mae Matthews, Wells had come to her with four lines of the song, which Matthews said she finished up. When the song was issued, she didn’t get a songwriting credit.
Release and reaction
Released in December 1960, the song became an R&B hit reaching number eight on the Billboard R&B singles chart and crossed over to pop stations where it peaked at number forty-five. It was significant as the first single released under one of the Motown subsidiaries nationally after the label’s first singles were released through distributing labels such as United Artists.