Motown Landmarks Photo Tour
While the Broadway show officially opens this month, here in Detroit, many Motown landmarks have been forgotten
Historians and Motown greats such as class and style instructor Maxine Powell, Vandellas singer Martha Reeves and Frances Nero, the first female signed to Motown's Soul label, reminisce about places that were a part of Motown's legacy. Some, sadly, have crumbled like Mayan ruins. Others blend into the neighborhood. Driving by, they look like any other house or building that's seen better days. But my, oh my, if these walls could talk, they would sing. Take a look at this collection of historical gems in Detroit.
Brewster Wheeler Recreation Center
634 Brewster St.
Before Berry Gordy started his world-renowned record company, he practiced boxing here. Singing groups such as The Primettes also rehearsed their musical act in the rec center before they became The Supremes. The dilapidated building escaped the wrecking ball last year, but its fate remains uncertain.
2648 W. Grand Blvd.
Motown's original office and studio. Musicians given a second invite to the Hitsville office were on their way to Motown stardom. The building now is a main fixture of the Motown Museum and houses, among other Motown-era artifacts, Michael Jackson's famous glimmering glove.
Jobete Publishing Company
2648 W. Grand Blvd.
Named after Berry Gordy's three children—Hazel Joy, Berry and Terry—the operation became one of the nation's most powerful publishing houses because of its Motown recordings. Today, it's the Motown Museum's entrance.
United Sound Studio
5840 Second Ave.
Marvin Gaye recorded "What's Going On" here when it was one of Detroit's major recording studios. Now, with the building boarded up, his question seems prophetic.
2656 W. Grand Blvd.
With so many musical hits and artists, one can only imagine the daily bustle of business here. For some recording artists, big money followed fame. For others, not as much. "He (Gordy) gave me fame. Not fortune," says Frances Nero of Southfield who, in 1965, was the first female artist signed to the Motown label with a one-year contract. She recorded the early Motown hits, "Keep on Loving Me" and "Fight Fire with Fire."
International Talent Management Inc.
2670-02 W. Grand Blvd
It was not uncommon to see Gordy's older siblings here working with lyricists to perfect the Motown sound. "Berry (Gordy) always had time to critique every artist," recalls "Dancing in the Streets" lead singer Martha Reeves, formerly of The Vandellas. "It was a career, hobby and lifestyle. And it enhanced so many."
2657 W. Grand Blvd.
Named by "Professor" Maxine Powell, Motown superstars were made—not born—at this place. The grace and poise expert coached Motown greats such as The Temptations, smoothing out the steps of their legendary choreography, and refined The Supremes' and Vandellas' timeless elegance.
918 W. Boston Blvd.
Located in Detroit's historic Boston Edison neighborhood, this is one of few Motown relics that remains in its former splendor. The mansion symbolizes the Black American dream that came to fruition.
Artist Home Gladys Knight
16860 LaSalle Ave.
This is one of many houses Gordy purchased to keep his Motown artists close by and comfortable, and where Gladys Knight once called home. "She was the only one who could go into the studio and sing the songs in one taping," Motown artist Frances Nero remembers.
Smokey Robinson Home
581 Belmont St.
Smokey Robinson lived here for a time after Gordy purchased the home.
Stevie Wonder Home
18074 Greenlawn St.
At one time, this house echoed with the sounds of a young Stevie Wonder practicing his harmonica. "He could play that harmonica all day," Motown stylist Maxine Powell fondly recollects. "We had to say 'Stevie, please, would you rest for an hour.'"
Locker Room Lounge
18290 Livernois Ave.
While Motown artists were hard at work transforming Detroit into a music mecca, neighborhood clubs such as the Locker Room were outlets to release melodies to the masses. The 20-year-old Motown star Bettye LaVette spent many nights fine-tuning her voice here before she was discovered.
Marvin Gaye Home
19315 Appoline St.
Before he was dubbed "the prince of soul" for breaking the Top 40 with his first solo single "Hitch Hike" in 1962 and displaying his immense range with duos, dance hits and protest songs, Marvin Gaye was a session drummer for Motown legends including Stevie Wonder and The Marvelettes. For a time, he called this house home. If he could see it today, the famous lyrics "Mercy, mercy me, things ain't what they used to be," seem apropos.