Motown’s 1962 Motortown Revue
published on 8 March 2017, by
See also the following recent related pages by doc:
- “Baby Love” and The Supremes in Amsterdam and London, October 1964, with photo gallery — published on 23 February
- Motortown Revue UK Tour, 1965 — published on 12 March
(above) Members of the Motortown Revue touring party, 1962 or 1963, from left to right: Stevie Wonder, Eddie Kendricks, Elbridge Bryant, (on step) Uriel Jones, Otis Williams, Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, Diana Ross, Robert Bullock, Patrice Gordy, Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson — The Temptations lineup here, with Elbridge Bryant, indicates that the photo was probably taken no later than the end 1963, before Bryant was fired and David Ruffin joined the group.
On a bitterly cold October morning in 1962, the forty-five members of what was now the Motortown Revue gathered outside Hitsville. Most of them had never been out of Michigan. A decrepit-looking bus–with MOTOR CITY TOUR painted on its side-idled halfway down the block, and the convoy of five cars was double-parked along the narrow street. For the artists, stagehands, and chaperones, the bus and the cars would be their home for the next few months. Many were nervous about leaving family for the first time. In the chilly weather, they bundled together, rubbing and blowing on their hands in losing efforts to stay warm. Some held paper bags with lunches packed by their parents, who had come to bid them farewell.
Some accounts suggest that the 1962 Motortown Revue was a completely new and unprecedented undertaking for a record company. For example, in the book Marvin Gaye, My Brother, by Frankie Gaye (2003), the author says, on page 32:
The Motortown Revue, or Motown Revue, as it came to be known, was brainchild of Berry Gordy. It was a new concept in the music industry. Never before had a record company gathered together its stable of stars and sent them out to perform in concert. Many of the solo singers and groups had at least one hit record, while others were less well-known, but by the end of the tour, thousand of record buyers would know them all, and offers would be coming in for various acts to appear on television and in nightclubs.
However, in her 2015 (“juvenile nonfiction”) book Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound, the author Andrea Davis Pinkney acknowledges that touring itself wasn’t a new idea, but explains how Berry Gordy’s 1962 Motortown revue differed significantly from previous revues. Pinkney says, on page 44:
Touring wasn’t a new concept. During the 1950s, rock-and-roll singers frequently went on the road to perform in small towns and cities. These shows were often arranged by deejays–the people who worked at radio stations and chose which records would be played on the air–and the singers themselves. They could sometimes be disorganized and didn’t function with a unified purpose.
The deejays were focused on gaining radio listener. The performers were focused on increasing fans. The record companies had very little involvement in arranging the tours. They counted on the exposure to sell more records but didn’t have a hand in pulling the acts together.
Berry approached the concept differently. He decided to invest in a tour. He conceived of a traveling show of which he oversaw all aspects. Motown was the first record company in history to market artists by sending them on the road for the purpose of developing “tour support.”
In the book Motown: The Golden Years, by Bill Dahl, with photographs by Weldon A. McDougal III (2001), Dahl indicates that Gordy’s company had begun organizing revues, albeit local ones, as early as February 1959, when the company was still called Tamla. Dahl says, on pp.15-16:
In what amounted to regional prototypes for the national Motown tours to follow, Berry set up revues that spotlighted several of his young artists. Two February 21, 1959 shows at the Melody Theatre in nearby Inkster, Michigan, for example were headlined by Marv Johnson, with the Miracles, Mable John, Eddie Holland…,and the Rayber Voices sharing the evening’s bill.
The travel wasn’t distant at this stage, Inkster being a suburb fewer than 20 miles from Detroit, but the date given for those two shows at the Melody Theatre was precisely one month after Tamla Records was opened. Tamla, which was founded on 12 January 1959 and began operating on 21 January 1959, was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation in April 1960.
In the book The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal, by Mark Ribowsky (2010), on page 34 the author recounts that the Primettes, who later changed their name to the Supremes, played at Detroit clubs such as the Roostertail, Twenty Grand Club, and the Gold Coast as early as the summer of 1959, bookings which their first manager, Milton Jenkins, managed to intermingle into the more typical “talent show-lodge-church social circuit” dates on their agenda.
Milton…didn’t settle for the talent show-lodge-church social circuit, intermingling those venues with bookings at the hard-core clubs, which took the Primettes despite the fact they were legally underage.
