Marvin Earl Johnson was born in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career singing with a doo-wop group called the Serenaders in the mid 1950s. With budding talents not only as a singer but as a songwriter and pianist, he was discovered by Berry Gordy while Johnson performed at a carnival.Gordy had already decided to form his first record label, Tamla, and Johnson’s recording of their song “Come to Me” became the label’s first single in May 1959.The fledgling label did not have national distribution and so the song was released by United Artists, and reached No.30 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Johnson would co-write another four songs with Gordy.
Between 1959 and 1961, Johnson would issue nine Billboard Hot 100 singles including two Top 10s. The first of them was “You Got What It Takes”, which reached No.10 in the US and No.7 in the UK Singles Chart. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. “I Love The Way You Love” reached No.9. He scored his final US Top 40 single in 1960 with “(You’ve Got To) Move Two Mountains”. It also sold a million copies, giving Johnson his second gold disc