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Gordy Motown audio collection

Identifier: 018.GM

Scope and Contents

With the founding of the Gordy Motown collection in 1972, Eastern Michigan University Archives received new releases on a regular basis through 1988. The total collection consists of more than 2,200 recordings as well as 7 boxes of printed materials with an emphasis on recordings made from 1960-1988. The collection of recordings includes: U.S. 7-inch singles, foreign 7-inch singles, and 12-inch albums and singles. The collection of print materials includes: sheet music, songbooks, newspaper clippings, promotional materials, photographs, publications, record charts, production materials, and collection inventories.

The collection is arranged into three record groups based on format: Sound Recordings, Print Materials, and Exhibits.

Sound Recordings is further subdivided into two series: 45 rpm Singles and Albums. The 45 rpm domestic Singles were produced and distributed in the United States and are sorted by label and arranged numerically within each label by record number. The 45 rpm Singles that were produced and distributed outside the United States and are arranged alphabetically by country then alphabetically by label within each country then numerically within each label by record number. The Albums are arranged alphabetically by artist or band name then alphabetically by title within each artist.

Print Materials are arranged into five series: Sheet Music and Complete Scores, and Songbooks which are arranged alphabetically by title; Clippings, Promotional Materials, and Photographs; Publications; and Catalogs, Production Materials, and Inventories which are all arranged chronologically. The photographs sub-series primarily contains photographs of album covers. Items in the promotional materials sub-series include playing cards, membership cards, and postcards for various musical groups.

The Exhibitions and Artifacts record group documents the Henry Ford / Greenfield Village Exhibit in 1995-1997 in addition to documenting objects used for promotional purposes at industry conventions and other events. Albums within the record group are arranged alphabetically by artist, while the other materials in the record group are arranged chronologically.


  • Creation: 1946 - 2009
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1960 - 1988


Conditions Governing Access

Researchers are asked to request materials 24 hours prior to use through the University Archives.

Administrative History

Berry Gordy, born November 29, 1929, has his first big break in the music industry in 1957 with “Reet Petite”, which was the first of four hits he wrote for Jackie Wilson over the next two years. Gordy also started recording Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and by 1958 he was producing and leasing recordings of the Miracles, Marv Johnson, and Eddie Holland to national record labels. He then produced many of the releases on the Anna label, established by Gwen Gordy, Anna Gordy, and Billy Davis, and founded the Jobete label for his own songs. Finally, with Smokey Robinson’s encouragement, he borrowed $800 from the Ber-Berry Co-Op created by his sister, Esther Gordy Edwards, and founded the Motown Record Corporation in 1959, so he could take full control of his operations instead of sharing royalties with a publisher.

Motown flourished in the 1960s and 1970s due to Gordy’s ability to bring other talented individuals aboard, such as Smokey Robinson who produced his first record in 1962. Motown was also a family business with several family members contributing to both its administration and its talent. After it became established, Esther Gordy Edwards took an active role in management and booking tours, including the Motown Revue in the early 1960s. By the mid-1960s she served as Vice President and Chief Executive Officer until Smokey Robinson succeeded her in 1972.

As Motown became more successful, Gordy wanted to pursue other entertainment ventures. West Coast offices were established as early as 1966 and in 1972 the company completely relocated to Los Angeles. Esther Gordy Edwards stayed in Michigan and was put in charge of the remaining Motown office in Detroit. Motown Industries was established in 1983 as part of corporate reorganization with Berry Gordy as Chairman. Meanwhile, Gordy Edwards founded the Motown Museum in the Hitsville U.S.A. building in 1985. In January 1988, Berry Gordy was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Then on June 28, 1988, Gordy sold his interests in Motown Records to the Music Corporation of America (MCA) and Boston Ventures for $61 million.


77.1 Linear Feet (20 archive boxes, 27 45s storage boxes, 1 record center container, 2 flat file boxes, 6 oversize objects, 3 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Berry Gordy founded the Motown Record Corporation in 1959. Motown flourished in the 1960s and 1970s due to Gordy’s ability to bring talented individuals aboard, such as Smokey Robinson who produced his first record in 1962. The Gordy Motown Collection was established by Esther Gordy Edwards in November 1972 and includes Sound Recordings and Print Materials that document Motown Records and the other labels established by Berry Gordy from the 1950s, 60s through the late 1980s. The collection is arranged in three record groups, Sound Recordings, Print Materials and Exhibitions and Artifacts, and further arranged by artist, label, and chronology.

Technical Requirements

Variable speed turntables with headphones will be provided to listen to materials in the Sound Recordings record group.

Custodial History

The Sound Recordings and Print Materials portion of the collection were donated to Eastern Michigan University in November 1972 by Esther Gordy Edwards, Vice President of Motown Record Corporation. Materials started arriving in January 1973 and continued until April 1988.

Related Materials:

Related archival materials include: G ordy Family Papers (2 linear ft.), Gordy Family Photograph Series (.15 linear ft.), Alan E. Abrams Papers (2 linear ft.) Alan E. Abrams Photographs (1 folder) at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan and the E. Azalia Hackley Collection (5.5 linear ft.) at the Detroit Public Library.

Legal Status

Copyright restrictions for sound recordings in this collection are stringent with reproduction limited to preservation and educational use only. As copyright may be held by multiple creators, please contact the University Archivist for details regarding publication of either sound or print materials.

Gordy Motown audio collection
Dejah Rubel and Alexis Braun Marks, CA
2011 February 01
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Repository Details

Part of the Eastern Michigan University Archives Repository

Bruce T. Halle Library, Room 310
955 West Circle Drive
Ypsilanti Michigan 48197