That was common practice in those days; many teenage groups–male and female–regularly appeared in the clubs, with a wink-and-nod by the cops and city politicians likely paid off to look the other way. Sometimes they couldn’t. For example, although the Primettes played gigs at the Rooster tail and the Twenty Grand Club without incident, another gig at the Gold Coast turned ugly when a brawl erupted in the audience, sending chairs and drinks flying. With the club’s liquor license at peril, the owner politely advised Jenkins it would be best if the Primettes didn’t return.
By mid-1962 Motown was sending at least some of its stars to more distant locations. According to Ribowsky, p. 105, the Supremes still played various upscale nightclubs in the Paradise Valley area of Detroit after their first “chart scraper,” “Your Heart Belongs to Me” (issued on 8 May 1962 on Motown M 1027, b/w “(He’s) Seventeen”), but Gordy had begun to send the group on weekend gigs and one-nighters to other cities in the region:
[T]he Supremes continued to perform live around Paradise Valley, hitting the stage at some high-tone nightclubs such as the Chit-Chat Lounge and the Roostertail…Gordy also began to occasionally send them on out-of-town weekend gigs, with one-nighters in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburg. For those, he had a burly Motown bodyguard and former boxing buddy names John O’Den drive them to each stop in one of Gordy’s Cadillacs.
I presume that other Motown artists would have been sent on such out-of-town gigs as well because at the time, and until late 1964, the Supremes were among the least successful of the “stars” on the growing roster of Motown recording artists. By 1963, in the wake of the first Motortown Revue, oddly enough the Supremes were no longer chauffeured by Cadillac to out-of-town gigs, according to Ribowsky, p. 129, they were now sent via Greyhound bus, accompanied by Motown promotion director Jack Gibson.
At Posner, p. 98, the author suggests that the seed of the first Motortown Revue tour was planted, in 1961, as the Miracles’ recording of “Shop Around” was climbing the charts, after Gordy noticed that the acts that had been booked to play the Regal Theater, Chicago’s premier music showplace, the following autumn were all Motown acts, except one. On the same page, Posner explains why the task of putting together such a revue was a daunting task:
It was a Herculean task for a small company like Motown. Almost everyone worked in-house, from the artists and producers, background singers and musicians, road managers, and even chaperones for the youngest artists..For Gordy, the tour would promote the company further boost the established artists, provide exposure for unknown acts, and, most important, raise some more cash. His plans for using touring to build and artist roster would become an industry norm by the late 1960s. He was, as in many other matter, just a few years ahead of the rest of the business.
(below) From Ribowsky, p. 111:
To be sure, Gordy’s gaze was trained far over the heads of any group as 1962 drew on. That summer, he was deep in the plenary phase of his most ambitious gambit yet–turning Motown into a virtual touring company. It had not taken Gordy long to hatch this idea as a logical outgrowth of the fragmented tours that had brought him such a handsome return. The chore was given to [Gordy’s sister] Esther Edwards to cobble the details. She immediately went to work studying the logistics of the Dick Clark “caravans” and grand-scale soul “revues” of the 1950s…
From the page Motortown Revue In Paris: Complete concert on 3LP or 2CD, at superdeluxeedition.com:
Motortown Revue concerts were a key to spreading the Motown sound in the Sixties. Beginning with tours on the ‘Chitlin’ Circuit’ in the east, south and upper mid-west areas of the United States playing in venues that were safe for African-American musicians at a time of endemic racial tensions, the combination of headline acts and emerging artists proved popular and helped to bolster the label’s record sales. Soon they were touring the whole country, and whether playing to mixed audiences in the north or racially-segregated audiences in the Deep South, the quality of the music transcended all barriers.
Again, from the book Marvin Gaye, My Brother, by Frankie Gaye, p. 32:
The first stop on the Motortown Tour was the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. It was October 1962, and Mother and I were there, shaking in our shoes. We were probably more scared than Marvin, but that was impossible to tell. We purposely got to the theater early to see him, but we couldn’t get backstage. Having to wait made us even more jittery.
(above) Ad for the one week gig, 26 October-1 November, at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC that opened the 1962 Motortown Revue — from a page at Soul Concerts Wiki
(below) full itinerary of the 1962 Motortown Revue, adapted from a page at Soul Concerts Wiki. There were only three scheduled days off during the tour, which lasted from 26 October to 17 December 1962. I’ve numbered the shows, presuming one show per day for all dates with the exceptions of 21 November when they appeared at two separate Florida locations, and the ten-day long gig at the Apollo where there were six shows per day. It’s uncertain to me at this point in my research whether there were multiple shows during the tour at venues other than the Howard and Apollo theaters.
