Berry Gordy's Motown Records

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Founder and owner of the Tamla-Motown family record labels, Berry Gordy, Jr., established Motown Records as one of the most important independent labels in the early '60s. Assembling an industrious staff of songwriters, producers, and musicians, Motown Records built one of the most impressive rosters of artist in the history of pop music and became the largest and most successful independent record company in the United States by 1964.
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Berry Sr. and Bertha Gordy  1922

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Berry Sr. and Bertha Gordy 1923

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Home on Roosevelt in Detroit where the Gordys live in the 20s and 30s

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St. Antoine and Farnsworth

  

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Booker T. Washington Grocery
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Gordy Printing Company

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Business Card

On Thanksgiving day, November 28, 1929 Berry Gordy was born at Detroit's Harper Hospital. Gordy was the seventh child born to Berry and Bertha Gordy. The Gordys were an ambitious middle class with roots in Georgia farming and retailing. The family moved to Detroit from Sandersville, Georgia in 1922. Sandersville, Georgia with their first three children. It was here that they established a successful construction, painting and printing  business that allowed the family to purchase a commercial building on the corner of St. Antoine and Farnsworth Berry Gordy Sr also opened the Booker T. Washington grocery store From it he instilled the values of frugality, discipline family unity and hard work that were so dear to Booker T. Washington. After the children were grown Bertha would studied business at Wayne State University and University of Michigan. Finally graduating from Detroit Institute of Commerce Bertha would go on to co-found the Friendship Mutual Life Insurance Company.

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The Gordy's in their apartment
L to R: Berry Jr, Loucye, Gwen, Anna, Esther
, Berry Sr, Marie Boddie (friend), Grandma Lucy Hellum Gordy, cousin Evelyn Turk, Fuller George, Robert.

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Gordys working construction
L to R: Berry Sr., Robert and Berry Jr.

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Olympia Boxing Program 11/19/48

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In Korea

As a youth, playing Berry's Boogie, Gordy won a semi-final of a boogie-woogie piano contest at the Michigan Theater. Ultimately he lost to a five year old prodigy named Sugar "Chile" Robinson.

Gordy dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer. One time he even fightimg on the same card as the Brown Bomber Joe Lewis at Detroit's Olympia Stadium. He ended a respectable career as a featherweight winning thirteen of nineteen professional bouts. In 1950 after serving in the army in Fort Keep, Arkansas; Fort Custer, Michigan and Korea from 1951 -1953. He returned to Detroit and in the summer of 1953 with personal savings, his Army discharge pay, a $700 loan from his father and brother George, opened the 3-D Record Mart: The House That Jams Built..  Obsessed with his love of jazz, Gordy was too stubborn to stock the blues records that the neighborhood wanted. The result was the stored failed, and for awhile after he sold Guardian Service Cookware.

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Halloween 1957
L to R: Hazel Joy, Berry, Berry IV, Thelma

Berry married Thelma Crawford and quickly had three children. It was after closing the store that Gordy, with the help from his mother-in-law, went to work Ford in the foundry. which after one day quit. Next his mother-in-law got him a job on the assembly line as upholstery trimmer at the Ford Lincoln-Mercury plant in Wayne, MI earning $86.40 a week. By 1957 he had quit that job to become a professional songwriter.         

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Flame Show Bar

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L to R: Esther, Anna, Bertha, Gwen and Loucye Gordy

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Roquel "Billy" Davis aka Tyran Carlo

The Flame how Bar opened in 1949 and was located on the corner of John R and Canfield.  The Flame was a Black and Tan, a showplace for Black talent in Detroit during the 50s. Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Wynonie Harris were just a few of the many great Black entertainers that appeared there. The Berry's were in charge of the cigarette and photo concessions there. Sisters Gwen and Anna took the photos with brothers George and Robert developing the film. It was at this time that Al Green the Flame's owner who he managed Jackie Wilson nvited Gordy to write Wilson . Gordy teaming with Roquel "Billy" Davis aka Tyran Carlo began writing at Green's office. Eventually sister Gwen would be brought in and they would write To Be Loved," Lonely Teardrops," "That's Why (I Love You So)" and "I"ll Be Satisfied. Established as hit writers Gordy started doing some producing.

In late 1957, Gordy had his first success with "Reet Petite" which was recorded by Detroit born Jackie Wilson who had at one time replaced Clyde McPhatter as lead singer of the Dominoes. The next year he wrote "Lonely Teardrops" for Wilson.57

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Berry and Raynoma Gordy

One day in 1958, Gordy met Raynoma Liles after she had won a talent contest at a Detroit nightclub. After the emcee recommendation, she and her sister auditioned for Gordy. Not only did Gordy meet his next wife Raynoma, but he found a woman who could help him write hit records. Known around the company as Miss Ray, she had perfect pitch and could write lead sheets. They soon formed the Rayber Voice Recording Company. For $100 they would do whatever was necessary to help a young singer make a record. With a second hand disc making machine, a rented studio at United Sound, he would cut records for them on their Rayber Records label. Eventally he would hire Al Abrams to work as a promoter. From writing, arranging rehearsing or recording a demo. In this way they were able to find new talent. They also put together the Rayber Voices, a studio group that backed most of Motown's first acts early recordings.lppppp


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