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Thread started 01/10/09 3:11pm


Official Motown 50th anniversary thread

Start posting your favorite Motown songs (in links from IMEEM and YouTube), post your thoughts on the great music and the great artists that emerged from the streets of Detroit and beyond, and post news coverages as the 50th anniversary celebration is beginning! smile

Motown turns 50 while Gordy revitalizes purpose
by Scott Thorn |
Friday January 09, 2009, 9:54 AM

Berry Gordy, Jr.: Detroit musical innovator's legacy turns 50.

Berry Gordy, Jr. created the record label that brought Detroit soul into the spotlight.

Divorced, unemployed and broke, Berry Gordy, Jr. borrowed $800 from his family to start a record label, Motown Records. 15 years later, it became the largest and most successful business owned by an African-American in the United States, despite the roadblocks of racism and pre-civil rights.

Now, 50 years later, Gordy and Universal Motown records will celebrate the iconic Deroit record label with a 50th anniversary party Monday at the Motown Historical Museum when it will be declared "Motown Day" by city and state officials.

When interviewed, surviving member of the Four Tops, Duke Fakir, had this to say about Hitsville U.S.A.

January 09, 2009: "When we would go out on the road, as soon as we'd come back, they had tracks cut by the wonderful Funk Brothers," said Fakir, 73. "We would always say, 'Wow - it's another carpet to ride on!'

"It was so easy to sing to those wonderful tracks. All you had to do was just get into the groove of that track and sail on."

Gordy "wasn't just selling records," Fakir said. "He was really creating stars.

Other surviving member of The Four Tops, Otis Williams, remembers Gordy's strict work ethic and meetings that started at 9 a.m. sharp; after that you were locked out the room, no matter who you were.

But Williams also remembers a socially progressive side of Berry Gordy as well.

January 09, 2009: other ways, business at Motown was anything but usual, particularly Gordy's equal-opportunity hiring practices.

"I would hear a lot of guys say, 'Hey, man, being a black guy, I would hire nothing but blacks, 'cause it's a black company,' " Williams said. "Berry didn't think that way. He would hire whomever was able to do the job. Berry had Hispanics working for him, whites, Jewish people.

According to Gordy, it was all about the music and a blind passion to put out the best artists and entertainment in the area. He was wholly unaware about the risky business venture he was undertaking.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: "I didn't know enough about economics to know," Gordy said. "I was involved in my stuff, and I took very little interest in anything other than my creative activities and the artists I worked with. I know the times were what they were, but I guess in those days I was more concerned about the whole social situation and the racial tensions. Now I'm a lot more aware of economics and how the whole thing works."

Although Gordy sold Motown in 1988 for $61 million, this septuagenarian is far from finished in the music business and industry.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: Along with launching Motown 50, he's overseeing a Broadway musical based on his life and a multi-part documentary film on what he did "and how I did it" at Motown, using extensive footage filmed during Motown's heyday. He's also emerging from retirement to manage a new singer, "one of the greatest I've ever met," whom he isn't ready to reveal just yet.

This is quite a statement from the person who brought us the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson, Martha & the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye and countless others.

But perhaps one of the longer lasting and least focused upon aspect of his career was his influence on the civil rights movement in American, whether overtly or covertly, along with the courage of his artists.

January 9, 2009: The Detroit News: "Gordy also praises the courage of his artists who traveled by bus through the South with the Motortown Revue in the middle of the volatile Civil Rights era. "They were shot at; they were the unsung heroes," Gordy said. "All I'm doing now is what I've done for the past 50 years, protect the legacy because people were trying to rewrite Motown history."

It was Motown Records that released Dr. Martin Luther King's key Civil Rights speeches on records. It was Motown groups like the Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas and the Temptations who insisted that the rope dividing their Southern audiences into black and white be taken down.

This sentiment is also echoed by Duke Fakir, one of the last surviving Four Tops, who sees even greater reason and perspective in this 50th anniversary, and why it is important that it is happening at this moment in time.

January 8, 2009: USA Today: As America prepares to inaugurate its first black president, Fakir heralds Motown's role in the long process that brought the country there. Motown's crossover success, he says, prompted white Americans to "begin to look at black America a little differently."

"It's one of the steps that took us up that ladder," he says. "Motown music was an integral part of softening the blow, little by little. And that's the part I'm really proud of."

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Motown, a week's worth of festivities and experiences have been planned by the city and special artists. Among the events are:

January 09, 2009: "Motown: The Sound of Young America Turns 50," a new exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, showcases Wonder's harmonica and glittering sunglasses, a chic red dress from Mary Wilson of the Supremes and an upright bass once played by James Jamerson of Motown's legendary in-house band, the Funk Brothers, among other artifacts; A new boxed set, "Motown: The Complete No. 1's," contains every chart-topping single issued by the company, lavishly packaged in a reproduction of the Hitsville facility.

The Detroit Free Press also has a listing of the week's scheduled events, including half price admission, reminiscing of the old days by Motown stars, and a two-hour documentary, produced by Berry Gordy Jr.
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sticky time thumbs up!
Edmonton, AB - canada

Ohh purple joy oh purple bliss oh purple rapture!
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Reply #2 posted 01/10/09 3:14pm


Motown turns 50, proud of musical, social legacy

DETROIT (Reuters) - Motown has always been about more than music. As the soul empire turns 50 on Monday, its founders are looking back at its brand of music dubbed the "Motown sound" that remains popular today and the record company's role in breaking down racial barriers in America.

Founded in 1959 in Detroit by songwriter and entrepreneur Berry Gordy using an $800 family loan, Motown plans a year-long celebration with record releases, documentaries and exhibitions. There is even talk of a Broadway musical in 2010.

Originally called Tamla and operating out of a two-story house, Gordy changed the name to Motown to reflect the auto industry that dominated Detroit.

He often likened his method of grooming black talent to an automobile assembly line that transformed plain metal frames into gleaming motorcars.

His management style, which involved weekly "quality control" meetings and lessons in deportment for Motown stars, chafed with some of his biggest acts. But, especially early on, it worked.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Gordy helped to make stars of the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, the Supremes, the Temptations and the Jackson 5.

Motown boasts nearly 200 No. 1 songs worldwide and in its heyday produced classics like "My Girl," "What's Going On," "Dancing in the Street" and "Superstition."

"I think you can hear Motown in almost every song that's played on radio," said Geoff Brown of music magazine Mojo.

"What Motown did was ... take those forms (R&B, jazz, blues) plus gospel, and meld it into the sort of pop market and aim that music both at black and white America," he told BBC radio.

Underscoring its role in crossing racial boundaries was "Dancing in the Street" by Martha and the Vandellas, which topped Mojo's poll of the 100 greatest Motown songs.

The 1964 track was adopted as a civil rights anthem by black campaigners at the time, although lead singer Martha Reeves said the track was about soothing, not stoking, tensions.


Robinson and Reeves recalled how difficult the early days were for black artists starting out at a time of racial segregation in some regions of the United States.

"Back in the day we would go to play places in the south in America," Robinson told Reuters in a recent interview.

"Many times the stage would be in the center, white people would be on one side and black people would be on the other side, white people would be upstairs and black people would be downstairs, or vice versa."

Robinson credits Motown with helping to remove the barriers. "Years later ... everybody was in the same area, partying and sharing, and it was a great accomplishment musically and socially."

Reeves told Reuters that pictures of band members were not allowed on early album covers because they may not have sold as well with black musicians and singers featured so prominently.

"A lot of DJs (told) us that their program directors didn't want our music played out of there, but they played it anyway, they sacrificed their jobs," she said.

Gordy, 79, believes one secret of Motown's success was to write for listeners of all races. "We may have come over here on different ships, but we're in the same boat now," he said in a recorded interview released by Universal, the major record company that now owns Motown.

He declined requests to be interviewed by Reuters.

Motown chroniclers believe Gordy's decision to move Motown from Detroit to Los Angeles in the late 1960s alienated some artists and weakened the company. Many of its stars inevitably went their own way and radical changes to the music industry eventually led to the company's takeover. Gordy sold Motown on June 28, 1988, for $61 million.

While Stevie Wonder and younger acts continue to record on the label, it is better known today for what it has left behind than what it promises in the future.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White and Cindy Martin in London and Michelle Emard in Los Angeles, writing by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Vicki Allen)
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luv4u said:

sticky time thumbs up!

Thank ya kindly! smile
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Reply #4 posted 01/10/09 3:16pm


What's going on for Motown's 50th birthday? A global party

By Brian McCollum Detroit Free Press
DETROIT — For diehard Motown Records buffs, the label's 50th anniversary could be a time to fling around some fun numbers.

Figures like the 10 million all-time radio plays for Baby I Need Your Loving. The Supremes' dozen No. 1 hits. The quarter-billion dollars that changed hands when Berry Gordy sold the song catalog.

For everyone else, Motown's anniversary could be a time for some plain old fun.

Motown Records turns 50 years old on Monday — half a century to the day since Gordy secured the $800 family loan that would transform Detroit and popular music.

Get ready for a winter blast of warm nostalgia. A slew of anniversary activity is afoot.

For Detroit — the city that gave the label talent, a work ethic and its very name — the good vibes come at a good time. While the city has maintained a dicey relationship with Motown since the label's departure for California in 1972, the bonds remain deep.

The year-long commemoration will remind the world that Detroit isn't all mayoral scandals and auto industry crises.

"This time we get to celebrate," says Martha Reeves, the Detroit city councilwoman and veteran Motown star. "Maybe we get to heal some of the tension, ease some of the bad feelings. It's good timing."

Across the Atlantic, Motown 50 fever has already kicked in. Broadcasters in England, France and Germany will air Motown specials next week. In Berlin, The Miracles, The Contours and Reeves are among those starring in Memories of Motown, a new stage musical premiering Sunday night.

The 50th project was hatched by Gordy, the Motown Historical Museum and Universal Music Group, the label's owner.

Gordy sold his Motown empire in pieces starting in the 1980s. Today, beyond some songwriting credits, he's no longer financially invested in what was once the world's biggest black-owned corporation. But he's still the figure everyone looked to as the anniversary campaign came together.

"The legacy is still mine," Gordy says. "And it's still the legacy of all the artists — people that are here and not here. And that's what's important to me."

Former Motown president Skip Miller says the celebration is timely, letting the world pay tribute to Motown's luminaries while they're still alive. The point was driven home in the fall with the deaths of the Four Tops' Levi Stubbs, producer Norman Whitfield and The Spinners' Pervis Jackson.

For Duke Fakir, the last surviving Top, the timing is apt for an even bigger reason: As America prepares to inaugurate its first black president, Fakir heralds Motown's role in the long process that brought the country there. Motown's crossover success, he says, prompted white Americans to "begin to look at black America a little differently."

"It's one of the steps that took us up that ladder," he says. "Motown music was an integral part of softening the blow, little by little. And that's the part I'm really proud of."


At the Motown Historical Museum in Detroit, Motown figures such as Four Tops tenor Duke Fakir and artist development director Maxine Powell will act as tour guides this week. The museum's fall gala will be presented as an old-style Motortown Revue concert.

Motown: The Complete No. 1s, a 192-song box set from Universal, is packaged in a replica of the Hitsville USA house. Universal's ongoing Motown releases will be presented with a 50th theme this year.

The popular Now! compilation series will spotlight Motown with a 25-track hits disc out Tuesday.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland just unveiled Motown: The Sound of Young America, an exhibit that pulls together memorabilia from its collection.

Universal's official 50th site ( includes anniversary-related merchandise and in-depth podcasts.

