Berry Gordy: The founder of Motown
Berry Gordy, Jr., was born in Detroit Michigan on November 28, 1929. He was the seventh of eight children of Berry, Sr. and Bertha Gordy. Berry Gordy, Jr. dropped out of the school after his junior year to become a professional boxer; he decided to get out of the fight game at about the time the Army drafted him in 1951. In 1953, he married Thelma Coleman and in 1954 his first child was born, a daughter Hazel Joy. By 1959 they had two other children, named Berry IV and Terry. They divorced in 1959 (Edwards and Callahan).
In 1953, he opened a jazz orientated record store called 3-D Record Mart. In 1954, the stored failed and Gordy began working for Ford Motor Company on the assembly line. This is where it all began. His first success as a song writer came in 1957 when Jackie Wilson recorded “Reet Petite”. Over the next 2 years he co-wrote four more hits for Wilson. Being successful as a song writer, Gordy decided to produce his songs himself. In 1958, Berry produced a record by Eddie Holland titled “You”, which was released on Mercury records. Kudos records issued four more Gordy production, two of which are significant to the Motown story: the first Mary Johnson release, titled “My Baby O,” and a Brian Holland (Eddie’s brother) vocal, titled “Shock”. With Smokey Robinson and the Holland brothers, Berry had discovered three incredible songwriters and producers Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson later became life long friends (Edwards and Callahan).
On January 12th, 1959 Berry decided to take control of his songs, he borrowed $800 from his family’s loan fund to start his own record label, called Tamla. He wanted to call his label Stephenson 2
“Tammy,” after a Debbie Reynolds film but it was already taken. Tamla Records was located at 1719 Gladstone Street in Detroit. Berry had produced 2 hits for the group the Miracles which were titled “Get a Job” and “I Cry “. The Miracles third release was issued on a second label Berry formed, called Motown. It was called “Bad Girl” (Edwards and Callahan). The apartment was getting to be too small, so Ray, Berry’s second wife found a two story house on 2648 West Grand Boulevard. Looking at the big unique picture window, Berry came with the name Hitsville USA. He wanted to be a hip name for a factory where hits are going to be built (Gordy 118). In early 1960, “Money” was released by Barrett Strong. By the late 1950s, Detroit was the largest cities in the USA that did not have a strong independent record company. With the establishment of Motown, the local talent had an outlet, and they started showing up at the Motown offices. Mickey, my A&R director started looking for the most talented musicians. They called themselves the Funk Brothers (124). One night Berry was at the hottest night club in Detroit called the 20 Grand. He met Mary Wells. She had told Berry that she had written a song for another artist, but he like her voice so much that he told her to come to Motown the next day (139). There was also the group called the Primettes who later became the Supremes. Berry Gordy signed other groups to Motown such as; Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Contours, Four Tops, Marvin Gaye etc. just to name the many people that became a part of the Motown family (145-148). Then there was the Quality Control meetings in which he placed Billie Jean Brown in charge of. Berry discovered that she knew her music; she was strong, opinionated, honest, witty and had a good ear (Posner 115). Berry also had a slogan to Create, Sell and Collect. He placed Barney Wright who was in charge of sales, became in charge of collecting the money that was owed from the distributors (154).
By the fall of 1963 Motown had increased their visibility in Europe with signing of an international foreign distribution deal EMI (180). Tamla was already popular in Europe, so when Motown was...
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