…And are we glad we did! Our guided tour of the Motown Museum in Detroit was the absolute funniest, most interactive, entertaining, and informative tour we’ve ever experienced. Our guide, Cecilia, was extraordinary as she shared the history of one of the most remarkable phenomenoms in the world of music.
The Museum is located on Berry Gordy Blvd in the house where it all began. Berry Gordy borrowed $800 from his large family and within only seven years transformed it into a 20 million business, working out of the sound studio that his father converted from the house garage. Ironically, the only family memeber that voted against loaning Berry the initial $800 was his older sister Esther, who ended up serving as President of the Motown Museum until her death in 2011. As Gordy’s success continued and the business grew, the company also purchased 6 additional houses on the block, all of which, with one exception, are still standing.
The tour takes you through the Gordy house which is filled with valuable artifacts and into the actual studio where the likes of Michael Jackson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smoky Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and The Temptations got their start. As you stand where they stood you can visualize and actually feel the energy that was produced throughout the years in that studio. Berry Gordy always referred to the group of artists as family and that love and concern permeated the extreme creativity generated in that house. All of us on the tour also had the opportunity to belt out the song “My Gal,” which was fun but should probably be limited to shower singing!
There were so many interesting stories shared during the hour and a half tour but several stick out in my mind. Since most of these artists got their start at a very young age, they were naive with regard to manners and style. Berry Gordy employed Maxine Powell, “Miss Manners,” to teach them grace and style and how to dress. Each artist and/or group also had a group of coaches and choreographers, and if your song didn’t pass the test on “quality control Friday,” you were sent back to the drawing board! A more recent story was shared relating that four years ago Sir Paul McCartney visited the Motown Museum and immendiately sat down at the original piano in the sound studio, only to realize that it was horribly out of tune. Following his visit, he arranged to have the piano shipped to NY and totally refurbished to the tune of $75,000! While still in NY, McCartney and Berry Gordy did have the chance to play the instrument together, before it was returned to its resting place at the museum in Detroit. The stories go on and on, but you need to make a personal visit and experience it yourself – don’t settle for hearing it “through the grapevine.” You will dance; you will sing; you will clap; and you will laugh – but you will never forget the sound of Motown while realizing what an integral part of our history it truly is!