Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Gordy, Jr., Berry

Berry Gordy, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1929. He dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade, seeking to become a professional boxer. In 1951, he joined the U.S. Army, serving in Korea until he was discharged in 1953.
Returning to Detroit, Gordy built upon his love of music and opened the 3-D Record Mart-House of Jazz. In 1955, the store went bankrupt and went to work on the assembly line at Ford’s Lincoln-Mercury plant.

He quit that job in 1957 to become a professional songwriter and in 1959 he founded Tamla Records. Also in 1959, Gordy purchased the property on Detroit’s famed Grand Blvd. that would eventually become known as Hitsville USA. A photography studio near the back of one of the buildings on the property was converted to a recording studio, while administrative offices were set up in other buildings.

In 1960, Gordy officially incorporated Motown Records as a sister label to Tamla, housing both under the Motown Record Corporation name. The music labels enjoyed quick success, scoring its first #1 R & B hit – “Shop Around” by The Miracles – in 1960. “Shop Around” was also Motown’s first record that sold more than one million copies.

From 1961 to 1971, Motown Record Corporation enjoyed 110 Top Ten hits, from artists that included Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, and The Four Tops. Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and The Temptations were signed by a third label, which Gordy named after himself. In 1972, Gordy moved Motown Records to Los Angeles where it remained a well- known label.

Gordy was married and divorced three times and fathered seven children through a number of relationships, including one with Motown Records’ most successful female artist, Diana Ross.

Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.

 


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