After visiting the famous and very interesting Motown Museum in Detroit on a Saturday afternoon in late-September, I was so impressed by what I saw and experienced there that I just had to tell you all about it. I encourage all of you music and history lovers out there to visit this very special place like I did.
You see, I love music and fondly remember my childhood listening to Motown music on my transistor radio while tuned in the CKLW, the radio station that was located in Windsor, Canada, just across the river from Detroit. CKLW played hit song after hit song of the great music artists of the day such as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Jackson 5 (featuring a very young and high pitched Michael Jackson with his brothers), Little Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, the Four Tops and so many other artists. So with nothing standing in the way that particular Saturday afternoon, I made the two-hour drive to Detroit for a special tour of this legendary and history-making former home and recording studio (museum) that would take me back to my childhood.
The Motown Museum is located at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit, and is the very house and recording studio where music legend Berry Gordy Jr. lived, worked and made his mark on the music industry and society, with a sound that has become one of the most significant musical accomplishments and success stories of the 20th century. It all started in a little house in Detroit called Hitsville USA, now the home of the Motown Museum.
Today, visitors such as myself and from around the world come to see the birthplace of Motown Records and stand in famous Studio A, where music legends were made after recording their smash hits from 1959 to 1972. After 1972, Motown founder Gordy moved his music business to Los Angeles to have access to more space, the best technology and access to the very best musical and public relations talent that was located there.
Even though Gordy still owned the building called Hitsville USA and numerous other nearby buildings that he purchased for Motown Records in the early 1960s, it sat vacant for a decade. His sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, a top executive for Motown, made the decision to found the Motown Museum and open it to the public in 1985. Since then, millions of people from across the USA and around the world have visited it to see firsthand where music history and music legends were made.
To visit the Motown Museum, one must purchase a timed ticket for a guided tour that takes you through Berry Gordy's former home and of course the very famous Studio A. Everything in the recording studio has been left just the way it was in the 1960s and early 1970s when great music was made and recorded in this tiny room with its original microphones, Steinway piano and drum set used by little Stevie Wonder still on display for all to see. While standing in Studio A, I could just picture Diana Ross and the Supremes singing and recording their smash hit “Someday We’ll Be Together,” the Four Tops belting out their smash hit “I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” and Marvin Gaye singing and recording his classic hit “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.” It was an amazing and fun experience.
I got lucky during my tour by having an outstanding tour guide who had a great voice, loved to sing and encouraged all of us in our tour group to sing classic songs along with her while on our hour-long walk through the museum. She made our tour all the better with her extensive knowledge of Motown Records and Gordy, her fun personality and her great singing voice.
No tour of a museum is complete these days without a visit to the gift shop, which is located in Gordy’s former living room. I enjoy interesting gift shops and purchased a record-shaped magnet for my refrigerator and a number of postcards to keep for myself and to send to friends.
On my drive back to Norwalk, I couldn’t help but play numerous Motown songs that I love and remember fondly from my childhood, songs that people still hear regularly today, no matter where you live or what your age is. So, my friends, if you are ever looking for something fun, exciting and interesting to do fairly close to home on a Saturday or Sunday in the future, please drive up to Detroit for a visit to the Motown Museum. You will be glad you did so trust me. And remember folks, Diana Ross truly meant it when she sang “Someday We'll Be Together,” especially after you have visited Studio A at the Motown Museum.
Gary Richards is a teacher and Norwalk resident who enjoys writing about his travels.