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  1. #1
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    Move from Detroit to LA

    I found a fascinating article that provides a brief summary of Motown’s move from Detroit to California. Interestingly, as late as 1974 Studio B was still active. The move was hardly abrupt as many of us were “led to believe” in various articles stating that Motown suddenly abandon Detroit in 1972.

    Interestingly, Motown opened its first LA office in 1963. In 1967, Berry announced the name change of the Supremes to the DRATS in LA and subsequently bought a house for his family in 1968. Didn’t Diana and Mary also move around 1967/8 due to the enormous television work they were doing? Not sure if anyone else from the Motown roster made the move? Maybe Smokey too?

    Any additional comments from insiders or those in the know?

    https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.co...etroit-feature

    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Just a couple of questions/remarks on the article:

    I thought that Marvin Gaye moved to California and recorded "Trouble Man" there? Was some of the recording done in Detroit? I think I read somewhere that he invited some of the Funk Brothers to play on that soundtrack.

    The article doesn't explicitly say it but suggests that Martha Reeves did the vocal for "Tear It On Down" in LA as a final single because Motown was closing up in Detroit. That song was recorded more than a year before, in May 1971, and there were several M&TV recordings made after that one. No one would have known at the time of recording that the song would be the group's final single [released in May 1972, a few months before Motown closed up in Detroit], it just turned out that way.

    Wasn't Ralph working for Motown at that time? Maybe he'll see this thread and give an insider's take on Motown closing down in Detroit. Or maybe he already has in an old thread?
    Last edited by calvin; 07-18-2021 at 05:29 PM.

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    Although I'm no Motown "expert", this article seemed to me to be made up of a bunch of bits and pieces of books and articles I've read over the years. I think the author did a bit of "cut and paste" and probably not 100% accurately.

  4. #4
    One thing is for certain.

    Once Motown had became established in L.A by the first couple of years of the 70s, it seemed to do all it could to undermine the Detroit operation, as Ralph as mentioned here many times before!

    And as also mentioned, the account of how the Detroit operation was ended in 'Standing in the Shadows of Motown' was not quite [as detmotownguy points out] abruptly ended in 1972 ["there'll be no sessions here today" etc.], but I seem to recall that Studio A was indeed used up until 1974, albeit less and less frequently as staff and musicians moved out to the L.A operation, and the Detroit one was gradually wound down.

    What I find interesting is how some members of the Detroit operation appeared to be 'in the loop' so to speak as regards to moving themselves and other staff out to L.A.

    I seem to remember Russ Terrana mentioning in one of Ralph's videos that he recalls that Motown had arranged and organised for all his possessions and stuff to be packed up and shipped out to L.A, whilst others claim to have had little or no knowledge of staff being moved there, or were told something along the lines of "come out here if you like", but they had to arrange and organise the move by themselves.

    Cheers

    Paul
    Last edited by bradburger; 07-18-2021 at 06:18 PM.

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    Doesn’t DFTMC state that a lot of the instrumental of Black Magic album was recorded in LA while the vocals were done in Detroit, also Mary moved to LA in 68 hence why she wasn’t on Love Child. I believe Diana and Cindy moved to LA in 1969

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    Yes, Motown L.A began pillaging Studio B in 1973. There was no doubt where this was going. We all knew it was going to be over. I chose to leave the company even though I would have benefited the total move compliments of the company. Russ went to L.A. in January of 1972 and Motown took care of the tab. plus found him a house.

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    According to the session logs, the last Studio A session, an instrumental track for Art & Honey, was on 30 August 1973, and the last Studio B session, "voices" probably for Robert Bullock, was held on 12 September 1974.

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    Prior to the mid 1960s, the center of the recording industry had been in Chicago which was convenient to Detroit. Motown's staff and musicians began migrating to LA because the entire industry from all over the world, including Chicago, was relocating there and creating massive opportunities. Work for musicians had been declining in Detroit so it seemed inevitable the rest of Motown would need to follow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Prior to the mid 1960s, the center of the recording industry had been in Chicago which was convenient to Detroit. Motown's staff and musicians began migrating to LA because the entire industry from all over the world, including Chicago, was relocating there and creating massive opportunities. Work for musicians had been declining in Detroit so it seemed inevitable the rest of Motown would need to follow.
    Now, that's a fresh perspective showing the bigger picture.

    It suggests that Motown in Detroit would have died a death from a thousand little bites had it stayed.

    In some ways, it's a shame - !!! - that they couldn't move Hitsville Studio A brick by brick and rebuild it in LA - a la London Bridge - so that the sound and vibe also survived.

    But, having said that, did the Detroit Motown Sound of the early 70s really have enough unique selling points and forward momentum of its own to survive anyway, or were its writers and producers starting to follow trends set by others?