A two-hour documentary, produced by Berry Gordy and planned for theatrical release in fall, is intended as a survey of "the whole Motown experience, through my eyes," Gordy says.
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Motown's still got us dancing in the streets

Martha and the Vandellas

Published Date: 09 January 2009
With Motown celebrating its 50th anniversary, Andy Welch talks to Martha Reeves about
the legendary label.
With a rattle of the drums and a "ba da ba-da ba baaaa" of the horn section, Martha Reeves is ingrained into the minds of millions of people.

The opening to her signature hit Dancing In The Street is as recognisable a musical motif as you're ever likely to hear.

Written in 1964 by some of Motown's finest writers – Marvin Gaye, the label's A&R director William "Mickey" Stevenson and musician Ivy Jo Hunter – the song was intended to be a slow ballad.

"Marvin sang a demo of the song before I got it," Martha explains. "He sang it all romantic, as if it were to a girl.

"It was something smooth, something intimate, but I wanted to identify with the song, so I put myself out in the street, and I imagined people dancing to music. I asked if I had permission to sing it the way I felt it, not the way Marvin had done it, and they gave me the green light."

There were technical hiccups in the recording, but had things worked out a little differently, we might not have the angry, intense vocal that's set dance floors alight ever since.

Although born in Alabama in 1941, Martha's family moved to Motown's home of Detroit shortly afterwards.

Like many of the label's biggest stars, Martha was raised in a church-going family. Her grandfather was
a minister in Detroit's Metropolitan Church, exposing her to gospel music, and while at high school, she received further vocal coaching from Abraham Silver. He also taught Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson, who would later join The Supremes, and Bobby Rogers, who went on to form The Miracles.

After singing with various groups, notably The Del-Phis who released a single on Chess records that failed to make an impact on the charts, Martha was determined to become a successful singer.

By the early '60s she found herself singing in various clubs around Detroit under the name Martha LaVaille, and after one performance in the now-famous Twenty Grand club, she was given a business card by Motown's chief talent scout William Stevenson.

"William came in and asked me to go to Hitsville USA. Motown only auditioned singers on the third Thursday of every month. There was only one studio at Hitsville. If they were auditioning, they couldn't book a session, so it had to be very organised."

Armed with nothing more than Stevenson's business card, a bus fare and instructions from her father about which stop to get off
at, Martha went along to Hitsville, but after seeing the label's humble headquarters she very nearly turned around and went back home.

"I was expecting something much grander," she says. "A voice in my head told me to carry on, though, and I went in and asked for William."

After a brief conversation, during which he told her to come back in three weeks' time, Martha indeed got some work, although it was slightly different to what she'd anticipated.

"The phone was ringing off the hook and Mickey disappeared. He said 'Answer the phone, I'll be back soon,' so I did. Four hours later, there was still no sign of him."

In his absence, Martha settled a pay dispute between some session musicians and unwittingly landed herself the job as Motown's A&R secretary. While in this role, she was responsible for auditioning the various acts that came through Hitsville's door, the most famous of which was a group then known as The Elgins (not to be confused with the other Motown band of the same name).

With a slight line-up and name change, they found enormous success as The Temptations. In 1962, Berry Gordy gave Martha and her friends Annette Beard-Helton and Rosalind Ashford-Holmes a contract of their own. They were christened Martha and the Vandellas by Reeves, reportedly after her idol Della Rees, and the hits quickly started mounting up.

Early classics include Come And Get These Memories and (Love Is Like A) Heatwave, which gave the band their first million-selling single, and established them as the label's premier act. More hits followed, including the aforementioned Dancing In The Street, Quicksand, Jimmy Mack and Nowhere To Run, which perhaps distilled their distinctive tough R&B sound better than any of their other tracks. During a 12-year tenure with Motown, the group amassed more than a dozen chart smashes, mostly written by three-man hit factory Holland-Dozier-Holland. While things didn't end nicely for Martha – she was institutionalised in the late '60s after falling victim to drug abuse and alcoholism – she looks back fondly on her time there.

"It's unbelievable to think Motown is 50," she says.

"I've lived every moment of it, and enjoyed every moment of it, too. Looking back on those songs, I feel as young as I was then."

Audiences will be able to revel in Motown on Jan 29 when How Sweet It Is, a live show featuring songs from the era, comes to York Grand Opera House. For tickets call 0844 847 2322.

Top 10 Motown tracks (not MY list, lol):

I Heard It Through The Grapevine: Marvin Gaye.
Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, this song was first given to Smokey Robinson and The Miracles to record, but it was the 1968 version by former Motown session drummer Marvin Gaye that really shone.

You Keep Me Hangin' On: The Supremes.
Unlike many of the label's quickly recorded hits, this bittersweet tale of love gone wrong took around nine takes to perfect and marked the beginning of Diana Ross's prominence.

Uptight (Everything's Alright): Stevie Wonder.
Until this song's release in May 1966, "Little Stevie Wonder" was known as nothing more than a Ray Charles imitator and in danger of being dropped by the label. However, Uptight went straight to number two in the American charts and Wonder's transformation began.

Nowhere To Run: Martha and the Vandellas.
Featuring the gritty vocal and hard-edged brass sound that set the band apart from their peers, this is about as thrilling as Motown's output gets.

This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You): The Isley Brothers.
The Isleys' 1966 take on the classic love song was their only hit for Motown during their brief time with the label, yet remains popular today thanks to its association with the Northern Soul scene of the late '70s.

What's Going On: Marvin Gaye.
Marvin Gaye fell into a deep depression and contemplated giving up music after the death of his singing partner, Tammi Terrell, in 1970. He didn't and What's Going On, which became the label's fastest-selling single, ushered in a new phase for soul music.

Reach Out I'll Be There: The Four Tops.
With a pulsating bassline, glorious backing harmonies and part-sung, part-screamed vocal from Levi Stubbs, it's one of Motown's most dramatic songs.

Tears Of A Clown: Smokey Robinson and The Miracles.
Although it was first released in 1967, this song, written by Smokey, Stevie Wonder and Hank Cosby, made the charts in 1970 and hit number one on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ain't Too Proud To Beg: The Temptations.
When The Temptations 1965 single Get Ready flopped, it was time for a rethink. Thanks to its James Brown-esque horn section and blues-inspired vocal from David Ruffin, the song was exactly what they needed.

He Was Really Sayin' Somethin': The Velvelettes.
This classic wasn't a hit when it was released in late 1964, but the song about the lies men tell when trying to woo women, has stood the test of time.
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Reply #6 posted 01/10/09 3:25pm


Motown hits create the soundtrack for Boomers' lives

An affectionate look back at 50 years of the music that helped us weather turbulent times - and get the girl.

By Gregory Lewis | South Florida Sun-Sentinel
January 11, 2009

I used Smokey Robinson's words in my first love letter, during my puppy love days in junior high school. I got the girl. When we broke up, Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted was there to soothe my pain.

Motown supplied the soundtrack of my life, and that of other Baby Boomers. In the turbulent 1960s, filled with war and anti-war protests, struggles and marches for civil rights, Motown music was a diversion from a hard, cruel reality.

It was all sweet and innocent in a way the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were not.

Callin' out around the world

Are you ready for a brand-new beat?

Summer's here and the time is right

For dancin' in the streets

Martha and the Vandellas' call to dance in the streets in the mid-1960s gave us a sense that the times were changing and hope was coming for a race of people who had been held down. We all would dance in the streets when the revolution came.

Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, intentionally steered his artists away from controversial issues in their music.

It was ironic because his music was changing the country.

White teenagers were buying his brand of black music, and so were young blacks.

And where it was permissible, they were dancing with each other.

In my high school, a white girl started dating a black boy.

When her father found out, he cut her long blond hair to make her look like a boy and tore down the Jackson 5 posters from her wall.

As if the Motown music had made her do it.

Don't blame it on sunshine

Don't blame it on moonlight

Don't blame it on the good times

As a teenager in the late 1960s and early 1970s, my boys and I pretended to be the Temptations, singing Cloud Nine on the street corner in front of Mr. Crank's house in Elkins, W.Va.

As times changed, so did the music. Protest anthems and politics eventually made their way to Motown vinyl.

And we identified with anti-war songs by Edwin Starr and Marvin Gaye. What's Going On arguably is the greatest black music album in history.

The innovative soundtrack, in which each song flowed into the next, dealt with the issues of the times. No album before it (or since) was as lyrical and hard-hitting.

Father, father, everybody thinks we're wrong

But who are they to judge us

Simply because our hair is long?

The Vietnam War, the environment, dope, finding God, saving the babies ... Marvin crooned about them in a passionate urging for us all to get involved.

Motown music was racing through our lives in the 1970s.

Listening to political stuff from Stevie Wonder, like You Haven't Done Nothin', aimed at the politicians who only showed up at election time. Dancing to Brick House and Slippery When Wet by The Commodores. Making love to Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On. And, yes, still using Smokey Robinson's smooth love lines.

In 1983, I got married. We heard Stevie Wonder's Ribbon in the Sky at the wedding.

By the '80s, Motown Records had lost some of its artists. Diana Ross, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, even the Temptations were singing on different labels. But those Motown ditties stayed in our heads, and on the turntables, as albums gave way to cassettes then to CDs, and new artists appeared on Motown.

The Motown soundtrack continues to be a part of my life today. Just this Christmas, my sister gave me a three-disc set of Motown hits, the best gift a music lover can get.

I exchange old-school music with my children. Sometimes one will ask about Marvin Gaye or the Supremes, and I'll whip out an album or cassette.

It does my heart good to come home and see my 15-year-old son listening to the Temptations' Beauty's Only Skin Deep.

Boyz II Men's It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday played at my grandmother's funeral in 1990, to appease the youngsters.

And I'll take with me the memories

To be my sunshine after the rain

It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Motown.

This timeless music, which defines my generation, marches on for another generation to enjoy.
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Reply #7 posted 01/10/09 3:31pm


Profiles on Berry Gordy and the history of Motown Records:

Berry Gordy
Sweet Soul Music

Berry Gordy
Founder of Motown Records
Founded: 1959

"I didn’t want to be a big record mogul and all that stuff. I just wanted to write songs and make people laugh." - Berry Gordy

When Berry Gordy launched a small independent record label in 1959 in a two-story frame house on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, he had no idea his dream of writing and producing his own music would spark a musical revolution. Throughout the 1950s and the early 1960s, the music industry was sharply divided along racial lines. Jazz, blues, R&B, soul and other so-called "black music" was played solely on "black" radio stations. But Gordy would change all that. His unique style of music, which he dubbed "the Sound of Young America," was the first to break the race barrier. In addition to gaining the national acceptance of black music and the well-deserved recognition of the singers and musicians behind it, Gordy’s "Motown sound" gave birth to the largest and most successful black-owned business in America.

Growing up on Detroit’s Lower East Side, Gordy’s two greatest loves were boxing and jazz. By the time he graduated from Northeastern High School in 1948, Gordy was ready to put boxing first. But after winning 15 Golden Gloves matches, his career as a pugilist was cut short when he was drafted to fight in the Korean conflict. After the war, Gordy was too old to continue in boxing, so he turned to his other love, opening a record store specializing in jazz. Unfortunately, Gordy had failed to notice that blacks in Detroit were not especially interested in jazz. They wanted to hear rock ’n’ roll. Gordy’s 3-D Record Mart went bankrupt after only two years.

After this initial failure, Gordy reluctantly accepted a job at Ford Motor Co., nailing upholstery in Lincoln automobiles. But he wasn’t about to give up his dream of a career in music. He began listening to rock ’n’ roll and wrote several songs in this style, which he tried to sell to local singers and music labels. He had some success, but his big break came when he attracted the attention of singer Jackie Wilson, who recorded Gordy’s "Reet Petite" and the now legendary "Lonely Teardrops." Both songs became instant hits, and based on their success, Gordy quit his $85-per-week job at Ford and struck out on his own as an independent producer.