1.-7. October 26-November 1, 1962 Howard Theatre, Washington DC
8. November 2, 1962 Franklin Theater, Boston, MA
9. November 3, 1962 New Haven, CT
10. November 4, 1962 Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY
11. November 5, 1962 Raleigh City Auditorium, Raleigh, NC
12. November 6, 1962 County Hall, Charleston, SC
13. November 7, 1962 Country Club, Augusta, GA
14. November 8, 1962 Bamboo Ranch Club, Savannah, GA
15. November 9, 1962 National Guard Armoury, Birmingham, AL
16. November 10, 1962 City Auditorium, Columbus, GA
17. November 11, 1962 Magnolia Ballroom, Atlanta, GA
18. November 12, 1962 Fort Whiting Auditorium, Mobile, AL
19. November 13, 1962 State Fair Grounds, New Orleans, LA
20. November 14, 1962 College Park Auditorium, Jackson, MS
21. November 15, 1962 Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, SC
22. November 16, 1962 City Armoury, Durham, NC
23. November 17, 1962 Township Auditorium, Columbia, SC
24. November 18, 1962 Capitol Arena, Washington DC
…….November 19, 1962 DAY OFF
25. November 20, 1962 Civic Auditorium, Greenville, SC
26. November 21, 1962 Palladium, Tampa, FL
27. November 21, 1962 The Palms, Bradenton, FL
28. November 22, 1962 The Armoury, Jacksonville, FL
29. November 23, 1962 Auditorium, Macon, GA
30. November 24, 1962 National Guard Armoury, Daytona Beach, FL
31. November 25, 1962 Harlem Square, Miami, FL
32. November 26, 1962 Skating rink, Orlando, FL
33. November 27, 1962 Field House, Tallahassee, FL
34. November 28, 1962 Cheraw, SC
35. November 29, 1962 Long High School, Charlotte, NC
36. November 30, 1962 New Park Center, Louisville, KY
37. December 1, 1962 Memorial Auditorium, Memphis, TN
38. December 2, 1962 City Auditorium, Nashville, TN
39. December 3, 1962 Fairground Coliseum, Pensacola, FL
……December 4, 1962 DAY OFF
40. December 5, 1962 Mosque Auditorium, Richmond, VA
……December 6, 1962 DAY OFF
41.-100. December 7-16, 1962 Apollo Theatre, New York City, NY
101. December 17, 1962 Pittsburgh, PA
Regarding the itinerary of the 1962 Motortown Revue as published elsewhere:
- A copy of what seems to be an original itinerary of the 1962 tour, which bears the title “Motor Town Special” Show at the top, appears in the book Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson (1989), by James Jamerson, on p. 21. It includes, near the bottom, a list of the performing artists (solo and group), M.C., and band for the tour (see directly above). The list:
- Mary Wells
- Marv Johnson
- The Contours
- The Supremes
- Singin’ Sammy Ware
- The Miracles
- The Marvelettes
- Marvin Gaye
- The Vandellas
- M.C.: Bill Murry
- band: Choker Campbell and his Show of Stars Band
- In the itinerary provided on pages 406-407 of the Motown Encyclopedia, by Graham Betts (2014), the author fails to note that the Howard Theatre gig lasted a week.
Motortown Revue live at the Apollo, December 1962
Come and Get These Memories (Holland–Dozier–Holland)
“Memories” is also notable as the first hit recording written and produced by the songwriting/production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, who would become the top creative team at Motown by the end of 1965. The single was the first of several hits the Vandellas scored with the team, before Holland-Dozier-Holland began to focus more heavily on hits for The Supremes and the Four Tops. However, Holland–Dozier–Holland would continue to collaborate with the Vandellas until the songwriting team’s departure from Motown in 1967.
