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Motown complex on West Grand Boulevard

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2657 W. Grand Boulevard

In 1959, Gordy made a $3000 down payment towards the purchase of a $23,000 house at 2648 West Grand Boulevard where he and Raynoma lived s upstairs, coverting the downstairs to and office and the basement to a recording studio.After he purchased 2644-2246 West Grand Boulevard in April of 1961 he placed Jobete, the sales, shipping and public relations departments in it. In January of 1962 2650-2652 West Grand Boulevard was added to house  Berry and  his sister Esther's offices International Talent Management.  From 1965 on 2656 hosed finance department;  2662-64 purchased the next year was home to the sales and marketing. 26666-68 was bought at the same time. ITMI was moved to 2670-72 after it was bought in late 1966. Across the street, 2657 was converted into Artist Development Department in early 1966.

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Aiming for the mass market, Gordy called the music "The Sound of Young America" and affixed a sign over Motown studio that read "Hitsville U.S.A."

Berry Gordy, using methods practiced in Detroit auto factories, ensured the continued success of the Supremes by assembling parts of a hit making machine, that included standardized song writing, an in house rhythm section, a quality control process, selective promotion  and a family atmosphere reminiscent of the paternalism of Henry Ford in his auto plants in the early twentieth century.

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l to r Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, Eddie Holland

The songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland joined forces in 1962 and perfected the formula of success that they discovered with their composition "Where Did Our Love Go."

The different singles also sound remarkably similar because of the in house rhythm section known as the Funk Brothers. In 1964, Earl Van Dyke, a former be-bop jazz pianist who toured with R&B singer Lloyd Price became the leader of the studio band. He played with drummer Benny Benjamin and bassist James Jamerson, who had backed Jackie Wilson and the Miracles. Together with a few other musicians the Funk Brothers provided the trademark percussive beat of the Motown sound

Gordy attempted to maintain consistent quality of Motown by conducting weekly meeting that scrutinized possible releases.

Gordy carefully promoted the songs that were released through means that kept the slick Motown image intact. Getting them spots on "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Dean Martin Show," "The Tonight Show," "The Hollywood Palace," and "Orange Bowl Parade., the Copacabana in New York, exclusive Los Vegas hotels. He even had entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Broadway star Carol Channing write liner notes.

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Velvelettes at the 20 Grand

In 1960, between sets at the 20 Grand, Gordy met Otis Williams when he walked into the bathroom. Elegants, the Questions, and the Distants. Renamed them the Temptations. Norm Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland formed the legendary Motown  songwriting production crew.

During the mid-1960s,  Gordy established a music empire that included eight record labels, a management service,  a publishing company, and grossed millions of dollars a year  From 1964 to 1967, Motown had 14 number one pop singles, 20 number one singles on the R&B charts, forty six more Top Fifteen pop singles and seventy-five other Top 15 R&B singles. In 1966 alone, seventy-five percent of Motown's releases made the charts.

In 1967 the Motown empire began to decline. A few days before a scheduled performance by the Supremes at the Hollywood Bowl in April, Gordy fired Florence Ballard, who had become jealous of the increasing prominent position of Diana Ross, and replaced her with Cindy Birdstrong. In July 1968, he fired David Ruffin of the Temptations and hired Dennis Edwards. Gordy quarreled about royalty rates with the the songwriting-production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who quit and filed suit against Motown.

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Motown's Hollywood office

Suffering the departure of H-D-H, Berry Gordy began to concentrate on the career of Diana Ross as a solo act in 1970. Maintaining the company's success with The Jacksons, Gordy moved Motown to Hollywood in 1971 and established Motown Industries, expanding to Broadway musicals and films.

During the first half of the '70s, Diana Ross was established as Motown's first all-around entertainer through her work in super clubs and films. Motown suffered defections in the '70s with Martha Reeves recording solo for other labels in 1974 and The Four Tops signing with ABC/Dunhill. Gladys Knight and The Pips recording for Buddah beginning in 1974 and, in 1975 The Jackson Five moved to Epic, as did Michael Jackson in 1978. The Miracles, without Smokey Robinson, switched to Columbia in 1977 and The Temptations went to Atlantic. However, Motown retained its position as an important independent label with the recordings of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Commodores, and Rick James.

During the '80s Motown struggled. Diana Ross moved to RCA in 1981 and Marvin Gaye signed with Columbia in 1982. The Temptations returned as did The Four Tops by the mid-'80s. The Gordy label introduced Debarge in 1983. The company staged a successful 25th anniversary celebration in 1983 that was later broadcast on ABC-TV. Motown Productions produced Lonesome Dove  for CBS-TV in 1989. However, many former employees, including Eddie Holland and members of The Vandellas and The Marvelettes sued Motown, alleging failure to pay royalties.

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                                                Esther Gordy Edwards

motownmuseum.jpg (14416 bytes)Motown Museum

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Motown Building

In 1985, Esther Gordy Edwards opened  the Motown Historical Museum inside the restored Hitsville building offering tours. There were rumors that the former Motown building on Woodward would be used as a larger museum. However it still remains abandoned and boarded up as of the end of 2000.

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On August 21, 1987 the old Motown office building and studio was designated a historical site by the State of Michigan and Detroit City Council in October, 2007 renamed the stretch of West Grand Boulevard from the John C. Lodge to Grand River Berry Gordy Jr. Boulevard.

In July 1988 Berry Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures for $61 million. Boston Ventures later bought out MCA's interest and sold Motown Records to the Dutch-based Polygram conglomerate for $325 million in 1993. In late 1994, Warner books published Gordy's self-serving biography To Be Loved.

Berry Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990

Motown Historical Museum
Classic Motown

 

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