“Hitsville USA” original home of Motown Records

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2648 West Grand Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48208
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“Hitsville U.S.A.” is the nickname given to Motown’s first headquarters. A former photographers’ studio located at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, Michigan approaching the New Center area, it was purchased by Motown founder Berry Gordy in 1959.

It was converted into both the record label’s administrative building and recording studio, which was open 22 hours a day (closing from 8 to 10 AM for maintenance). Following mainstream success in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Gordy moved the label to Los Angeles and established the Hitsville West studio there, as a part of his main focus on not only music production, but also television and film production.

In 1959, Gordy formed his first label, Tamla Records, and purchased the property that 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 Gordys moved into the second floor living quarters. Within seven years, Motown would occupy seven additional neighboring houses.

Gordy founded a second label, Motown Records, in September 1959. Early Tamla/Motown artists included Mable John, Eddie Holland. Barrett Strong Jr. and Mary Wells. “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a 1959 hit single by Barrett Strong for the Tamla label, distributed nationally on Anna Records. Co-written with Barrett Strong, Barry Gordy and Janie Bradford it was the first big hit for Motown. “Shop Around”, The Miracles’ first #1 R&B hit, peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. It was Tamla’s first million-selling record. On April 14, 1960, Motown and Tamla Records merged into a new company called Motown Record Corporation. A year later, The Marvelettes scored Tamla’s first US #1 pop hit, “Please Mr. Postman”. By the mid-1960s, the label, with the help of songwriters and producers such as Robinson, A&R chief William “Mickey” Stevenson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and [Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield], were a major force in the music industry.

A gifted songwriter, Berry penned or co-wrote hits for Jackie Wilson, including “Reet Petite,” “Lonely Teardrops” and “To Be Loved.” Despite this success, Berry was not content to write songs: He burned with the entrepreneurial spirit, as was only natural for one of Berry, Sr. and Bertha’s children. With an $800 loan in hand from the Gordy Family’s Ber-Berry Co-op, Berry set out in 1959 to apply some of the principles he learned in the auto plant to the production of records and the creation of music groups and solo artists. He envisioned a process by which a “kid could walk in one door an unknown off the street and come out the other a polished performer.”

With a tenacity that reflected his training as a boxer, a drive to succeed that matched the lessons he learned from his parents, and an attention to detail that is evident in the quality and uniqueness of every element of the Motown experience, Berry built the Empire on West Grand Boulevard, known as Motown Records.

Motown Record Corporation was incorporated in April 1960, a year that produced Barrett Strong’s biggest hit, “Money (That’s What I Want),” for which Berry shared writing credits with Janie Bradford. The Miracles’ “Shop Around,” written by lead singer Smokey Robinson, was also released that year and reached #1 and #2, respectively, on the R&B national and Billboard pop charts.

When Berry purchased the two-family flat at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, he moved his wife and young son into the upper unit and began to build his record company on the first floor paying back installment loans pretty quickly. His energy and drive to reach his goal infected the growing Motown Records family as hit after hit emerged from Studio A.

(via Motownmuseum.org)

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