Soulful Detroit Archives - July 2004 The use of "Motown" and "Hitsville" Previous Next

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Graham Finch (acooolcat)
4-Laureate
Username: acooolcat

Post Number: 89
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 210.200.105.225
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 1:37 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I got an email the other day from a guitarist who played on various sesssions in Detroit during the '60s - I've pasted a section below - and it got me thinking about the use of "Motown" and "Hitsville" as an adjective or noun.
Do any Detroiters remember what they called Berry's music back then?

Here's part of that email...

...back in those days, we always referred to Gordy's recording studio and anything having to do with it as simply "Hitsville". I don't remember ANYBODY who was around back then calling it "Motown"... I only heard that name pop up when the records made it to the white stations. Otherwise, to us, "Motown" was just another one of Gordy's labels.
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Eli (phillysoulman)
6-Zenith
Username: phillysoulman

Post Number: 555
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 68.163.20.36
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 1:51 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I first heard the term Motown, in 1960 when my friend Linton from west Philly came over and said,"hey Bobby, theres this cat in Detroit named berry Gordy and he got a company called Motown" and he had the Mary Wells pink label Bye Bye baby and I was hooked!!

I remember when Mary Wels was on American bandstand and she sang The One Who Really Loves You and Dick Clark said that he realy liked the arrangemant and where did she record it and she said Hitsvile and that it was in a garage!
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SisDetroit (sis)
5-Doyen
Username: sis

Post Number: 284
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 68.42.211.240
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 3:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Graham - I still call it "Hitsville." Just as the writer said, one day I purchased a 45, and it had motown on it, with a star for Detroit. That was a surprise. We didn't get excited over the name, but we were excited that Detroit had a star on all the records. When I think of the name "Motown," I think of the building on Woodward and California.
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Graham Finch (acooolcat)
4-Laureate
Username: acooolcat

Post Number: 90
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 210.200.105.227
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 7:43 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Thanks Eli and Sis.

I have a newspaper clipping from the Michigan Chronicle - March 1965 - about the Motortown review visiting England, where it says the "Detroit Sound" is known as the "Motown Sound."
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roger (roger)
4-Laureate
Username: roger

Post Number: 104
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 217.35.87.17
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 7:55 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hello Everyone.

On the VELVELETTES C.D. issued a few years back there was a previously unissued track from 1965/66 called "Ain't No Place Like Motown ( Hitsville U.S.A. )", so it seems that "Motown" as a generic term for the music of Mr Gordy's labels was in use by then.

Being brought up in England, people tended to use the word "Tamla" as much as "Motown", as the music was issued here on the "Tamla-Motown" label, and to me "Hitsville" was always the building where they recorded the music.

Roger
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P.J. (pj1)
1-Arriviste
Username: pj1

Post Number: 7
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.3.123.111
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 9:03 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

"Ain't No Place Like Motown" was not issued on a Velvelettes cd but was the final song on the 2 cd set 'A Cellarful of Motown' issued in June 2002 in the U.K. and July 2002 in the U.S.
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roger (roger)
4-Laureate
Username: roger

Post Number: 105
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 217.35.87.17
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 9:39 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hello everyone again.

Yes P.J. is correct .. "Ain't No Place Like Motown" was on the "Cellarful of Motown" C.D.

Senility creeping up on me again!!

Roger
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Eli (phillysoulman)
6-Zenith
Username: phillysoulman

Post Number: 561
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 68.236.58.55
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 9:07 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

One wonders why Berry never named one of his labels Hitsville.
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Soul Sister (soul_sister)
6-Zenith
Username: soul_sister

Post Number: 864
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 65.43.165.220
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 9:54 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hi Bobby;
I use to wonder the same thing! It's kind of strange.(?)
S.S.
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Graham Finch (acooolcat)
4-Laureate
Username: acooolcat

Post Number: 91
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 210.200.105.226
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 5:15 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I seem to remember seeing the word "Hitville" in the Chronicle - way back in the late 50s, before Berry used it for his studio. I think it was Frantic Ernie who wrote it (probably about Detroit).
Of course there were non-Motown Detroit labels called Groovesville and Wheelsville. I guess Berry had the copyright for the name Hitsville?
I once heard that Berry decided to name one of his labels "Gordy" to stop his ex-wife, Themla, using it for her recording businesses - which were Daco, and then Thelma.
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Uptight (uptight)
4-Laureate
Username: uptight

Post Number: 80
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.55.0.68
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 6:44 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hitsville USA was simply the name of the recording studio that Berry Gordy owned, and he used it for recording many records released through his Motown Record Corporation. He hung that "Hitsville USA" shingle on the front of the house when he moved into it, originally living upstairs and recording downstairs.
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Don (don)
5-Doyen
Username: don

Post Number: 219
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 68.75.163.78
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 7:37 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Hello SD'ers,
To sum it up, Hitsville was really speaking of the studio. Motown the label.
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Eli (phillysoulman)
6-Zenith
Username: phillysoulman

Post Number: 565
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 68.236.24.134
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 8:24 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

I'm well aware of that, but I just wondered why he never used "Hitsville" as yet another label subsidiary when it kinda said it al being all encompassing.
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Graham Finch (acooolcat)
4-Laureate
Username: acooolcat

Post Number: 92
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 210.200.105.226
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 11:30 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Motown - as a label - didn't really take-off until The Supremes and the Four Tops made the charts. OK, Mary Wells had success before them, but other labels were also hitting the national charts during the 60s... with Stevie Wonder, Marv Johnson, Marvin Gaye, The Marvelettes and The Miracles on Tamla; The Temptations, The Vandellas and The Contours on Gordy; Gladys Knight and Jimmy Ruffin on Soul, The Velevelettes on VIP, etc'., etc'. In fact some of the very early Supremes' and Vandellas' 45s were on Tamla.
I know it was the Motown Record Corp.', but as my orignal post infered, at least some people in Detroit didn't use the term "Motown" as often as people might think.
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Reese (reese)
4-Laureate
Username: reese

Post Number: 88
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 12.15.169.58
Posted on Thursday, June 24, 2004 - 12:08 pm: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Didn't Motown's country label get renamed HITSVILLE? It was originally Melodyland or something like that. And then there was a dispute with some church that had the same name, although not the copyright. Instead of getting into a battle, the name was changed to Hitsville, I believe.
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Uptight (uptight)
4-Laureate
Username: uptight

Post Number: 82
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 24.55.0.68
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 12:34 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Now, I understand your question better, Graham. I suppose if you lived near or drove past the studio everyday, seeing that huge shingle out front, you probably would've called it "Hitsville." This makes sense. Meanwhile, it seems everyone else in Detroit with Motown singles in their record collection most likely called it "Motown."

So while that huge shingle over the porch screamed, "Hitsville USA," to passersby, and its recording studio was in the back of the house, the building was concurrently headquarters to Motown.

Reese, I had heard that same story regarding the Hitsville label. I believe I've seen both Melodyland and Hitsville records before.
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Graham Finch (acooolcat)
4-Laureate
Username: acooolcat

Post Number: 93
Registered: 4-2004
Posted From: 210.200.105.227
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 4:59 am: Edit PostDelete PostMove Post (Moderator/Admin Only)

Reese and Uptight - Yes, there was a 70's Hitsville label. According to Reg Bartlett's book, "Off The Record" ...

"A Motown subsidiary label in operation from 1976 to 1978. The label was created after Motown was directed in a court to discontinue use of its Melodyland label. Hitsville was a country music label, issuing releases from 6255 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, California."

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