From The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963, by Ed Ward (2016), pp. 359-360:
[The writing team, H-D-H] grabbed a song Lamont Dozier had started writing a couple of years back for Loretta Lynn, one of the more dynamic young country singer coming up whose “Success” had been a summertime country hit in 1962, and finished it. Dozier thought “Come and Get These Memories” was a good country title, but when the team got through with it, it was something else indeed. Rosalind Ashford, Annette Beard, and Martha Reeves became Martha and the Vandellas, and when they played the song back, Berry Gordy said, “That’s the Motown Sound! That’s the sound I’ve been looking for.” Dozier agreed. “I’ve always thought that the Motown Sound started with “Come and Get These Memories” because that one song had a mixture of all those musical elements–gospel music, pop, country and western, and jazz.”
I saw them write that. I was with them when they became a team. I was the secretary, sitting there taking notes. I knew it was my song! That was a special moment. That was the first song that they wrote togeter. And it was ours. They wrote it for us, not The Supremes.
Martha and the Vandellas’ recording of the song would not be released until 22 February 1963, months after they introduced the song in live performances during the autumn 1962 Motortown Revue tour. It became the group’s first hit, reaching #29 on the Hot 100 (pop) and #6 on R&B singles charts.
Martha and the Vandellas — Apollo Theater, December 1962 (Motortown Revue)
(below) Martha and The Vandellas — issued 22 February 1963 on Gordy Records GORDY 7014 (also G-7014), b/w “Jealous Lover” — It was the second single released by the group under Motown’s Gordy Records subsidiary, and their first to break into the top forty singles charts, reaching #29 Hot 100, and #6 R&B.
Marvin Gaye, with Martha and the Vandellas on back vocals — recorded in December 1962 at the Apollo Theater, NY — from the album The Motor-Town Revue Vol. 1 – Recorded Live At The Apollo, Motown 609 (also Motown MT 609), released in 1963
Way Over There (Smokey Robinson)
Way Over There (Smokey Robinson) — #94 Billboard Hot 100
The Miracles — “Way Over There” is the second of three Miracles singles with the catalog number Tamla T-54028. The number was originally assigned to “The Feeling Is So Fine,” issued in September 1959, backed with “(You Can) Depend On Me.” That single was withdrawn and about five months later, on 22 February 1960, replaced with the original version of “Way Over There,” which had a new recording of the original B-side song. The second version of “Way Over There,” featuring strings, was released on 4 April 1960, with the same B-side as the originally released recording of the song.
According to Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, 2009, by Gerald Posner, p. 58, Berry Gordy listened to the record incessantly after its release and became convinced that it would be more successful with the addition of strings. So he hired some strings from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and recorded a new version. Posner says:
Gordy and his small crew went through the ordeal of pulling the original records from stores and independent distributors and swapping theme with the new one. The DJs also switched to the latest version. “They loved it, too,” recalled Gordy. “In fact, everybody loved it–that is, except the public. I had lost the magic. We never sold more than the original sixty thousand copies.”
He realized the original recording had “an honesty and raw soul,” while the second was only a contrived copy. The sound produced by his makeshift studio in his home suddenly seemed more appealing.
no strings version: issued on 22 February 1960 on Tamla 54028 / T-54028, b/w “Depend On Me” (second version)
strings version: issued on 4 April 1960 on Tamla 54o28/T-54028, b/w “Depend On Me” (second version)
The Miracles, with other Motortown Revue artists on back vocals — recorded in December 1962 at the Apollo Theater, NY — from the album The Motor-Town Revue Vol. 1 – Recorded Live At The Apollo, Motown 609 (also Motown MT 609), released in 1963
- Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme, by Mary Wilson (2000)
- Motown: The Golden Years, by Bill Dahl, with photographs by Weldon A. McDougal III (2001)
- Marvin Gaye, My Brother, by Frankie Gaye (2003)
- Motown: Music, Money, Sex, and Power, by Gerald Posner (2009)
- The Supremes: A Saga of Motown Dreams, Success, and Betrayal, by Mark Ribowsky (2010)
- Motown Encyclopedia, by Graham Betts (2014)
- The Emergence of Rock and Roll: Music and the Rise of American Youth Culture, by Mitchell K. Hall (2014), pp. 49-50
- Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound, by Andrea Davis Pinkney (2015)
- The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963, by Ed Ward (2016)
- Motown: The Sound of Young America, by Adam White and Barney Ales (2016)
- Soul Deep – The Story of Black Popular Music – Episode 3 of 6: “The Sound Of Young America”
- Motortown Revue In Paris: Complete concert on 3LP or 2CD, at superdeluxeedition.com
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