    And were other labels, artists, writers and producers picking up the 'crossover' baton created by Motown and taking it places that Motown simply couldn't, e.g. Gamble and Huff, Bert De Coteaux, Thom Bell, Barry White, Willie Mitchell and Al Green, Bill Withers, The Isley Brothers, Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield etc. plus Stevie and Marvin?
    Last edited by Sotosound; 07-23-2021 at 10:42 AM.

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    Norman Smith, the original Beatles engineer, was surprised to find that it was no problem achieving "the Motown Sound" at EMI/Abbey Road when he recorded the Funk Brothers. I visited London in 1969 and was struck by how much EMI's Studio 2 sounded like Hitsville in spite of being a lot larger. It became clear in our discussion that our methodology and equipment were remarkably similar and what was different was the quality of the songwriting, the arranging and who was in front of the microphones. I think the unsung heroes of Motown were the music teachers in the Detroit public schools.

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    I really don't care what is being said here. In my mind had Motown opted to leave the Company in Detroit, it would have been business as usual. Detroit was oozing talent and it had the Funk Brothers, Plus a growing Rare Earth label. Not to mention Harry Balk running the show. I have always defended Berry for the move saying it was his football. However, I still feel, and always will, that an opportunity was missed for Motown to grow beyond any of our expectations and become a major super power in the music business.Tell me I'm wrong. Mowest....how I hated that name and look what happened. That label never came close to the successes of the output of Detroit.

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    I appreciate Ralphs point of view and it seems to me that there possibly was a great, untapped pool of talent that might never get further than West Grand Blvd without Motown. Plus, was there no value in The Funk Brothers? It must have been devastating and a real slap in the face to so many who had been with the company, basically being told “we don’t need you.”



    Mary once discussed moving to LA and how shocked folks were when they heard about it. She said she told them that Motown was going to grow in LA and soon more and more staff was going. She loved living in LA, but missed her people in Detroit yet never thought of moving back.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    I really don't care what is being said here. In my mind had Motown opted to leave the Company in Detroit, it would have been business as usual. Detroit was oozing talent and it had the Funk Brothers, Plus a growing Rare Earth label. Not to mention Harry Balk running the show. I have always defended Berry for the move saying it was his football. However, I still feel, and always will, that an opportunity was missed for Motown to grow beyond any of our expectations and become a major super power in the music business.Tell me I'm wrong. Mowest....how I hated that name and look what happened. That label never came close to the successes of the output of Detroit.
    I once read someone's speculating that the sound of music in the 70s was changing and that the Funk Brothers' style of playing was becoming passe or out of date. I thought there were a lot of holes in that reasoning. The Philly Sound was not much different than what the Funks were doing. Songs like Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr.'s "You Don't Have To Be A Star", Maxine Nightingale's "Get Right Back" among other hits had sounds not all that far removed from the sound Motown pioneered.

    Aside from that, and with the observations from Ralph, it seems Motown could very well have continued on successfully in Detroit. Or at least maintained studios both in Detroit an L.A.

    Chicago had issues maintaining a thriving music industry as the seventies progressed. Mercury tried to continue but there just weren't enough resources it seems to keep going. But Chicago never had the laser-focus and marketing genius of Berry and company. Nashville, I don't believe, is really a huge city like L.A. and yet it continued as an active recording center. Motown more than likely could have achieved what many others wouldn't have been able.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 07-23-2021 at 09:06 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by ralpht View Post
    I really don't care what is being said here. In my mind had Motown opted to leave the Company in Detroit, it would have been business as usual. Detroit was oozing talent and it had the Funk Brothers, Plus a growing Rare Earth label. Not to mention Harry Balk running the show. I have always defended Berry for the move saying it was his football. However, I still feel, and always will, that an opportunity was missed for Motown to grow beyond any of our expectations and become a major super power in the music business.Tell me I'm wrong. Mowest....how I hated that name and look what happened. That label never came close to the successes of the output of Detroit.
    For me, the thing that defined Motown was its seminal output. It truly set musical trends from around 1963 until the early 70s, starting with people like Smokey, Mickey Stevenson, and H-D-H, and moving on through Ashford and Simpson, Frank Wilson and Norman Whitfield. To me, these people were both musical and commercial heavy hitters.

    The combination of these writers and producers with the Funk Brothers therefore provided the launch platform from which its roster of artists could hit the heights with sounds that no other company had originated, but that many would end up copying.

    Marvin and Stevie kinda broke the mould, however, and went on to plough two very individual furrows that didn't really rely on the Funk Brothers or anyone or anything else connected with Motown in Detroit. They could probably have produced their music anywhere in the world for any label.

    So, for Motown in Detroit to survive in a meaningful and profitable way, it would have needed to set another new musical trend or two that had both social and commercial appeal.