But even with two hit songs under his belt, Gordy was far from a financial success. "As a writer, I had problems getting money at the time that I needed it," he explains. "I was broke even with hit records in certain cases." In one case, a New York publisher refused to pay Gordy. Advised that the cost of suing the publisher would be more than the royalties owed him, Gordy chose to cut his losses. But the incident taught him an important lesson about the music industry: If you have no control, you have no power.

To gain the control he needed, Gordy decided to start his own record company. Borrowing $800 from his family, he founded Hitsville USA in 1959. The first major hit for the fledgling label was "Way Over There" by William "Smokey" Robinson, a teenage singer Gordy had found performing on street corners. Under Gordy’s guidance, Robinson and his group, the Miracles, quickly became a sensation, attracting other young black performers to the fledgling record company. Within three years, Gordy’s stable of performers would grow to include a number of chart-toppers, including Mary Wells, the Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, the Contours, the Prime (whose name Gordy changed to the Temptations), and a 9-year-old blind boy named Stevie Morris better known as Stevie Wonder. By 1960 Gordy had produced no fewer than five hit records and changed the name of his company to Motown, a contraction of Detroit’s nickname, Motor Town.

Scouring the nightclubs and street corners of Detroit, Gordy found a virtually limitless supply of talented, young black performers, including The Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the Spinners, all of whom he quickly signed to Motown Records. By 1966, three out of four Motown releases where chart-topping hit singles. The company was so successful that Gordy opened Tamla-Motown Records in London in 1965. The hits continued to pile up, and Motown would go on to dominate the pop charts throughout the 1960s.

The 1970s brought a series of changes to Motown, and not all of them for the better. Gordy moved his operations from Detroit to the heart of the entertainment industry - Hollywood. Gordy branched out, establishing a motion picture division whose first film, Lady Sings the Blues, a biography of blues legend Billie Holiday starring Diana Ross, was both a commercial and critical success. Gordy also made plans to produce Broadway shows, television specials and television movies. In 1973, Gordy resigned as president of Motown Records to head Motown Industries, a huge umbrella corporation overseeing all his enterprises. But as Gordy achieved success in his other ventures, Motown Records began to lose its grip on the pop charts as most of the label’s big stars left for other companies and new talent seemed to lack that certain something Motown was famous for. The hits were not coming nearly as fast or as plentifully as they once did.

In 1988, Gordy sold Motown to MCA and investment group Boston Ventures for $61 million. That same year, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Today, Gordy remains active in the entertainment industry, writing songs, producing records and working with the newly established Motown Historical Museum in Detroit.

Although Motown no longer dominates the charts as it once did, Gordy’s impact on the music industry cannot be overstated. Motown’s sound influenced everyone from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to more recent chart-toppers such as Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. A true pioneer, Gordy assembled nothing less than the rock ’n’ roll era’s most remarkable roster of artists, musicians, songwriters and producers, and in pursuing his dream, he brought two races together through music.

Spit And Polish
One of the main reasons for Motown Record’s tremendous success was the personal attention Berry Gordy paid to each Motown artist. At Gordy’s insistence, every Motown performer attended an in-house finishing school, where they learned how to comport themselves both onstage and in social situations.

Gordy also instituted an internal program of quality control, including weekly product-evaluation meetings, which he modeled after his experiences working for Ford Motor Co. At the same time, Gordy promoted a work environment that was sufficiently loose and freewheeling to foster creativity. As Gordy once explained, "Hitsville had to be an atmosphere that allowed people to experiment creatively and gave them the courage not to be afraid to make mistakes."

Thanks to this unique management approach, Motown generated hundreds of hit singles. In 1966 alone, Motown’s hit ratio - the percentage of records released that made the national charts - was an unprecedented 65 percent.

Let Freedom Ring
Although Berry Gordy is best known as a music impresario, during the late 1960s he also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement. A close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Gordy was so inspired by King’s "I Have a Dream" speech that he released it on album. He also formed a new record label called Black Forum, which produced recordings of other Civil Rights Movement leaders, including Elaine Brown and Stokley Carmichael.
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Reply #8 posted 01/10/09 3:35pm


From the site:

Berry Gordy's Motown Records

Founder and owner of the Tamla-Motown family record labels, Berry Gordy, Jr., established Motown Records as one of the most important independent labels in the early '60s. Assembling an industrious staff of songwriters, producers, and musicians, Motown Records built one of the most impressive rosters of artist in the history of pop music and became the largest and most successful independent record company in the United States by 1964.

On November 28, 1929 Berry Gordy was born at Detroit's Harper Hospital. Gordy was the seventh child born to Berry and Bertha Gordy. The Gordys an ambitious middle-class family with roots in Georgia farming and retailing.. The family moved to Detroit in the 1922 with their first three children. It was here that they established a successful painting and construction business that allowed the family to purchase a commercial building on the corner of St. Antoine and Farnsworth. Berry Gordy Sr. also opened the Booker T. Washington grocery store and from which he instilled the values of frugality, discipline, family unity and hard work that were so dear to Booker T. Washington. After studying business in college, Bertha co-founded the Friendship Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Berry Gordy dropped out of school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer. At one time he even fought on the same card with the Brown Bomber Joe Louis at Detroit's Olympia Stadium. He ended a his respectable career as a featherweight in 1950. After serving in the Army in Korea from 1951-1953 his love for jazz caused him to open up the 3-D Record Mart - House of Jazz. To obsessed with his own love of Jazz, Berry was to stubborn to stock the Blues records the neighborhood craved. So in 1955 the store went bankrupt and was forced to close.

Berry married married Thelma Coleman and quickly had three children. It was after the closing of the record store that Gordy went to work on the assembly line at Ford's Lincoln-Mercury plant. By 1957, he had quit that job to become a professional songwriter.

The Flame Show Bar opened in 1949 and was located at the corner of John R and Canfield. The Flame was the showplace for top Black talent in Detroit during the 50s. Billie Holiday, T-Bone Walker, Wynonie Harris were a few of the many great black entertainers that appeared there. The Berry's were in charge of the photo concessions at the Flame. Sisters Gwen and Anna took the photos with brothers George and Robert developing the film. It was during this time the Al Green the club's owner invited Gordy to write songs for the artists he managed which included Jackie Wilson. Berry teaming with Roquel "Billy" Davis began writing at Green's office. Berry would eventually bring sister Gwen in and the trio would write several bestsellers "to Be Loved," "Lonely Teardrops," "That's Why (I Love You So)" and "I'll Be Satisfied" establishing themselves as hit writers. At this time Gordy started doing some of the producing.

One day Raynoma Liles and her sister Alice auditioned for Gordy. Not only did Gordy meet his next wife Raynoma, but he found a lady who could help him write hit records. Known around the company as Miss Ray, she had perfect pitch and could write lead sheets. They soon formed the Rayber Music Writing Company and for $100 they would do whatever was necessary to help a young singer make a record, be it writing, arranging, rehearsing or recording a demo. In this way they were able to find new talent. They also put together the Rayber Voices, a studio group that backed most of Motown's first acts on their early recordings.

In late 1957, Gordy had his first success with "Reet Petite," which was recorded by Detroit born Jackie Wilson, who had replaced Clyde McPhatter as lead singer of the Dominoes. The next year he wrote "Lonely Teardrops" for Wilson.

An unsuccessful audition of the Matadors for Wilson's manager Nat Tarnopol would change Gordy's life. Berry really like them a lot and told them so after the audition. This was to be the beginning of a close friendship between Gordy and the Matador's lead singer Smokey Robinson. The Matadors soon changed their name to the Miracles. Gordy managed the Miracles and produced their 1958 single "Got a Job" on the End Records label. The small royalty check he received from End along with similar small royalty checks for other hits he had co-written convinced him to form his own label Tamla Records. Originally he had wanted to call it Tammy after the Debbie Reynolds ballad, but the name had already been take.

In 1959 Gordy started his own publishing company Jobete Publishing named after his three children: Hazel Joy, Berry and Terry. If you wrote for Motown you were published by Jobete which grew to be one of the most powerful in the industry.

Gordy initially recorded R&B artists on Tamla Records. He signed Mabel John, the gospel trained sister of blues singer Little Willie John. Gordy scored a minor hit with Tamla's first release, R&B singer Marv Johnson's "Come To Me." As the record picked up steam Gordy found he could not keep up with the demands of national production and distribution and leased the master to United Artists. Later in the first year of operation he co-wrote and produced "Money," which was recorded by Barrett Strong. Not yet equipped to break a national hit "Money" was released by Anna Records which was owned by his sister Gwen and her husband Harvey Fuqua. "Money" eventually reached the number two spot on the R&B Chart. In November 1959, Gordy recorded "Bad Girl" by a young William "Smokey" Robinson and the Miracles that reached number ninety-three on the pop charts with the help of national distribution by Chess Records.

Smokey Robinson convinced Gordy that Motown should distribute its own records. In 1960, Gordy co-wrote and distributed "Shop Around" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, which was a number one hit and established Motown as an important independent company. By this time Gordy had set up the Motown Record Corporation, Hitsville USA and Berry Gordy Enterprises. Jobette Music was his publishing firm and management agency International Talent Management, Inc. He also set up various subsidiary labels.

Through the next four years, Gordy continued to produce hits by capitalizing on the girl group craze. In 1959, a sixteen year old girl, Mary Wells, approached Gordy with a song she had written for Jackie Wilson. Unable to write music, Wells sang the song to Gordy, who immediately signed her and released her version of "Bye, Bye, Baby," which made the Top Ten on the R&B charts in 1960. Two years later she teamed with Smokey Robinson, who now wrote and produced for Tamla label and hit with "The One Who Really Loves You," "You Beat Me To Punch," and "Two Lovers." The next year she recorded "Laughing Boy" and "Your Old Stand By." In 1964 Wells topped the charts with "My Guy."

Gordy also charted with the Marvelettes. Around 1961, one of their teachers arranged an audition with Gordy, after which he signed them and released "Please Mister Postman," which became Motown's first number one record. The next year the Marvelettes hit the charts with "Playboy," "Beachwood 4-5679," "Someday Someway," and "Strange I Know." In 1962 The group toured the South as part of the first Motortown Revue.

Encouraged by his success with the Marvelettes, Gordy recorded another Detroit girl group, Martha and the Vandellas. Martha Reeves, influenced by Clara Ward and jazz singer Billie Holiday, joined with Annette Sterling, Rosalind Ashford, and Gloria Williamson to sing as the Del-Phis while in high school and record the unsuccessful "I'll Let You Know" for Chess. In 1961 Reeves was hired as a secretary at Motown and by 1962 had convinced Gordy to record her group. The group sang backup vocals on a number of Motown hits including "Hitch Hike" and "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" by Marvin Gaye. Martha and the Vandellas hit the charts with "Come Get These Memories," followed by the million selling "Heat Wave" and "Quicksand." The next year they recorded "Dancing In the Streets" which reached near the top of the charts. Martha and the Vandellas, along with Mary Wells and the Marvelettes, identified Motown as a major source of the girl group sound.

Gordy the son of a black entrepreneur who hoped for the upward mobility of blacks, specifically groomed and cultivated streetwise teens from the streets of Detroit to make them acceptable to Mainstream America. In 1964 he hired Maxine Powell, who had operated a finishing and modeling school, to prep his performers. Powell tried to transform Motown artists into polished professionals.

A few months after adding Maxine Powell, Gordy hired choreographer Cholly Atkins, a well known dancer in the 1930s and 1940s who had performed at the Cotton Club and Savoy Ballroom, to teach these groups how to move gracefully

Atkins worked with Maurice King, who served as executive musical director. King who had arranged shows at Detroit's Flame Show Bar for years and had worked with jazz artists such as Billie Holiday and Dinah Washington, taught the Motown groups about stage patter.

