August 14 – 20, 1968
When I arrived it took a while to find a hotel that suited my financial situation. But I could afford room No. 129 at the Virginia Hotel at 921 South Grand Ave. It cost $8 per week. The hotel was in a large detached house and the hotel operation was more like a “bed without breakfast.” I was thoroughly tired and felt the early stages of a cold. Next day I woke up at two in the afternoon because of time zone difference and jet lag. It was not until the following day I could start my research.
Berry Gordy’s Motown was on top of my list. But they had moved from the intimate little building, known as “Hitsville USA” at 2648 W. Grand Blvd, Detroit 8 (Ph. 871- 3340) to a modern office building at 2457 Woodward Rd, Meadowbrook (Ph. 965-9250). There, under the name of International Talent Management, their artists were also booked, and Pat Alexander was responsible for the PR. The door was locked and the front desk did not answer the door bell. It was impossible to get in.
I had been admitted with open arms at all other record companies, but here I was met by a closed door. I waited a long time but there was no one who either entered or left.
Returning home, I tried to call but ended up in a switchboard that connected me to the wrong people. I remember a tired man who apparently edited music at a high volume, but after three attempts I had still not managed to make myself understood or explain what I wanted. I never managed to talk to Pat Alexander or to Mr. Selzer who was responsible for the studio recordings, when I tried again after the weekend.
At this time rumors were spread that Tamla-Motown, the fastest growing and most profitable company of all sectors and branches in the US, had been taken over by organized crime. They had made an offer the company could not refuse. Maybe they didn’t want to talk to journalists then. They had six or seven years of exceptional, profitable growth behind them. They were the Apple or Google of that era.
I continued to browse through the phone book, and spoke to Mrs. Burt of Magic City Records at 8912 Grand River Ave. Allen Metnick was promo man at London Records (15470 Schafr.). They distributed small soul-labels like Tribe and Watch but the Rolling Stones were their biggest artists. I think it was at Revilot they said that J.J. Barnes, later one of the great Northern Soul artists in England, performed at 2-12 Local Union Hall on Mack Avenue in Detroit’s eastern parts along with Pat Lewis and The Holidays. Dean Jackson (“Love Makes The World Go Around”) was in town and performed at the Casino Royale (at Wyoming) on Friday-Saturday. The Intruders (“Cowboys To Girls”) was in another place. But I never got a real overview of Detroit’s soul scene. No one mentioned the Flame Showbar which used to be Detroit’s best black nightclub. It was here Billy “Prince of the Blues” Wright, Little Richard’s mentor, staged shows and Berry Gordy worked as a cloakroom attendant and tried to sell his compositions to visiting artists like Jackie Wilson.
Saturday-Sunday Monday-Tuesday (August 17th to 20th)
The cold hit with full force over the weekend. The only thing I could do was walk around in record shops. During my round trip so far I had neither had the time nor money to do this, but overall spending so little in Detroit I could prioritize disc purchases. The record market in Detroit was very well supplied. Lots of records were available on sale. At a flea market there were perhaps 50 meters of tables with tons of singles of soul and white groups on small Detroit companies. I wrote up names and addresses directly from the labels for future research visits. From the phone book, I got additional information:
Diamond Jim Records (Riley Prod.), 12328 Dexter, Detroit (Artists: E. J. & The Echos)
D-Town, 3040 E. Grand Blvd
Falcon Records, Fortune Records
Golden World (their group The Reflection’s “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” had entered the Swedish Top Ten)
Inferno 16265 Wyoming (distributed by Motown)
Revilot (Solid Hitbound Prod) 8832 Puritan
Ric Tic Records, 4039 Buena Vista, Detroit
Thelma, 6519 Gd River
Tri-Phi (artist Harvey (Fuqua)
Wheel City Records
Wingate productions – (Ed Wingate worked with Golden World and Ric Tic and could be reached on Ric Tic’s address).
For a dollar you got around ten 45s. I had a decent stack in the end. A few days later I sent these and other records I had gotten for free during the trip. There were a total of 112 singles and 10 LPs. Postage cost $7.
One Stop, Inc., 13254 Linwood Nr, Davison, Detroit distributed new singles.
I bought the books Black Like Me and Go Down Dead about the situation of Afro America in the United States. In Black Like Me the white John Howard Griffin alters his appearance and skin colour and becomes a black man in the South.
I also sent letters to people in the record business that I had met at different record companies in the United States with the hope that I would receive their mailings of new soul discs.
I listened to the radio, perhaps more than in any other city; and mainly to two stations; WCHD (Which probably just then had moved from 278 East Forest to 32790 Henry Ruff Rd) and WJLB (3100 David Broderick Tower).
While Detroit was best known for its polished soul productions there were music from many parts of the United States on the radio.
These were the best (*) songs I heard:
And a very fine (almost talking) soul blues-ballad about having only 36 cents left and getting a cold by E.J. & The Echoes – If You Just Love Me, Love Me (Diamond Jim Records) (**)
Musically nothing much had happened in Detroit. But on the other hand, I had cured my cold, avoided drinking and gathered strength. In New York later, I saw many Detroit and Tamla Motown Recording artists at the Apollo theater.
Perhaps it was fortunate that I did not go into the Detroit ghetto. Tensions built up during the summer exploded almost simultaneously during the riots at the Democratic Convention in Chicago.