    My questions are, therefore about whether or not this viewpoint is valid, and also whether there were any newer writers, artists or producers around who might have done this.

    This is just a personal view, and we might never know the full answer as events can only move in one direction.

    Perhaps, however, there's a parallel universe where Motown stayed in Detroit and where SDF members debate the pros and cons of the decision not to go west.

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    We are really talking about the transition from the singles economy to the album economy.

    Berry and Barney had top-40 airplay and record sales completely wired without any payola. Motown spent way more on production than other labels due to our quality control process that threw out well over half of the songs recorded. I doubt that the classic Motown records even broke even. The profit came from the music publishing income and artist management that had acts doing 300 shows a year.

    By the 1970s, most live shows had moved to a new set of venues. These were influenced by FM album-rock radio and a new generation of young publicists. After I moved to San Francisco, I began to understand that Motown didn't have access to this world even though we had incredible young performers who could more than hold their own on stage. Ironically, Holland and Dozier leaving probably saved Motown because it opened up the opportunity for Stevie, Marvin, and Harry Balk to reinvent Motown.

    By the '80s, record stores, venues and independent labels had all consolidated into massive corporations. Then they committed suicide by transitioning from the album to the compact disk. So here we are back in another singles era only without a Berry Gordy... yet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    We are really talking about the transition from the singles economy to the album economy.

    Berry and Barney had top-40 airplay and record sales completely wired without any payola. Motown spent way more on production than other labels due to our quality control process that threw out well over half of the songs recorded. I doubt that the classic Motown records even broke even. The profit came from the music publishing income and artist management that had acts doing 300 shows a year.

    By the 1970s, most live shows had moved to a new set of venues. These were influenced by FM album-rock radio and a new generation of young publicists. After I moved to San Francisco, I began to understand that Motown didn't have access to this world even though we had incredible young performers who could more than hold their own on stage. Ironically, Holland and Dozier leaving probably saved Motown because it opened up the opportunity for Stevie, Marvin, and Harry Balk to reinvent Motown.

    By the '80s, record stores, venues and independent labels had all consolidated into massive corporations. Then they committed suicide by transitioning from the album to the compact disk. So here we are back in another singles era only without a Berry Gordy... yet.
    Your comment about the transition from from the album to compact disk interested me. Are you saying that the change of physical medium was, of itself, a problem, or are you saying that the way that the industry promoted and exploited the new medium was an issue, or....?

    What are your more detailed thoughts on this?

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    Losing the physical package was the problem. Album jackets engage listeners with artists. They were how Herb Alpert [A&M) and Mo Ostin [Verve, Warner Brothers) moved the market from singles to albums.

    The corporate retail stores stopped stocking vinyl because nobody was discounting CDs nearly as much as LPs. They assumed "the market" would simply embrace them but they were wrong. Everybody I knew typically bought one album a week. That stopped and by the '90s, major label new title sales were averaging 800 units. Catalog CD sales made up for it until Napster killed catalog sales.

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    I worked in a record store in the eighties, before compact discs. The cassette section was continually outgrowing the LP one. It was less satisfying all around. These small tapes made the music itself seem small, you didn't hold it with both hands and the impact of the imagery in the packaging was practically gone.

    How do you display tiny cassettes in an alluring way? Not to mention the easier theft aspect.....

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    I'm remembering something else. We had printed bags , bright orange with our name on them. We were in renowned Stonestown Mall, if memory serves me correctly the first outside mall in the US?? From the fifties. Amongst the first for sure.

    Point is people walked up and down and throughout this mall.

    As times got tighter we considered eliminating the printing of our names on these big 121/2" by 121/2" bags.

    The printer convincingly told us we would be hurting our sales. People toting these bags up and down the mall was free advertising , free endorsement, and encouraged people close at hand to go to the record store.

    The bag for the cassettes was half that , and far less impressionable.
    Last edited by Boogiedown; 07-26-2021 at 01:59 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Losing the physical package was the problem. Album jackets engage listeners with artists. They were how Herb Alpert [A&M) and Mo Ostin [Verve, Warner Brothers) moved the market from singles to albums.

    The corporate retail stores stopped stocking vinyl because nobody was discounting CDs nearly as much as LPs. They assumed "the market" would simply embrace them but they were wrong. Everybody I knew typically bought one album a week. That stopped and by the '90s, major label new title sales were averaging 800 units. Catalog CD sales made up for it until Napster killed catalog sales.
    Ouch!

    I remember when everyone went out and bought CD copies of albums that they already owned on vinyl, and then gave the vinyl editions away to charity shops, where guys like me bought them for 50p or £1. That's how I seriously grew my album collection back in the early 90s.

    I also think that CDs harmed the jukebox industry and consequently put a number of record wholesalers out of business.