By the mid-1960s, Gordy had assembled a Motown team that could take poor black youths from Detroit and teach them to talk, walk, dress as successful debutantes and debonair gentleman

Gordy combined the polished images of the Motown acts with a gospel-based music that could appeal to mainstream America. Blues and R&B always had a funky look to it back in those days, and Motown wanted to have a look that fathers and mothers would want their children to follow. They wanted to kill the imagery of liquor and drugs and how some people thought it pertained to R&B. Therefore when they reject anything that had a strong blues sound to it when choosing material for their artist.

In place of the blues and R&B, Gordy favored a distinct music grounded by an insistent pounding rhythm section, punctuated by horns and tambourines and featuring shrill, echo-laden vocals that bounced back and forth in a call and response of gospel. Building upon his experience with the girl group sound, he produced a full sound reminiscent and expanding on Phil Specter's Wall of Sound.

After he purchased 2644-2246 West Grand Boulevard in April of 1961 he placed Jobete, the sales, shipping and public relations departments in it. In January of 1962 2650-2652 West Grand Boulevard was added to house Berry and his sister Esther's offices International Talent Management. From 1965 on 2656 hosed finance department; 2662-64 purchased the next year was home to the sales and marketing. 26666-68 was bought at the same time. ITMI was moved to 2670-72 after it was bought in late 1966. Across the street, 2657 was converted into Artist Development Department in early 1966.

Aiming for the mass market, Gordy called the music "The Sound of Young America" and affixed a sign over Motown studio that read "Hitsville U.S.A."

Berry Gordy, using methods practiced in Detroit auto factories, ensured the continued success of the Supremes by assembling parts of a hit making machine, that included standardized song writing, an in house rhythm section, a quality control process, selective promotion and a family atmosphere reminiscent of the paternalism of Henry Ford in his auto plants in the early twentieth century.

The songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland joined forces in 1962 and perfected the formula of success that they discovered with their composition "Where Did Our Love Go."

The different singles also sound remarkably similar because of the in house rhythm section known as the Funk Brothers. In 1964, Earl Van Dyke, a former be-bop jazz pianist who toured with R&B singer Lloyd Price became the leader of the studio band. He played with drummer Benny Benjamin and bassist James Jamerson, who had backed Jackie Wilson and the Miracles. Together with a few other musicians the Funk Brothers provided the trademark percussive beat of the Motown sound

Gordy attempted to maintain consistent quality of Motown by conducting weekly meeting that scrutinized possible releases.

Gordy carefully promoted the songs that were released through means that kept the slick Motown image intact. Getting them spots on "The Ed Sullivan Show," "The Dean Martin Show," "The Tonight Show," "The Hollywood Palace," and "Orange Bowl Parade., the Copacabana in New York, exclusive Los Vegas hotels. He even had entertainers such as Sammy Davis Jr. and Broadway star Carol Channing write liner notes.

In 1960, between sets at a local club Gordy met Otis Williams when he walked into the bathroom. Elegants, the Questions, and the Distants. Renamed them the Temptations. Norm Whitfield, Smokey Robinson, Holland-Dozier-Holland formed the legendary Motown songwriting production crew.

During the mid-1960s, Gordy established a music empire that included eight record labels, a management service, a publishing company, and grossed millions of dollars a year From 1964 to 1967, Motown had 14 number one pop singles, 20 number one singles on the R&B charts, forty six more Top Fifteen pop singles and seventy-five other Top 15 R&B singles. In 1966 alone, seventy-five percent of Motown's releases made the charts.

In 1967 the Motown empire began to decline. A few days before a scheduled performance by the Supremes at the Hollywood Bowl in April, Gordy fired Florence Ballard, who had become jealous of the increasing prominent position of Diana Ross, and replaced her with Cindy Birdstrong. In July 1968, he fired David Ruffin of the Temptations and hired Dennis Edwards. Gordy quarreled about royalty rates with the the songwriting-production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who quit and filed suit against Motown.

Suffering the departure of H-D-H, Berry Gordy began to concentrate on the career of Diana Ross as a solo act in 1970. Maintaining the company's success with The Jacksons, Gordy moved Motown to Hollywood in 1971 and established Motown Industries, expanding to Broadway musicals and films.

During the first half of the '70s, Diana Ross was established as Motown's first all-around entertainer through her work in super clubs and films. Motown suffered defections in the '70s with Martha Reeves recording solo for other labels in 1974 and The Four Tops signing with ABC/Dunhill. Gladys Knight and The Pips recording for Buddah beginning in 1974 and, in 1975 The Jackson Five moved to Epic, as did Michael Jackson in 1978. The Miracles, without Smokey Robinson, switched to Columbia in 1977 and The Temptations went to Atlantic. However, Motown retained its position as an important independent label with the recordings of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Commodores, and Rick James.

During the '80s Motown struggled. Diana Ross moved to RCA in 1981 and Marvin Gaye signed with Columbia in 1982. The Temptations returned as did The Four Tops by the mid-'80s. The Gordy label introduced Debarge in 1983. The company staged a successful 25th anniversary celebration in 1983 that was later broadcast on ABC-TV. Motown Productions produced Lonesome Dove for CBS-TV in 1989. However, many former employees, including Eddie Holland and members of The Vandellas and The Marvelettes sued Motown, alleging failure to pay royalties.

In 1985, Esther Gordy Edwards opened the Motown Historical Museum inside the restored Hitsville building offering tours. There were rumors that the former Motown building on Woodward would be used as a larger museum. However it still remains abandoned and boarded up as of the end of 2000.

In July 1988 Berry Gordy sold Motown Records to MCA and Boston Ventures for $61 million. Boston Ventures later bought out MCA's interest and sold Motown Records to the Dutch-based Polygram conglomerate for $325 million in 1993. In late 1994, Warner books published Gordy's self-serving biography To Be Loved.

Berry Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
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Reply #9 posted 01/10/09 3:52pm


Marv Johnson
Born: Marvin Earl Johnson
Birth date: October 15, 1938
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
Death date: May 16, 1993
Death site: Columbia, South Carolina (stroke)

An early rock 'n' roll and soul star of the late fifties and early sixties, probably the biggest contribution Marv Johnson made to popular music was being the first singer to release a record on the label that revolutionized popular music in Motown Records under its original name, Tamla, but found national success in other labels.

Born in Detroit, Marv spent his early years as a member of a doo-wop group. After being discovered by Berry Gordy while performing at a carnival, he signed Johnson to the locally based Tamla Records. The Berry Gordy-penned and produced "Come to Me" was released as Tamla 101 in May of 1959 becoming the first single issued from the label. Since Tamla was a regional label only, Berry sold Marv's half of the Tamla contract to United Artists, who released the single later that year and the song hit the top 30 of the pop charts assuring Johnson and Gordy success. Johnson would continue to record such Gordy compositions such as "I Love the Way You Love", "You've Got What It Takes" and "You've Got to Move Two Mountains", all of which became national and international hits. Eventually after 1965, Johnson signed an official deal with Motown after the formerly named Tamla label had become an international success. While he never got proper promotion for his Motown singles in America, he remained a member of its staff until the late 1970s. Johnson later recorded for Motorcity Records and continued to perform onstage until he caught a stroke after performing in South Carolina. Marv Johnson was 54 when he passed away in 1993.









RUN LIKE A RABBIT (in one of his final recordings):
[Edited 1/10/09 15:52pm]
[Edited 1/10/09 15:53pm]
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Reply #10 posted 01/10/09 4:07pm


Mabel John
Birth date: November 3, 1930
Birth place: Bastrop, Louisiana

The elder sister of rock 'n' roll and soul legend Little Willie John, Mabel John's biggest contribution to Motown was being its first female signed artist. Unfortunately, John, whose bluesy roots made it impossible to make Berry Gordy's dream of pop stardom come true, wasn't able to get any chart success with Motown and soon left only to find success as leader of Ray Charles' Raelettes.

Born in Louisiana, she moved to Detroit to find employment and soon graduated from Pershing High School. Afterwards, she began working with a company run by Bertha Gordy, mother of Berry Gordy. In 1959, Gordy signed John to his Tamla Records label and released the single, "Who Wouldn't Love a Man Like That?" The single flopped as did three follow-ups: "Lookin' for a Man", "No Love" and "Actions Speak Louder than Words". John's position to Motown splintered to background vocal work until her departure from the label in 1962. Afterwards she joined Ray Charles' backing girl group the Raelettes and soon enough was co-managing and leading the group. In 1966, she signed a contract with Stax Records and recorded the R&B classic, "Your Good Thing Is About to End". Her tenure with Stax, however, was as tumultuous as her Motown tenure and soon she left returning to the Raelettes in 1968. Since 1973, John has retired from secular music and is currently managing gospel acts.

Who Wouldn't Love a Man Like That:

Lookin' for a Man:

No Love:

Actions Speak Louder than Words:
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Reply #11 posted 01/10/09 4:22pm


Birth Date: February 5, 1941
Birth Place: West Point, Mississippi

Brought into Motown initially as a singer, Barrett is credited for two important moments in rock history: responsible for Motown's first national hit with "Money (That's What I Want)" and later becoming the lyrical counterpoint to Norman Whitfield's pioneering psychedelic recordings of the 1960s for acts such as Marvin Gaye, The Temptations and the Undisputed Truth.

Brought into Motown in 1959, the 18-year-old signed a regional deal with Tamla and with help from Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford, released his first Tamla single titled "Money (That's What I Want)". Since Berry still didn't release his records nationally, much like he did for artists like Marv Johnson, Mable John and the Miracles, he had the song released from another company, in Strong's case, he released the song off Anna Records, another Detroit company connected to Berry's since his sister Gwen Gordy and her then muse, Billy Davis formed and owned the label. Gwen Gordy and Davis had co-written Jackie Wilson's popular hits with Berry. Anna issued the single and it soon rose to number two on the R&B chart and number 23 on the pop chart. Strong's follow-ups on Tamla was not as successful and after Anna was absorbed by Berry following Motown's rise in the music industry, Strong settled for work as a lyricist. By 1968, that move triggered him to collaborate with Norman Whitfield. Their first works were with the David Ruffin-era Temptations co-composing hits such as "I Wish It Would Rain" and "You're My Everything". When Dennis Edwards replaced Ruffin from the Temptations in 1968, Whitfield moved the group to a psychedelic soul sound and Strong's lyrics became more socially conscious. Soon enough songs like "Cloud Nine", "Runaway Child, Running Wild", "I Can't Get Next to You", "Psychedelic Shack", "Ball of Confusion", "Just My Imagination", "Superstar", and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" emerged. Strong also wrote the lyrics to Motown classics such as Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby" and "That's the Way Love Is", Edwin Starr's "War" and the Undisputed Truth's "Smiling Faces (Sometimes)". Strong left Motown in 1972 after the label relocated to Los Angeles out of Detroit and resumed his singing career though he'd remained a one-hit wonder. Strong, alongside Whitfield, are the winners of two Grammy Awards and are both members of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.




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Reply #12 posted 01/10/09 4:57pm


Formed: 1955 (as the Five Chimes) in Detroit, Michigan
Other Names: The Matadors (1956-58); the Miracles (1958-66; 1973-onwards); Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (1966-1972)
Important Members: William "Smokey" Robinson, Ronald "Ronnie" White, Warren Pete Moore, Robert "Bobby" Rogers, Claudette Rogers Robinson, Marv Tarplin, William Griffin

Originally formed to become the next Drifters in 1955, the Five Chimes were originally consisted of Warren "Pete" Moore, James Grice, Clarence Dawson, Ronald White and a fifteen-year-old lead singer named William Robinson, otherwise known as "Smokey". After a year, James Grice and Clarence Dawson left and were replaced by cousins Emerson and Bobby Rogers in 1956. And that year they change their name to the Matadors.

