Tamla Motown - Hitsville



Image Jazz obsessed ex boxer, Berry Gordy Jr. owner of Tamla-Motown family record labels, built Motown Records into the most important independent labels in the early '60s. Gathering the very best and hardworking musicians, songwriters, and producers, Motown Records with the help of an in house band, which maybe was the best band the pop world has ever had, built the most impressive list of artists in the history of pop music. Motown became the largest & most successful independent record company in the USA by 1964.



Image Eight houses on West Grand Boulevard were acquired by the company to house its growing operations until it moved its offices to a high-rise in downtown Detroit in 1968. In 1959 with an $800 loan Berry bought a small 2 story building on West Grand Boulevard. This was split into 2 flats, one for himself and his young family to live, the second flat were his offices and he assembled his recording studio in the basement/garage. Gordy called the music "The Sound of Young America" and fixed a sign over his studio that read "Hitsville U.S.A." Then in April of 1961 he purchased 2644-2246 West Grand Boulevard & he placed Jobete 9his publishing company), the sales, shipping and public relations departments in it. In January of 1962, he bought 2650-2652 West Grand Boulevard to house his own and his sister Esther's offices International Talent Management. From 1965 on 2656 housed the finance department. 2662-64 purchased the next year was home to the sales and marketing. 2666-68 was bought at the same time. ITMI was moved to 2670-72 after it was bought in late 1966. Across the street, and 2657 was converted into Artist Development Department in early 1966.

(In 1985, Esther Gordy Edwards opened the Motown Historical Museum inside the restored Hitsville).


1957: Berry Gordy become a professional songwriter.
1957: Berry Gordy & Raynoma Liles (second wife to be) formed the Rayber Music Writing Company. For $100 they would do whatever was necessary to help a young singer make a record, be it writing, arranging, rehearsing or recording a demo.
1957: Late '57 Berry Gordy's first success with Reet Petit performed by Jackie Wilson and The Dominoes.
1958: James Jamerson enters with his bass.
1958: Meeting with The Matadors who's lead singer is William 'Smokey' Robinson. Changing to the Miracles, Gordy managered their single 'Got A Job'
1958: Formed own label Tamla Records
1958: Tamla's first release, R&B singer Marv Johnson's "Come To Me." followed by "Money," which was recorded by Barrett Strong.
1959: Gordy started his own publishing company, Jobete Publishing. If you wrote for Motown you were published by Jobete which grew to be one of the most powerful in the industry.
1959: A sixteen year old Mary Wells joins Motown as singer/songwriter,
1960: Marvin Gaye started as a session drummer at Motown
1960: Norm Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, (Brian)Holland-(Lamont)Dozier-(Eddie)Holland formed the legendary Motown songwriting production crew.
1961: January, Supremes signed to motown
1961:April, 2644-2246 West Grand Boulevard is purchased to house Jobete, the sales, shipping and public relations
1961: Martha Reeves hired as a secretary at Motown
1961: the Temptations before their move to Motown recorded "Oh Mother of Mine" which received little response.
1961: Marvelettes sign to Motown
1962: January, 2650-2652 West Grand Boulevard was added to house Berry and Esther's offices International Talent Management. (I.T.M.)
1962: April, the Temptations moved to Motown and recorded "Isn't She Pretty,"
1962: Songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland full employment
1962: The Vandellas with Martha Reeves is formed as Marvin Gayes' backing vocals
1963: June, Motowns first Album. The Miracles 'You've Really Got A Hold On Me'
1963: The Four Tops sign to Motown
1963: Pianist Joe Hunter moved on from Motown, replaced by the great Earl Van Dyke
1964: Maxine Powell who had operated a finishing and modeling school is hired, to prep his performers and transform Motown artists into polished professionals.
1964: Choreographer, Cholly Atkins, a well known dancer in the 1930s and 1940s who had performed at the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom, is hired to teach these groups how to move gracefully.
1964: Mary Wells was the first Tamla Motown artist to chart in the UK with 'My Guy'
1964: Jr. Walker & The Allstars were signed to Motown
1965: 2656 West Grand Boulevard bought for a finance department;
1966: 2662-64 West Grand Boulevard purchased for sales and marketing.
1966: 2666-68 West Grand Boulevard purchased
1966: 2670-72 West Grand Boulevard purchased
1967: Florence Ballard of the Supremes was replaced by Cindy Birdstrong.
1968: Gordy fired David Ruffin of the Temptations and hired Dennis Edwards.
1968: Holland-Dozier-Holland quit and filed suit against Motown.
1968: Jackson Five were signed to Motown Records
1970: Diana Ross goes solo
1971:Gordy starts to moved Motown to Hollywood and established Motown Industries, expanding to Broadway musicals and films.
1972: Commadores signed to Motown
1973: End of the Snakepit. The recording studio at Hitsville,
West Grand Boulevard
is closed.
1974: Gladys Knight and The Pips signed to Buddah
1974: Martha Reeves left Motown and recorded solo
1974: The Four Tops signed with ABC/Dunhill.
1975: The Jackson Five moved to Epic
1977: Ryck James signed to Motown
1978: Michael Jackson moved to Epic
1981: Lional Ritchie goes solo
1981: Diana Ross moved to RCA
1982: Marvin Gaye signed with Columbia.
1983:May. NBC-TV broadcast of Motown 25: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Still not mention of the Funk Brothers.
1983: August 2nd, James Jamerson dies.
1984: April 1st, Marvin Gaye dies.
1985: A restored Hitsville opened as the Motown Historical Museum offering tours.
1988: July, Berry Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures for $61 million
1993: Boston Ventures sold Motown Records to the Dutch-based Polygram conglomerate for $325 million
1994: Warner books published Gordy's self-serving biography 'To Be Loved'.
1997: ABC-TV special, Motown 40: The Music Is Forever - The Funk Brothers at last got credits