Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Motown Records

With an $800 loan from his family, Berry Gordy, Jr. founded Tamla Records on January 12, 1959.  Gordy’s first successful act was signed as The Matadors, but their name was quickly changed to The Miracles.  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 names after himself. The company specialized in a type of soul music that came to be known as “The Motown Sound” and it had enormous success in “crossing over” to white audiences.  Many Motown acts were popular in both the African American and Caucasian communities, with acts travelling the world to entertain enthusiastic fans. Motown Records also developed an “artist development” program that helped talented but inexperienced young singers develop presentation styles that would endear them to audiences – particularly white audiences.  Motown artists, many under the tutelage of Maxine Powell, learned to walk, talk, think and act like royalty.

Motown had established offices in both Los Angeles and New York during the 1960s and in 1972 the company officially moved its headquarters to Los Angeles.  In June 1988, Berry Gordy, Jr. sold his stake in Motown Records for $61 million to Music Corporation of America (MCA).



Motown Records business card, 1970 - 2011.009.007

MLK speech record, released by Motown Records, 1963 - 2004.005.011

View all items related to Motown Records