In 1957, Emerson Rogers was drafted and he was replaced by Bobby's sister Claudette. Claudette and Smokey quickly became a romantic item and the couple married in 1959. That year, guitarist Marv Tarplin, an Atlanta, GA native, joined the group as its guitarist after Robinson met another local Detroit group, the Primettes (who later changed their name to the Supremes) when Tarplin was their guitarist. In 1957, the group was discovered by Berry Gordy after the group failed an audition with Jackie Wilson's manager. Gordy advised Robinson and his band mates on how to write songs and advised them to change their name. Robinson chose "The Miracles" and in 1958, Gordy wrote and produced the Miracles' first single, "Got a Job", an answer song to the Silhouettes' one-hit wonder "Get a Job". The song was issued on Chess Records. When Gordy formed Tamla Records in 1959, he recruited the Miracles as its first group and issued the single "Bad Girl", which also got a national release on Chess Records. The single became their first charted single peaking at #93 on the pop chart. After three regional Tamla singles flopped, the group began to put more time into polishing their live performances.

In late 1960, Robinson came to Gordy with a song he composed of a man who wants to marry his girlfriend but is rebuffed by his mother who then advises him to "shop around". Recorded under a slow blues melody, "Shop Around" was released shortly after the group's single "Way Over There" failed to chart. To make the song accessible as Tamla (now Motown) was starting to become a national independent label, Gordy had the song rearranged to a faster melody and the re-recorded version became a national release in October of 1960. By January of the new year, the song had rose to number two on the pop charts therefore starting the amazing ride the Miracles and its leader Smokey Robinson would find themselves on in the next twelve years as their success paved the way for future Motown stars.

Other hits between 1961-1962 included "Everybody's Gotta Pay Some Dues", "Ain't It Baby", "I've Been Good to You" and "I'll Try Something New". It wasn't until late-1962 when the song "You Really Got a Hold of Me", a musical answer to Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home to Me", became a top ten hit on the pop chart in early 1963. Most of the Miracles' early hits were all written by Smokey Robinson. As time went on, band members Ronnie White, Pete Moore, Marv Tarplin and Bobby Rogers all began contributing lyrics with Robinson mainly composing the music but he also made a big contribution to the lyrics. 1963's "Mickey Monkey", however, was written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, and became the Miracles' third top ten hit in the summer of 1963 as Motown's sales started burning up.

The Miracles' real golden era, however, didn't come about until the release of 1965's Going to a Go-Go. The album featured all the Miracles with the exception of Claudette contributing to lyrics and Robinson as its main producer. The album yielded four top twenty pop singles: "Tracks of My Tears", "Ooo Baby Baby", "Going to a Go-Go" and "My Girl Has Gone". The album became the only LP the Miracles released that hit the top ten of the album charts. After the name change to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the group continued to score top ten hits such as "Come Round Here (I'm the One You Need)", "I Second That Emotion", "Second Occasion", "If You Can Want", "Doggone Right", "Here I Go Again" and their number-one hit, 1970's "Tears of a Clown", which ironically enough was recorded in 1966 but wasn't released until England's Tamla-Motown division released it in '70 where it hit number-one. Motown issued the single in America where it pretty much repeated the success. This prompted Smokey, who was planning to leave the Miracles to become a Motown staffer (vice president), to continue recording with his old group. Their last hits with Smokey included 1971's "I Don't Blame You At All" and 1972's "We've Come Too Far to End It Now" and the Johnny Bristol-composed "I Can't Stand to See You Cry". After a farewell tour in 1972, Robinson, his wife Claudette and Marv Tarplin left the Miracles. The group would hire Billy Griffin as its new lead singer and carried on into the late 1970s where they recorded the disco hits "Do It Baby" (1974) and the number-one smash, "Love Machine" (1976).

After a reunion with Smokey and Claudette during the Motown 25 special in 1983, the Miracles retired only to re-emerge in 1993 by Ronnie White and Bobby Rogers. The group has continued to record with various members including Claudette Robinson who divorced Smokey in 1986. Smokey went on to a successful solo career though it didn't match his Miracles success.

During the original group's days, the group also recorded a series of compositions for artists such as Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Marvelettes, and Mary Wells finding success with all four acts in the process. Despite their contributions, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its inductees for 1987, only Robinson was inducted. Nevertheless the group was inducted to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and are set to get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this year.

As of 2009, only Ronnie White is the only casualty from the original lineup of the Miracles.


I didn't feel like posting separate links for videos, so click above and just play any of the classics here and if you want, post the links to your favorite Miracles tunes on this thread.

The Miracles had like 50 hits or something so that's why it's hard to post everything they did! lol
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Reply #13 posted 01/10/09 5:05pm


Formed: 1960 (as the Casinyets) in Inkster, Michigan
Other Names: The Marvels (1960-61); The Marvelettes (1961-70)
Disbanded: 1968 (not counting a 1971 album featuring Wanda Young Rogers & the Andantes)
Important Members: Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman, Wanda Young (Rogers), Katherine Anderson, Juanita Cowart, Ann Bogan, Georgia Dobbins

I'll let the History-of-Rock site explain their tragic story:

Despite twenty-one R&B chart hits, twenty-three Pop hits, and Motown's first number one single, the Marvelettes were never the darlings of Motown that they aspired to be.

"They never really respected us. Berry Gordy lost the Marvelette name in a gambling game once, that's how much they cared about us. We were just nothing to them.".....Gladys Horton

Starting out 1961 as a quintet in rural Inkster, Michigan, the Marvelettes were leads Gladys Horton and Georgia Dobbins with Georgeanna Tillman, Juanita Cowart, and Katherine Anderson. Not confident in their singing abilities they called themselves the Casinyets which stood for can't sing yet.

While attending Inkster High, the five seventeen year olds entered the school's talent show where the first three prizes were auditions at Detroit's Motown Records. The girls then called the Marvels finished fourth ( though in a 1980 interview Horton said they came in first), but their teacher, Mrs. Shirley Sharpley, convinced the principal Anita Cox to let them go on the audition. It was Sharpley that prevailed upon Jon O'Den (Berry Gordy'd driver and bodyguard) to listen to the Casinyets.

The Marvelettes' early influences were the Chantels and the Shirelles, so it was no surprise when they auditioned with "He's Gone" and "I Met Him On A Sunday." The girls passed their April 1961 audition for Brian Holland and Robert Bateman with flying colors, but sent them home telling them they had to come up with an original song. Having never written anything, Dobbins asked William Garnett, a songwriting friend, if he had anything. He showed her a blues song entitled "Please Mr. Postman." In turn for writing credit she then rewrote it keeping the title and theme. She then gave it to Horton to learn and then dropped out of the group to take care of her sick mother. The group then added Wanda Young, an Inkster graduate, and went back to Motown.

"Anyway we won first prize, but until we got to Motown, it still hadn't reached my mind how important it was. We met Berry Gordy and the Miracles, and it was then I realized the potential of this meeting. We began to picture ourselves like the Supremes, who were the company's girl group"..... Gladys Horton

Gordy renamed them the Marvelettes and "Please Mr. Postman" on the Tamla label was released in the summer of 1961, around four months after the first single by Motown's other girl group, The Supremes.

On September fourth the song entered the Billboard charts and the R&B charts one week later. Slowly moving up the charts "Please Mr. Postman" it took fourteen weeks for it to finally reach the top spot.

"The first number one came to easy for us. We weren't pretty city girls from the projects like Motown's other girl group, the Supremes. We had no experience of life at all. We were naive little country girls, and we didn't know how to handle the situation. We had no idea how to behave, we didn't know what to wear. we didn't even know how to put make up. We learnt as we went along, of course, but it was very hard at first." Gladys Horton

An immediate rivalry arose between the Supremes and the country girls from Inkster.

The Marvelettes' next song "Twistin' Mr. Postman had an heavily accented blues beat. It would ultimately reach number thirty-four Pop and number thirteen R&B. The group was becoming popular on tour, but underlying tensions and internal competition was taking their toll. The Marvelettes' next record "Playboy" was a hit reaching number seven Pop and number three R&B on June 23. The Supremes were still three weeks away with their first Pop charter "Your Heart Belongs To Me."

Next what was to become their most phone number in the country, Beachwood 4-5789 in the summer of 1962 (#17 Pop, #7 R&B). Then "Strange I know" reached number forty-one Pop and number ten R&B in early 1963., but the rest of the year was a disappointment with "Locking Up My Heart" doing the best (#44 Pop, #25 R&B).

By 1965 the group was having hits again with "Too Many Fish In the Sea (#25 Pop, #15 R&B), "I'll Keep Holding On" (#34 Pop, #11 R&B), and "Don't Mess With Bill" (#7 Pop, #3 R&B), written by Smokey Robinson and with Wanda on lead.

The Marvelettes than made what turned out to be a major mistake by passing on a song brought to them in 1964 by Holland-Dozier-Holland. The writers then took "Baby Love" to the Supremes, giving them their second number one record in a row.

In 1965 Juanita left the group reportedly following a nervous breakdown. When Georgeanna fell ill with leukemia and lupus soon after and had to leave the touring, the group continued as a trio.

"There was pressure on the group. Juanita had a nervous breakdown and had to leave. She had made a silly remark on Dick Clark's show and everyone in the company was constantly teasing her about it. She really took it to heart and became very depressed. she was only 16. Georgeanna had to leave due to ill health. She was always very tired; there was something wrong with her and the doctor advised her to get off the road."
Gladys Horton

In 1967 The Marvelettes had three hits in a row with "The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game" (#13 pop, #2 R&B), "When Your Young and in Love" (#23 Pop, #9 R&B), and "My Baby Must Be a Magician" (#17 Pop, #8 R&B).

Horton then left the group to get married and Anne Bogan joined.

Their last chart record came in late 1968 with "Destination: Anywhere (#63 Pop, # 28 R&B).

In 1969 Young decided to stay in Detroit when Motown moved to Los Angeles. That was the end of the group, but four more singles were issued through 1971, the last being "Breathtaking Guy."

In the mid-80s with children grown up Glays Horton decided to reform the group. She approached Katherine and Wanda with this in mind, but neither was interested. She then found Echo Johnson and Jean McClain and the group signed with Motorcity Records. After their first Motorcity release "Holding On With Both Hands" Johnson and McClain were replaced by Jackie and Regina Hollemon.

Georgeanna Tillman married Billy Gordon of the Contours and died of sickle cell anemia in 1980. Wanda Young married Bobby Rogers of the Miracles, Katherine Anderson married Joe Schaffner, road manager for the Temptations. Gladys Horton is single and lives in Los Angeles where she cares for her handicapped son.

The Marvelettes had shot to fame with their first record and were a good live act; so why hadn't Berry Gordy promoted them? In retrospect it, it seems that Gordy had found the Marvelettes alittle to rough and ready, a little to ordinary, toreally push their beyond that of a touring group with the occassional hit. The Marvelettes had an earthy, mature way of singing, which mixed with their youthful romanticism, gave the group an unique appeal. Yet though the group's appeal has proved to be more durable than many of their contemporaries, one can see why for the upwardly mobile Berry Gordy of the '60s, the Marvelettes weren't quite "uptown enough. The mixture was was not quite right; there was too much Detroit R&B in there, and not enough New York pop.