    One question, however, has to be about whether or not an alternative approach would have really brought significantly more beneficial change in the longer term, or whether technological change when combined with typical human nature, including short term-ism and greed, were always going to b*gger things up.

    [Ive recently come to the conclusion that grumpy old men have acquired their moniker simply because they're able to see depressing patterns in the way that the human world is normally run that younger folk simply haven't been around long enough to recognise.]

    I also note, however, that from my perspective, popular music started to fragment and lost a lot of its broad appeal around the time that CDs were widely adopted. Perhaps, however, that was more about me no longer being in my teens or twenties and therefore starting to fall behind the times.

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    A 12" package would solve it. I've been imagining a gatefold jacket with a USB socket.

    Ostin created coffee table album covers at Verve and went on to Warner Bros.

    The music fragmented because the local venues where artists learned to entertain went away.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    A 12" package would solve it. I've been imagining a gatefold jacket with a USB socket.

    Ostin created coffee table album covers at Verve and went on to Warner Bros.

    The music fragmented because the local venues where artists learned to entertain went away.
    That 12" package sounds like something that we might well have seen in Star Trek.

    They always tried to make things look futuristic but in a contemporary and accessible way such that people would still recognise the purpose of things.

    What you're describing is a 23rd century LP.

    Regarding local venues, my son co-publishes a 90s music fanzine in the UK, and one of the regular features is about smaller venues where upcoming bands would play back in the day. A consistent theme each month is that those venues closed down as larger venues became dominant. Great if your band has already made it big, but a disaster for anyone trying to start out.

    Sad, really.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sotosound View Post
    For me, the thing that defined Motown was its seminal output. It truly set musical trends from around 1963 until the early 70s, starting with people like Smokey, Mickey Stevenson, and H-D-H, and moving on through Ashford and Simpson, Frank Wilson and Norman Whitfield. To me, these people were both musical and commercial heavy hitters.

    The combination of these writers and producers with the Funk Brothers therefore provided the launch platform from which its roster of artists could hit the heights with sounds that no other company had originated, but that many would end up copying.

    Marvin and Stevie kinda broke the mould, however, and went on to plough two very individual furrows that didn't really rely on the Funk Brothers or anyone or anything else connected with Motown in Detroit. They could probably have produced their music anywhere in the world for any label.

    So, for Motown in Detroit to survive in a meaningful and profitable way, it would have needed to set another new musical trend or two that had both social and commercial appeal.

    My questions are, therefore about whether or not this viewpoint is valid, and also whether there were any newer writers, artists or producers around who might have done this.

    This is just a personal view, and we might never know the full answer as events can only move in one direction.

    Perhaps, however, there's a parallel universe where Motown stayed in Detroit and where SDF members debate the pros and cons of the decision not to go west.

    That all depends on the definition of the Motown Sound. Music styles are always evolving, just like groups do, and as a matter of fact, shops and supermarkets. What I've learned from business school is that a formula normally has a lifespan of about 7 years before changing or re-inventing itself.

    We can all hear the Motown sound has evolved, from 1959-1963, 1964-1968, 1969 and beyond. I agree with Ralph, there was much more potential in the rock / funk genre around Detroit at that time.

    However, from a hit making machine, a factory line, the company changed to a regular music label in the 70's and LA. With writers, producers and sometimes artists flying in and out of the labels.

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    Combine this with distribution, change from singles to LP's, change to CD's, the decline in brick and mortar stores, the model of earning is now giving out shows, or selling the back catalogue. Streaming is using its listeners as a product for marketing purposes. No added value to music or the artists. Okay, counterpoint, it can give a place to music makers who else can't find an outlet to reach their fanbase. But they can't pay the bills from streaming only.

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    Artists couldn't pay bills from singles sales.

    The good news is that anybody with an internet connection can stream. Look at what Valerie Simpson has done!

    https://www.facebook.com/SugarBarNY/videos/

    Last edited by bob_olhsson; 07-28-2021 at 12:58 PM.

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    Last edited by bob_olhsson; 07-28-2021 at 12:57 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by detmotownguy View Post
    Not sure if anyone else from the Motown roster made the move? Maybe Smokey too?

    Any additional comments from insiders or those in the know?

    https://daily.redbullmusicacademy.co...etroit-feature

    Thanks in advance!
    According to Smokey Robinson's autobiography, Inside My Life, he fought Berry Gordy tooth-and-nail on Motown's move to Los Angeles but Berry persuaded him to move to the West Coast.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob_olhsson View Post
    Artists couldn't pay bills from singles sales.

    The good news is that anybody with an internet connection can stream. Look at what Valerie Simpson has done!

    https://www.facebook.com/SugarBarNY/videos/

    Artists were getting screwed when people started to record LP's to blank 8 tracks for sale. I saw a guy with a shopping cart the other day loaded with blank cd's to burn music.

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