Monday, March 27, 2023

The Birth of Motown

In 1957 Barry Gordy went to an audition with Jackie Wilson’s manager to hear a local group called the Matadors. Their lead singer was a 17-year-old Smokey Robinson. At the time, Gordy was writing and producing songs in Detroit for artists on a variety of record labels, most famously Wilson’s hit song Lonely Teardrops. Wilson’s manager declined to sign the Matadors, but Gordy saw potential in the young singer and his group. Gordy discovered that Smokey already had hundreds of songs written in a notebook and Gordy helped him craft the best ones. 

Gordy wanted to start his own independent music label and Smokey had the passion and creative talent to help make it happen. So, Gordy made Smokey his vice president and together they formed Motown records. They bought a photographic studio in Detroit and converted the downstairs into a recording studio and business office. Gordy lived upstairs. He called the house, Hitsville USA and that’s exactly what came out of it, hit after hit. 

In 1960 they had their first million selling record, Shop Around written by Smokey and performed by “Smokey (Bill) Robinson and the Miracles”(changed from Matadors). Between 1961 and 1971, Motown had 110 top ten hits from their all-black artists, which included: the Miracles, the Marvelettes(who had Motown’s first #1 hit on the pop charts with Please Mr. Postman), the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and Martha and the Vandellas.

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