"On top of that, we weren't getting support from the company. In fact they hated us, made fun of us, we were some kind of joke to them. They really looked down on country people lick us because we didn't have there slick city ways. Also, we couldn't sing as good as the Supremes; they had been practicing their harmonies for three or four years we had only started. But the real reason they were mad at us, I guess, was that we got a hit before the Supremes. We got Motown their first straight hit with a girl group and it was with a song we had written ourselves. Can you imagine? Motown had been grooming the Supremes for years and the Supremes had done nothing. They had writers like Smokey Robinson and each one had been trying to get a hit on the Supremes. But all of a sudden here were these little nobodies, with their own song that they wrote at number one on the charts." Gladys Horton

Link to the Marvelettes YouTube videos:
[Edited 1/10/09 17:06pm]
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Reply #14 posted 01/10/09 5:22pm


Full Name: Martha Esther Wells
Birth Date: May 13, 1943
Birth Place: Detroit, Michigan
Death Date: July 26, 1992
Death Place: Kenneth Norris Hospital, Los Angeles, California (pneumonia; complications from throat cancer)

The second-ever signed female act to Motown in 1960, the seventeen-year-old became an R&B sensation and was among one of Motown's first big solo stars. Her popularity was such that she opened up for the Beatles, thanks to the Smokey Robinson composition, "My Guy", which hit number-one a few weeks after Wells turned 21. Wells' career seemed to be at its brightest when the singer suddenly left the label on the same year she became a pop superstar.

Mary's rise was triggered by tragedy. Born in a poor Detroit neighborhood, Wells struggled with meningitis in her spinal regions which kept her from walking for several years and also left her partially blind and deaf. Apparently she survived all of that and by age ten was performing in both churches and local nightclubs. In 1960, aspired by Jackie Wilson and Ruth Brown, Wells contacted Berry Gordy at the Twenty Grand nightclub in Detroit bringing Gordy a song she had worked on titled "Bye Bye Baby". Gordy liked it so much that he had Wells recorded it. The song was issued in late 1960 and rose to the top ten on the R&B chart. From then on, Wells became Motown's first solo star.

Hits included "I Don't Wanna Take a Chance" and her first top ten pop hits "The One Who Really Loves You", "Two Lovers" and "You Beat Me to the Punch", which won her a Grammy nod. Throughout 1963, Wells recorded several modest but popular singles such as "Laughing Boy", "You Lost the Sweetest Boy" and "What's So Easy for Two Is So Hard for One". In 1964, Wells recorded the classic "My Guy", a single composed by her longtime collaborator Smokey Robinson. The song eventually hit number-one becoming one of the first number-one singles from Motown and easily making Wells a superstar. Ironically enough, after so much success which also included a duet album with rising star Marvin Gaye, Wells abruptly left Motown and went on to struggle with her later releases as she was given little promotion compared to her quick but brief Motown success.

Wells' story took a tragic turn in 1990 when Wells was diagnosed with throat cancer while on the road in Canada. Two years later, she succumbed to the illness in 1992 ending her short life at the age of 49.








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Reply #15 posted 01/10/09 5:54pm


Real Name: Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr.
Birth Date: April 2, 1939
Birth Place: Washington, D.C.
Death Date: April 1, 1984
Death Place: Crenshaw, Los Angeles, California (gunshot wounds)

One of Motown's most consistent artists and one of the most iconic figures in the history of rhythm and blues and modern popular music, Marvin Gaye carried the tenor of our times from hypnotic R&B tunes of the early soul era of the early sixties to classic, poignant love songs he sung with the likes of Mary Wells, Diana Ross and Tammi Terrell to the socially conscious period of the early seventies, sexual freedom and discovery in the mid-seventies before arriving at songs of personal nature in the eighties, his life and career, especially in the development of the early Motown years and its later transitions, was as poignant as the tragic final months of his life.

Born in Washington, D.C., Marvin grew up the son of a Pentecostal minister and was raised under double standards raised by his father to be a God-fearing human being despite his father's own double life. Marvin rebelled in his early years and at seventeen left home for the U.S. Air Forces. After his return and because of his love for music, he formed a doo-wop group called the Marquees. First mentored by Bo Diddley, the group eventually would be mentored by Harvey Fuqua as his "new Moonglows" in 1959. In 1960, the group disbanded and Harvey signed Marvin to Detroit's Anna Records as a drummer shortly after Marvin and Harvey moved to the Motor City. After Anna was absorbed to Motown in 1961, Marvin signed a contract as a session musician. That soon led to a singing contract after Gordy overheard Marvin sing during a Christmas party. Despite Marvin's intentions to being an adult performer of standards, Marvin reluctantly agreed to record mainly R&B songs releasing 1962's "Stubborn Kind of Fellow", his fourth single and first charted hit. While "Hitch Hike", a song that came from a dance, hit the top 40, his 1963 follow-up "Pride & Joy" became his first top 10 smash sparking Marvin's early career as a Brook Benton/Sam Cooke/Ray Charles-inspired soul-pop crooner.

Collaborating with the likes of Mickey Stevenson, Holland-Dozier-Holland and Smokey Robinson, Marvin's hits included "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", "I'll Be Doggone", "Ain't That Peculiar" and the Kim Weston duet "It Takes Two". In 1967, Marvin's career took a different turn after he began collaborating with Philadelphia's Tammi Terrell (born Thomasina Montgomery) and started working with Ashford & Simpson. The duo connected with hits such as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and "You're All I Need to Get By" and for a time represented romanticism in an era now besieged by the Vietnam War, assassinations of public figures and riots. However, after Terrell collapsed from a malignant brain tumor, Gaye's world came crashing down. Depressed, Marvin began using cocaine as his meditation and started to rebel from Motown's controlling machine. His recordings took a turn for less polished recordings such as the standard version of Norman Whitfield's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", recorded in 1967 and released in 1968, the single became Marvin's biggest hit reaching number-one in America and England and becoming a top ten hit in other parts of the world, the song made Marvin an international star.

Following the 1970 death of Terrell, Marvin shunned himself from public view briefly producing works by the Originals, a former Motown background session vocal group, and also attempting a football career with the Detroit Lions. However, after the Four Tops' Renaldo Benson presented him the rough draft of a politically-themed song titled "What's Going On", Marvin changed his plans. Eventually producing and recording the song himself and writing the finished lyrics, the song also included lyrics of police brutality and racism. The song, when originally presented, was not allowed to be released. However, in January 1971, the song was released and became Motown's fastest-rising success reaching #2 on the pop chart and marking Marvin's break from Motown becoming one of its first autonomous artists. The release of its parent album, What's Going On, became a landmark moment for Marvin's career and in the history of pop music with the album presenting messages of love under a political and social context. Featuring the fellow top tenners, "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" and "Inner City Blues", the album sold over two million copies and landed Marvin a new contract the following year.

With the new contract, Marvin began to further explore his mind and in 1972 he composed the film soundtrack to the movie, Trouble Man. 1973's Let's Get It On became his first sexual concept album and sold over three million copies. Returning to live performances became a hassle for Marvin despite his popularity and he developed stage fright. He also had begun abusing cocaine more and more as years wore on. Following his divorce from Berry Gordy's sister Anna in 1976 and his marriage to Janis Hunter in 1977, Marvin recorded the Leon Ware-composed I Want You album and released the number-one disco smash, "Got to Give It Up". 1978's Here, My Dear presented a different element to Marvin's music as he presented a biographical concept album of his divorce from his first wife. In 1979, he and Janis Hunter, who had two kids together, also divorced, and in 1980, Marvin moved to Hawaii and then to London following a European concert tour. In 1981, following the rush-release of In Our Lifetime, Marvin opted out of his Motown contract. Moving to Belgium, he briefly sobered up and signed with CBS Records in 1982. The label issued his first post-Motown album, the funk and reggae-tinged Midnight Love, which featured the number-one R&B smash, "Sexual Healing", which won Marvin two Grammy Awards and became his final big hit.

Sadly, however, Marvin's demons began to overwhelm him as he returned to America and his drug addiction. Settling in his parents' home, he argued constantly with his father and told several relatives that he figured someone was out to kill him. Ironically on April 1, 1984, that "someone" would be his father, who shot and killed him during a row following the parents' own argument over a misplaced business file. Marvin died a day before his 45th birthday. His funeral was viewed by over 10,000 well-wishers including most of his Motown alum. In 1985, David Ritz released his first biography on the man, Divided Soul, which became a best-seller. Marvin was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

LIKE the Miracles and Marvelettes, Marvin had too many hits, check here:

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Reply #16 posted 01/10/09 7:36pm



Timmy, are you writing these bios?

If you are, I wanna write Michael's! lol
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #17 posted 01/10/09 9:44pm





Great thread.

When's the gigantic anniversary box set coming out?
Studies have shown the ass crack of the average Prince fan to be abnormally large. This explains the ease and frequency of their panties bunching up in it.
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Reply #18 posted 01/10/09 10:28pm


bboy87 said:

Timmy, are you writing these bios?

If you are, I wanna write Michael's! lol

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz
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Reply #19 posted 01/10/09 10:28pm


Mars23 said:

Great thread.

When's the gigantic anniversary box set coming out?

You mean the one with all the number-ones on it and the box that looks like the Hitsville studio? I think they released that last month.

By the way, thanks! biggrin
[Edited 1/10/09 22:31pm]
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Reply #20 posted 01/10/09 10:56pm





Timmy84 said:

Mars23 said:

Great thread.

When's the gigantic anniversary box set coming out?

You mean the one with all the number-ones on it and the box that looks like the Hitsville studio? I think they released that last month.

By the way, thanks! biggrin
[Edited 1/10/09 22:31pm]


Studies have shown the ass crack of the average Prince fan to be abnormally large. This explains the ease and frequency of their panties bunching up in it.
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Reply #21 posted 01/10/09 11:22pm



Timmy84 said:

bboy87 said:

Timmy, are you writing these bios?

If you are, I wanna write Michael's! lol

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz

Can I do Jermaine's. lol
PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #22 posted 01/10/09 11:27pm


Birth name: Stevland Hardaway Judkins
Real name: Stevland Hardaway Morris
Birth Date: May 13, 1950
Birth Place: Saginaw, Michigan

A prodigy by 7, a recording artist by 11 and a visionary by 21, Stevie Wonder has traveled the long road from the mini blind wunderkind from Detroit who wowed everyone with his exuberance and harmonica playing to the innovative and influential genius that he has been hailed as throughout the world. One of Motown's most intriguing and charismatic artists, his series of hit albums, concept albums and multi-talented artistry have landed Wonder on a different plateau that very few artists ever get to reach.

Born Stevland Judkins on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, Michigan, Stevie's blindness was due to much oxygen in his incubator. As a baby, his parents Calvin Judkins and Lula Mae Hardaway fought repeatedly. Separated when Stevie was 4, Lula moved to Detroit where she re-married though she later raised her six children on her own after a while. As a kid, Stevie attended the Michigan School for the Blind and Deaf and also was a junior deacon at a local church. It was at church that Wonder began his love for music, first singing in the choir, he also played the organ and drums. Away from the church, his uncle bought him a harmonica and by age 10, Stevie had become a fan of rhythm and blues artists ranging from Ray Charles to Jackie Wilson, a Detroit native. In 1961, a musician friend of his brought Miracles member Ronnie White to his attention to see the 11-year-old musician. After auditioning for White, the singer agreed to have him audition in front of the staff at the now-rising Motown Records label. Berry Gordy later recounted that while his singing didn't impress him, his playing the harmonica convinced Gordy to sign the youngster. Before the ink laid dry, however, Gordy looked to get a name change for his youngest artist. "Steve Morris" was too plain. Finally Esther Gordy looked at the boy and said "that boy's a wonder!" And like that, the name STEVIE WONDER stuck.

