G1E2 – Origins of the Motown – The Early Days

Includes: The Supremes, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye

On a personal note, I would like to thank all the puffins for their kind words and thoughts, not just on the site, but e-mails and messages over these past few weeks.  Sadly, I am not the first dad to lose a child, be they terrible times, however, we must move on with life.  This is the way.

This is Genre 1, Motown, episode 2.

For those of a certain age this will bring back some fond memories and get your foot tapping.  If you are a lot younger, as this is such good stuff, you will have heard most before, as it simply does not go out of fashion, as it is a truly classic genre.

In Episode 1 we found that   Berry Gordy Jr. started Motown in January 1959 with a loan from his family.

I give thanks to Wiki of course and for this genre and to Britannica.com and to Wiki.

Gordy purchased West Grand Boulevard in 1959 and would become Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A. studio. The photography studio located in the back of the property was modified into a small recording studio, and the Gordy’s moved into the second floor living quarters. Within seven years, Motown would occupy seven additional neighbouring houses:

Over 7 years he bought several more buildings, employing over 450 people, including:
Artist personal development, 1966 – Harvey Fuqua (head of artist development and producer of stage performances), Maxine Powell (instructor in grooming, poise, and social graces for Motown artists), Maurice King (vocal coach, musical director and arranger), Cholly Atkins (house choreography), and rehearsal studios.  He did this, as Motown was actually a small company, it worked though.  The release to hit ratio was staggeringly good.

Motown had a gross income of $20 million by the end of 1966.  Clearly taking their business very seriously.  I doubt if today’s crop of pop stars has an instructor in grooming, poise, and social graces!  

From 1961 to 1971, Motown had 110 top 10 hits. Top artists on the Motown label during that period included the Supremes (initially including Diana Ross), the Four Tops, and the Jackson 5, while Stevie WonderMarvin Gayethe Marvelettes, and the Miracles had hits on the Tamla label. The company operated several labels in addition to the Tamla and Motown imprints. A third label, which Gordy named after himself (though it was originally called “Miracle”) featured the Temptationsthe ContoursEdwin Starr, and Martha and the Vandellas. A fourth, V.I.P., released recordings by the Velvelettesthe Spinnersthe Monitors, and Chris Clark.

The Tunes:

The Supremes – Your Heart Belongs To Me – Not one I remember, but pleasant little ditty.

Supremes – Where Did Our Love Go (1964).  I have made this the featured track, as it is utterly superb.  As good today as then.

The Supremes – Baby Love – “Top Of The Pops” Show (1964), simply awesome.

Four Tops – Baby I Need Your Loving (1966) – Not released as a single in the UK, which I found odd, given it really is a classic.

The four tops – I can’t help myself (sugar pie, honey bunch) – I remember well, in the youth club playing ping-pong (stopped me from stabling people that).  Singing along and trying to do their dance moves on the disco floor when it started at half eight.

The Four Tops – It’s The Same Old Song (Live Paris France 1967).  Always like this.

Stevie Wonder – Uptight (Everything’s Alright) (Live on TOTP 1966) – I remember watching this at the time.  Awesome.

Little Stevie Wonder – Fingertips – Ed Sullivan Show 1963.  Not a big hit here, but I do remember that harmonica playing. 

Marvin Gaye – Pride & Joy (Tamla Records Video 1963).  Backed up by Martha and the Vandellas.  Very distinctive sound.

Marvin Gaye – How Sweet It Is To Be Loved by You (1965).  Lovely song.

The Marvelettes – Please Mr. Postman (1961).  Always enjoyed this song, even when done by countless other artists.

Singalong, enjoy and be happy!

Featured image: “Motown” by nvivo.es, 5gig is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

© Phil the ex test manager 2023