Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Motown Museum and Memories

Thoughts of yesterday are still spinning in my head.  We visited the Motown Museum in Detroit and it brought back a lot of memories from songs of the 60's and 70's.
The museum was modest by most standards but so full of incredible thoughts of the 'Motown Sound' of years ago that this has been one of my all time favorite museums. We found the museum easily.  I was expecting it to be in a ramshackle old part of downtown Detroit.  Wrong.

It was very well maintained and in a busy area on Grand Blvd.
The parking lot is small but it fools you.  10 million visitors have come through the doors since the museum opened in 1985.  The museum is really two homes that were used as Berry Gordy, Jr's. home, recording studio and the early Motown offices.

Unfortunately, no pictures or video cameras are allowed so a lot of these are from the official website and elsewhere.  The $8 price was well worth it.  The first thing I noticed was how nice the you people were who conducted the tours and ran the ticket counter and gift shop.  They were polite, poised and immediately gave you a good impression.

We went first to the little movie room and saw a film of the history of Berry Gordy and how it all started.  He came from a hardworking family with 8 children.  His dad owned a construction company and his mom sold life insurance.  Every child was expected to work in high school.  Berry Gordy worked and also boxed.  He was a professional boxer before he got drafted in the Korean War.
After the war, he returned with his wife and three children and worked for a time at Ford Motor Company.  He was writing songs and found enough success to where he thought he do it for a living.  In the late 50's he wrote 'Lonely Teardrops' that became one of Jackie Wilson's greatest hits.

He borrowed $800 from the family co-op (bank) and had to pay it back at 6% interest.  I was very impressed with how influential his family was.  It seemed like they were a very strong family, hard working with strong character that they instilled in their children.  That was in 1959 when he bought the house that became the focal point and where it all began.
After the short film, we went up to the top floor of the house and wandered through rooms that were turned into galleries.  The pictures and momentos were amazing.    All the pictures and gold records on the walls ~ it was really really something.  It was fun to just read about all the artists and how they were groomed for success.

Motown had a Personal Development group where the artists were taught how to carry themselves and learned the basics of common courtesy and respect and how to talk to royalty and presidents.  They had a dance studio and a choreographer who came up with the signature moves of the Temptations and the 4 Tops and the Supremes.

At the last part of the tour we went to the recording studio that was very basic.  It was converted from the garage and was small.  It had enough room for a piano some drums and a small band they called the Funk Brothers.  These guys were 'hourlies' that got paid $8.50 an hour to play background and accompany the singers.
All the Motown greats recorded in what became known as Studio A:  Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, the 4 Tops, Rare Earth and Gladys Knight and the Pips to name a few.

It was really a great place to see.  Afterwards, a people were taking pictures outside since none were allowed inside.   If you ever have the chance to see it, you'll be glad you did!

Hope you are having a good week and thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles for a trip down memory lane...


  1. Sounds like a great place to visit. Sure loved that music!

  2. What a great place with so many memories! I'd love to go there sometime...but not real sure I want to go to Detroit :)

  3. We sure do want to hit that museum someday. We were teens in the 60's and that music was some of the best. We got to see the Supremes in concert and that was awesome. I think going to that Motown Museum will be a real highlight for us. Thanks, Randy and Pam, for taking us along on your tour.

  4. Now if the NFL, NBA, and MLB would start a Personal Development program the athletes of today might become the legends of tomorrow like the artists you mentioned!

  5. I never became a real fan of the "Motown" sound although I liked some of the individual artists and their songs. However, I'd definitely like to visit that museum and see all those displays for myself. Thanks for the great write-up!!

  6. Sometimes it's the places closest to home we never think to go see. We are only about a 3 hour drive from Detroit but have never been to that Motown Museum. I think it's just the thought of going to Detroit that is the turn off.

  7. OH yea...rhythm and blues...I LOVED Marvin Gaye, The Supremes...(I have questionable heritage)... Detroit is similar to Chicago..lots of great stuff to see, but the traffic is a turn off. Music is the universal language and we play every kind here at our house...Nashville is also full of great music history!! Not to mention you are very close to the Jack Daniels Distillery which gives free tours...and very historic...