Visiting Hitsville USA – The Motown Museum in Detroit

 

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Standing in the shadows of greatness.

Hoping you had a decent Thanksgiving. I was very fortunate to make a rare late November trip back to the Motor City to spend the holiday with my family. During my brief visit I made a stop at Hitsville USA, the original headquarters of Motown records on West Grand Blvd in Detroit. The building was a house that Berry Gordy Jr. converted into a recording studio and office facility. There is also an upper floor apartment that Gordy lived in, which looks like it could be the creation of a set designer from Mad Men – But it’s the real deal, even the orange sofa that Marvin Gaye used to crash on.

 

The building is now operated as a museum and it is literally a time capsule into the 1960’s. MotownReceptionEverything has been left exactly as it was, from the rolodexes which sit on the lobby desk next to the three black phones that Mary Wells and Diana Ross once answered as receptionists, down to the candy machine, still stocked with the Baby Ruth bars in slot number 4 for the 11 year old Little Stevie Wonder.

MotownControlRoomThe Studio A control room still houses the board and tape machines that all of the great Motown music we know and love once passed through. The floor under the console where the producers and engineers sat have holes where the tile and wood beneath have been worn through from the stomping of feet and tapping of toes.

Stevie-Wonder-in-session-with-the-Funk-Brothers-inside-Motowns-Snakepit-in-1967Stepping down into the main studio room, I was overcome with a deep reverence for the enormous spirits who had created such timeless, universal magic in that small space.

Everything was exactly as it was, including the mic cables hanging down from the ceiling, the headphones the artists had worn, the hook where they had hung their coat in the winter.

bildeThe 1877 Steinway concert grand piano had recently been restored thanks to a generous donation from Paul McCartney after he had visited the studio and taken the same tour.

Brian Ray, long time guitarist for McCartney saw this picture I had posted on Facebook and he offered this tid-bit about the restoration,

“…nice touch, huh? I was standing next to Paul when he asked if he could play the piano and they said, “no it needs restoration and is unplayable” w plexiglass over the keys. Paul got a gleam in his eye and later asked what we thought of gifting them with true restoration in NYC.. I hope it is played and enjoyed. B”

I am so extremely grateful for having the opportunity to visit this mecca of American music.These rooms, small, basic and simple would be nothing without the creative expression of the songwriters, musicians, producers and performers who poured themselves into the records that will stand forever as a testament to their greatness.

 

*Photos are not allowed inside of the building. These interior photos were found on the web.

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