Since Wonder was underage, he was looked after by many of Motown's staff, most significantly then-Motown secretary Martha Reeves. In 1962, Motown issued Wonder's first album, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie Wonder, but the album tanked as did a follow-up album, released as a tribute to Ray Charles, Wonder's idol, who was also blind. When the Motortown Revue started tours in the fall of 1962, Wonder joined the roster. In early 1963, Wonder cut a live performance at the Apollo Theater that soon would lead its way to his first success. A song Wonder had recorded at Hitsville, the mostly instrumental dance song, "Fingertips", was played live and Wonder's enthusiasm wasn't lost with the crowd as they eventually got rowdy during Wonder's musicianship which was serious, playful and groovy at the same time. The classic bit of this live cut came when during a so-called false ending, Wonder suddenly came back on stage and yelled to the audience, "everybody say YEAH!" over and over again before playing the song again for a few minutes before finally leaving. Intrigued, Berry Gordy released a live album full of Wonder cuts titled Recorded Live: The 12-Year-Old Genius of Little Stevie Wonder and released a two-part version of "Fingertips" as a single. The buzz caught on quick and just weeks after Wonder's 13th birthday, the teenage singer had become a pop sensation after "Fingertips, Pt. 2" hit number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was only the second number-one single recorded by a Motown artist and the first live song to ever hit number-one on any chart. The parent album itself also peaked at number-one giving Motown its first number-one album ever and making Wonder the youngest artist ever to release a number-one single and album simultaneously, a record he still holds. He also holds the record for having the first live album to peak at number-one.

Success seemed to peak for Wonder though as 1964 came and went, after turning 14, he asked to drop the "Little" moniker from his name which was agreed after Wonder's voice went through a change. By 1965, Wonder was actually close to being dropped from the label because of his peak two years before that. Luckily for Wonder, luck finally shined when his first co-write, the pop-soul styled "Uptight" was issued as a single that May. The song rose to number-three on the pop singles chart and restored Wonder's place in Motown's roster. Afterwards, Wonder's emerging star continued to grow with hit after hit. Among the hits Wonder released between 1965 and 1971 included "Blowin' in the Wind", "A Place in the Sun", "I Was Made to Love Her", "For Once in My Life", "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day", "My Cherie Amour", "Yester-You, Yester-Me, Yesterday", "Signed, Sealed & Delivered", "Heaven Help Us All" and a funky cover of the Beatles' "We Can Work It Out". By this point, Wonder was also starting to emerge as a writer for other acts. One of his most famous compositions came in 1970 when a re-release of the Miracles "Tears of a Clown" hit number-one on the pop and R&B charts. In 1970, he and then-girlfriend Syreeta Wright began collaborating together on singles. Their first hit they composed was the Spinners' "It's a Shame", which was also one of Wonder's first produced songs. Much like his friend Marvin Gaye, Wonder wanted to become his own producer. In April of 1971, much to Berry Gordy's chagrin, Wonder released his first "serious" album with Where I'm Coming From, which was a Wonder/Wright produced record and featured the top ten hit "If You Really Love Me". When Wonder's contract came up for renewal upon his 21st birthday, Wonder shocked Berry Gordy by refusing to renew it allowing it to be void, due to a clause that Wonder took full advantage of.

Leaving Detroit for New York, Wonder cut two independent albums at the Hit Factory and Electric Lady Studios. Within months, Motown brought him a new contract that allowed Wonder full autonomous control of his recordings from then on and control to do whatever he wanted. Upon returning to Motown in 1972, he opened up his new production company Black Bull and in March released the first of what became his "classic period" albums with the intriguing Music of My Mind. Incorporating all the instruments, including an instrument that later dominated rock and funk music - the talk box - Music of My Mind continued Wonder's social consciousness and included the hit "Superwoman". Wonder then agreed to open for the Rolling Stones during their U.S. tour which granted him a rock-based audience. Wonder used the exposure to record and release his follow-up to Music... that October. Titled Talking Book, the album has been hailed as a cornerstone record for Stevie as it helped him to cross over completely from just being known in the black community to being embraced in rock circles for his wide range in music. The album included the funk classic "Superstition" and the pop smash "You Are the Sunshine of My Life", both of which hit number-one on the pop chart, his first number-ones since "Fingertips" over a decade before. That August, Wonder released his landmark album, Innervisions. Later that month, Wonder was involved in a car accident that landed him in a coma after receiving blunt force trauma in his scalp. After six weeks, the singer emerged from his coma and eventually made a full recovery.

The news about his accident only increased his audience as Innervisions went on to yield the hits "Living for the City", a social commentary on the inner city, racism and, in the last half of the song, homelessness; the drug-aware "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing", and the funk rock-based gospel anthem, "Higher Ground", later covered successfully by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 1974, following his accident, Wonder recorded the autobiographical Fullfillingness' First Finale which featured the angry anti-Nixon rant, "You Haven't Done Nothin'", another number-one smash, followed by the top three funk hit, "Boogie On Reggae Woman". In 1975, Wonder again negotiated with Motown after his first deal ran out, this time he asked Motown to pay him $13 million dollars for the new contract which was reluctantly agreed upon. The contract made Wonder the highest-paid artist in music at the time and helped to make his next album, 1976's Songs in the Key of Life, a highly-anticipated album. When the double LP/extra EP was released that October, Wonder didn't disappoint the contract obligations: the album became his first to enter at number-one on the pop album charts where it stayed for a whopping 14 weeks. Wonder's ambitious project added touches of salsa, gospel, blues, rock and otherworldly music into his work and the album became the final highlight of Wonder's classic years. Hits from the album would include the number-one smashes "Sir Duke" and "I Wish" and top 40 classics such as "As", "Isn't She Lovely", "Another Star" and "Knocks Me Off My Feet". Winning the Grammy for Album of the Year, it eventually sold over ten million copies in the U.S. alone. Wonder's next album wouldn't come in three years. When 1979's The Secret Life of Plants came out, it was panned for being too "complicated" and "long". Wonder restored some of the rust with 1980's Hotter than July, famed for its Bob Marley tribute, "Master Blaster Jammin'", the R&B ballad "Lately", later covered by Jodeci, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute, "Happy Birthday". The latter track would play a role in King's birthday receiving a national holiday. In 1982, Wonder celebrated his most famous period by releasing the hits album, Original Musiquarium, which featured the hits "That Girl", "Do I Do" and "Ribbon in the Sky". That same year, Wonder recorded the duet, "Ebony and Ivory", which hit number-one. In 1984, Wonder scored an Academy Award-winning international smash with "I Just Called to Say I Love You" from the Woman in Red soundtrack.

Wonder's next studio release took five years before he finally released the 1985 album, In Square Circle, which featured his final number-one hit, "Part Time Lover", famous for featuring Luther Vandross humming the chorus. The album also included a famed Wonder song in his later years titled "Overjoyed". In 1987, Wonder released the album, Characters, which featured "Skeletons" and "You Will Know". Two years after that, Wonder became, at 38, the youngest artist ever to be inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. After releasing the soundtrack to the 1991 movie, "Jungle Fever", Wonder released the 1995 album Conversation Peace, which featured "For Your Love". After the release and a subsequent successful tour that followed, Wonder basically semi-retired from the business living off well from his own royalties after his successful contract negotiations left him with full masters of his works. Wonder wouldn't release an album again until 2005 when he issued A Time 2 Love, the album went gold and was critically acclaimed upon its release. As of 2009, Motown's longest-running artist, now approaching his sixties, is on bill to release two albums that could be out later this year.

For a series of Stevie Wonder joints, go here:

Or just go here to find more Stevie stuff:
[Edited 1/10/09 23:28pm]
[Edited 1/12/09 19:28pm]
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Reply #23 posted 01/10/09 11:28pm


LittleBLUECorvette said:

Timmy84 said:

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz

Can I do Jermaine's. lol

Sure! wink lol
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Reply #24 posted 01/10/09 11:57pm



LittleBLUECorvette said:

Timmy84 said:

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz

Can I do Jermaine's. lol

You better mention the hair! lol
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #25 posted 01/11/09 12:01am



bboy87 said:

LittleBLUECorvette said:

Can I do Jermaine's. lol

You better mention the hair! lol

I can't, he got that hair-du post Motown. That was in his Arista/LaFace days. lol
PRINCE: Always and Forever
MICHAEL JACKSON: Always and Forever
Live Your Life How U Wanna Live It
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Reply #26 posted 01/11/09 12:53am


Formed: 1959 (as the Primettes) in Detroit, Michigan
Other Names: Diana Ross and the Supremes (1967-70); "The 1970s Supremes" (1970-77)
Disbanded: 1977
Important Members: Florence Ballard, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, Cindy Birdsong, Jean Terrell

The most successful all-female group of all time, The Supremes emerged from Detroit's poor Brewster housing projects to become superstars in the Motown roster with their mixture of pop harmonies under a soulful groove. Their blurring racial and cultural lines helped to make Motown the label it became in the sixties. Their crossover success into TV shows, movies and performances in exclusive nightclubs paved the way for acts like the Temptations, the Four Tops and the Jackson 5 to make similar strides. With twelve number-one hits and a bevy of hit albums, the group was one of the top five biggest-selling acts of the sixties but much like some of the most iconic groups of that decade faced its share of heartache, envy, betrayal and death.

The Supremes' story starts in 1958 in Detroit where two fifteen-year-old high school students began befriending each other after a talent show. Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson became fast friends growing up in the east side of the Detroit projects. Much like the other kids in the neighborhood and around Detroit, they were fascinated by music and the emerging rock 'n' roll scene. In 1959, a manager of the locally based group The Primes, was looking for a sister group to fill for his original band and quickly found it after Florence Ballard auditioned for Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks of the Primes. Williams hired Ballard and his girlfriend Betty McGlown alongside Mary Wilson and a fourteen-year-old ambitious schoolgirl named Diane Ross to complete the quartet, the Primettes. Performing day and night during weekdays and weekends respectively, the quartet gained a reputation with their close-knit doo-wop harmonies and the strong vocalizing of three of its members - Ballard, Wilson and Ross each had lead vocals within them. In 1960, they signed with LuPine Records but their single "Tears of Sorrow" only got as far as Detroit radio. Intrigued by the rising success of Motown Records, the group tried for an audition led by Smokey Robinson, Motown CEO Berry Gordy at first passed on the girls due to them not finishing high school. Undaunted, the girls showed up at the Motown studio day after day sometimes allowed to perform background for some of the label's regional favorites. Finally in December, Berry Gordy signed the girls to Motown. The group, which now included Barbara Martin as Betty's replacement, recorded a session of songs at Hitsville before 1961 when Gordy suggested the group's name to be changed. Choosing from a list of names Gordy had gotten from friends and family, Florence Ballard, the appointed leader of the group, chose "Supremes". Mary Wilson later recounted that she and Diane didn't like the name since it was the name of a male group. Despite objections, Gordy accepted the name and the group signed to Motown on January 15, 1961.

Between 1961 and 1963, the Supremes failed to score any major hits for Motown. In 1962, Barbara Martin left the group to get married and the remaining trio continued as such. Now known as DIANA, Ross was slowly but surely being regarded by Berry Gordy as the voice to lead the Supremes to the top. Gordy had preferred Ross' nasal pop vocals and Wilson's smoky contralto vocals over Florence's gospel/opera-based vocals in order for the group to gain a crossover fan base. Struggling to find a hit, in 1963, he had the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who had worked with Martha and the Vandellas, work with the girls. In early 1964, the group scored their first Top 40 hit with "When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes". In the summer of that year, the Supremes recorded a song the Marvelettes had turned down titled "Where Did Our Love Go?" Despite their own objections, the "no-hit Supremes" as they were called, felt they had no other choice. Despite their objections, in August, the single reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100 much to their surprise. The members recounted that when they started opening for Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, they were regarded as "the others", but after the success of "Where Did Our Love Go", they suddenly became the hitmakers. In October, they hit number-one again with the seminal "Baby Love", and the group again hit the top in December with "Come See About Me". This marked the first time any U.S. pop group had three consecutive number-one pop singles in a row in the same year, and with the release of the Where Did Our Love Go album reaching number two in 1965, the Supremes were suddenly superstars. Florence Ballard was only 21 while Diana Ross and Mary Wilson were only 20.

