The song “Don’t Mess with Bill” was written and produced by Smokey Robinson. The message is really clear: Stay away from her man. Bill, that is. (The Bill in the song, Smokey claims, does not refer to himself, as his real name is William Robinson, Jr. It was just a name that fit that lyrics.) The Marvelettes recorded it in 1965 for Motown Records’ Tamla Label. It was released as a single at the end of 1965, backed with “Anything You Wanna Do.” By February of 1966, it had risen to #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the R&B Singles Chart. It sold more than one million copies and was awarded an RIAA gold record. It’s a classic of that Sixties Motown sound.
The Marvelettes had personnel changes over the years, but for this song, the group included Wanda Young on lead vocals, with Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson, and The Andantes (Jackie HIcks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps) on backing vocals. Instrumentation was provided by the fabulous Motown session musicians The Funk Brothers. The Marvelettes were school mates from Inkster, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. They had hits with “Playboy” and “Please Mr. Postman.”