The group started 1965 on top with two more number-one hits, the Motown standard "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "Back in My Arms Again". Other hits during the period would include "Nothing But Heartaches", "Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart", "My World Is Empty Without You" and the number-one smashes "I Hear a Symphony", "You Can't Hurry Love" and "You Keep Me Hangin' On". The group's breakthrough success led to them being the first African-American group to perform on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in December of 1964, in June of 1965, they became the first African-American group to perform exclusively at New York's Copacabana and in 1966, the group's popularity was such that they even had their own bread named after them and did commercials both on TV and on radio for Coca Cola. The group also became a worldwide phenomenon with hits in the UK, Switzerland, Australia and other countries. They also became popular in Asia. The Supremes' success was unique as they were among one of the first black acts whose music was universally accepted and as a group, fans easily identified the three singers in the group, which was unique at the time. In 1966, they reached one of their biggest highlights when their album, Supreme 'A Go-Go, peaked at number-one on the pop album chart making them the first African-American group to have a number-one album on the pop charts.

However with this success came tension. Other Motown acts accused Motown CEO Berry Gordy for overlooking them for the Supremes, particularly in the group's now appointed lead singer Diana Ross. The Supremes themselves were starting to show friction as a unit. Florence Ballard in particular felt upset that she was being shunned in her mind from the group she helped form. In retrospect though, Ballard's troubles started even before the group signed with Motown. At seventeen, she was raped by a family friend and friends and relatives said Ballard was never the same. Plus the inclusion of alcohol to Ballard's appetite added to tensions despite the fact that Diana Ross, contrary to popular belief, did not control anything that happened within the group, nor did she had any role in Florence Ballard's later demotion from the group in July of 1967. Berry Gordy later admitted that by then, he was trying to build Ross as a solo act. Shortly before Ballard's 1967 departure, Gordy changed the name of the group to Diana Ross & the Supremes sensing the final crack of friction to finally tear the three members' friendships apart. Before Ballard left, the group scored two more number-one hits "Love Is Here and Now You're Gone" and "The Happening" and recorded the hits "Reflections" and "In and Out of Love". With Cindy Birdsong, a former member of Patti LaBelle's Bluebelles singing group, in the lineup replacing Ballard, the Supremes entered their new phase becoming a Las Vegas headlining act. Ironically the group's trusted songwriters-producers, Holland-Dozier-Holland suddenly left Motown due to royalty disputes causing a fallout from the Supremes' hit status. Further criticism of the Supremes' well-crafted image came under fire in the black community, which accused the group for selling out.

The Supremes recovered somewhat in 1968 with the release of the socially conscious "Love Child", which regained back its black audience while its psychedelic soul-tinged music helped the song hit number-one. That year, they collaborated with the Temptations on the cover of the Dee Dee Warwick hit, "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" and the two top groups of Motown performed together on their own TV special titled "TCB", which became a hit success. They also released a joint album together aptly titled Diana Ross & the Supremes Join the Temptations. They would release another album in 1969 and also do another special. In late 1969, rumors were confirmed that Diana Ross was about to leave the group for a solo career. Berry Gordy made the decision at that time to make what was supposed to be a Diana Ross solo single - "Someday We'll Be Together" - as a final single with the Supremes. Released in December of the year, the single became the twelfth and final number-one hit released by the Supremes despite the fact that Mary Wilson nor Cindy Birdsong were on the track. Following an engagement at Las Vegas' Hilton hotel on January 14, 1970, Diana Ross and the Supremes (Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong) parted and Jean Terrell was recruited as Ross' replacement.

As Ross went on to enjoy a successful solo career as both a singer and actress (winning an Oscar nod for Lady Sings the Blues in 1972), the Supremes continued to record hit singles into 1972. Among the hits included 1970's "Up the Ladder to the Roof" and "Stoned Love", their final top ten US hit, 1971's "Nathan Jones" and "River Deep - Mountain High" (which featured the Four Tops) and 1972's "Floy Joy" and "Automatically Sunshine". However after this brief period, the Supremes lineup began changing frantically. In 1972, Birdsong was on maternity leave and was replaced by Lynda Laurence to continue promotion for an album. Laurence remained in the group until 1973 but the group's "Bad Weather" failed to become a hit as did an album with rocker Jimmy Webb. Upon Birdsong's return in 1974 and Jean Terrell's departure in 1973, the Supremes performed throughout that year and into 1975 as new contracts were made for Birdsong and new lead singer Scherrie Payne. In 1975, their self-titled album was released and featured the disco hit, "He's My Man". In 1976, Birdsong left again due to friction with Mary Wilson and the group's manager, Wilson's husband Pedro Ferrer. Birdsong was then replaced by five octave range vocalist and songwriter Susaye Greene. In the fall of the year, the group recorded what would be their final hit, "I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do the Walking". By 1977, Mary Wilson wanted to embark on a solo career. That July, the group performed for the final time in London and with that, an eighteen-year-old journey had come to an end.

Some speculate the Supremes' departure had as much to do with the untimely death of original member Florence Ballard as it did Mary Wilson's dreams of a solo career. Ballard had fallen on hard times following her Supremes departure. Despite a solo effort with ABC Records, an album was shelved and by 1975, the former singer was living on ADC and welfare after losing her suburban home she had bought at the highlight of her famed period with the Supremes. However, later that year, Ballard started to piece back her life after performing at several Detroit venues. She was set to make a full-scale comeback when suddenly on February 22, 1976, she fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. Shortly after that, Ballard died of coronary thrombosis at the age of 32. Ballard's funeral in Detroit was attended by several Motown luminaries including Ballard's old Supremes band mates. In 1983, Diana Ross reunited with Mary and Cindy on a controversial performance during Motown 25. Three years later, Wilson released the best-selling autobiography, Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme in 1986. Two years afterwards, the Supremes (Diana, Mary and Flo) were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Despite tensions and so-called diva tantrums, the legacy of the Supremes remain as strong as it did when the group's hits were first recorded all those years ago in Detroit.

Go find your favorite SUPREMES tunes here:
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Reply #27 posted 01/11/09 1:34am



Timmy84 said:

bboy87 said:

Timmy, are you writing these bios?

If you are, I wanna write Michael's! lol

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz

I'll write it tomorrow along with a J5 bio
"We may deify or demonize them but not ignore them. And we call them genius, because they are the people who change the world."
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Reply #28 posted 01/11/09 1:35am


Formed: 1960 (as the Del-Phis) in Detroit, Michigan
Other Names: The Vels, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas
Disbanded: 1972
Important Members: Martha Reeves, Annette Beard, Rosalind "Roz" Ashford, Betty Kelly, Lois Reeves

Formed by four neighboring girls from Detroit's Van Dyke streets, the original members of the Del-Phis each attended Northwestern High School. The eldest of the group, Martha Rose Reeves, born in Alabama in 1941 and was moved to Detroit shortly thereafter, joined a selection of groups before forming the Del-Phis with Gloria Williams, Annette Beard and Rosalind Ashford. The group originally had Williams as lead singer though Reeves was considered a secondary lead singer. Their first single, "My Baby Won't Come Back", for example, included Reeves on lead vocals. The group changed their name to the Vels before signing a contract with Tri-Phi Records where they recorded the singles "There He Is" and "You'll Never Cherish a Love So True". In 1961, the group took a break while Martha Reeves look for her big break elsewhere singing under the psuedonym Martha LaVaille. A Motown staffer, Mickey Stevenson noticed Reeves singing at Detroit's Twenty Grand club and invited her to audition for the label. An excited Reeves quit her daily job and headed to Motown the next day for an audition only to find herself stumped when Stevenson told her that auditions held on Thursdays, she had showed up on a Tuesday. Nevertheless, Stevenson allowed Reeves to overlook his businesses while he attended elsewhere. Reeves technically became Stevenson's secretary and soon would hold A&R meetings with potential auditioned acts. In 1962, Stevenson needed singers to back Marvin Gaye up on a series of tracks, Reeves called on her friends from the Vels and the group reunited to sing background on "Stubborn Kind of Fellow", a month later the band recorded a demo version of a purported Mary Wells single, "I Have to Let Him Go", the single got such a strong buzz however that instead of giving it to Wells, Berry Gordy suddenly wanted the girls in his label. Before they could sign, Gloria Williams suddenly left the group. The remade trio renamed themselves Martha and the Vandellas. "Vandella" was named after Van Dyke street in Detroit and after Detroit-based jazz singer Della Reese.

In 1963, the group scored a landmark hit with the first-ever Holland-Dozier-Holland composition "Come Get These Memories". The song's unusual laid-back groove and pop-melded harmonies was a departure from the group's more bluesy recordings and it became their first charted hit reaching number 29 on the pop chart and number 6 on the R&B chart. Their second HDH collaboration, "(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave" became a cornerstone record for them as that song reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 winning the group a Grammy nomination. A third song, "Quicksand", would reach the top ten before the year was out. With three consecutive top 40 singles, Martha and the Vandellas replaced the Marvelettes as the top female group of the label. By the summer of 1964, Martha and the Vandellas would hit their stride in more ways than one after Marvin Gaye and Mickey Stevenson wrote a song they had intended to go to Kim Weston. They had Martha record the song as a demo for Weston. However, when they heard the playback of the Martha and the Vandellas version, the group got to keep their song and it would be that song that would become their signature song. That song was "Dancing in the Street", a groovy dance song with poignant lyrics that reflected in some ways the uprising of the civil rights movement and in another a pop song aimed at a troubling public to forget their problems and dance their troubles away. The song rose to number two and also became an international hit.

After modest top 40 success with "Wild One", the group hit the top ten again with "Nowhere to Run", an HDH collaboration. Other hits that emerge would include "My Baby Loves Me", "You've Been in Love Too Long", "Love (Makes Me Do Foolish Things)", "I'm Ready for Love" and the UK favorite, "Third Finger, Left Hand". By this point, Annette Beard had already retired from show business, Betty Kelly had replaced her in 1964. In 1967, the group hit the top ten a sixth time with "Jimmy Mack", a song originally recorded two years prior. The song also hit number 1 on the R&B chart. After the release of "Honey Chile" in 1968, Betty Kelly left the Vandellas and was replaced by Martha's kid sister Lois. In 1969, the Vandellas' career stifled following Martha Reeves' nervous breakdown which led her to a mental hospital for treatment. Eventually recovering by 1970, Reeves recruited Sandra Tilley after Rosalind Ashford left the group. This lineup of the Reeves sisters and Tilley carried on until 1972. However, the Vandellas were no longer granted chart success. Despite attempts to curve their sound for the then current "Motown sound" by the Jackson 5's Corporation team releasing the modest hit "Bless You", it was too little too late.

In December, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas promptly disbanded after a final performance at Detroit's Cobol Hall. In 1973, Reeves was working on a solo career with Motown but then decided against it after Motown moved its headquarters to L.A. Reeves opted out of her contract and signed with MCA Records releasing her self-titled debut in 1974. Despite the best efforts by rock producer Richard Perry, the album tanked as did three follow-ups Reeves released on Arista and Fantasy Records respectively. In recent years, Reeves has become something of a politician residing as a city council member in the city of Detroit. Her sisters Lois and Delphine perform with Martha sometimes being referred to as "Martha and the Vandellas" though members Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard have since been performing as "The Original Vandellas". Sandra Tilley died of a brain aneurysm in 1981 at age 36 while Betty Kelly retired from show business in the 1980s. Martha and the Vandellas were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.










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Reply #29 posted 01/11/09 1:35am


bboy87 said:

Timmy84 said:

Do it, it'll save me all the hassle. lol

Yeah, most of the bios are mine. razz

I'll write it tomorrow along with a J5 bio

Cool. smile
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