Berry Gordy founded the Tamla label today (January 12, 1959), with an $800 loan from his family.
Berry Gordy got the bug to be in the music industry around 1953, when he founded his first business, the 3-D Record Mart – House of Jazz.
The business failed, so Berry Gordy got a job supporting himself and his 19-year-old wife, by working at the Ford Lincoln-Mercury plant.
It was during this time, that Berry Gordy began having songwriting success, working with singer Jackie Wilson, who had just launched a solo career, after leaving The Dominoes.
In late 1957, Berry Gordy pitched a song to Jackie Wilson that was eventually titled “Reet Petite.”
“Reet Petite” was a hit for Jackie Wilson, and it started an association between Wilson, Gordy and his songwriting partner Billy Davis, which produced several classics.
They combination produced singles like “To Be Loved,” “Lonely Teardrops,” “That’s wmWhy (I Love You So)” and others.Berry Gordy was frustrated with the paltry earnings he received in royalties, and decided to start the Tamla label, with the $800 he borrowed from his family.
The first release Tamla was titled “Come To Me,” by Marv Johnson.
The record was picked up by United Artists, who gave Berry Gordy a $3,000 advance.
The hits kept coming from Marv Johnson and Berry Gordy, with songs like “You’ve Got What It Takes,” “I Love the Way You Love” and others.Around this time, Berry Gordy launched his second label which he dubbed “Motown,” and moved into the legendary’s two-story building at 2648 West Grand Boulevard., which would later become known as “Hitsville.”
By 1965, Motown had reached $15 million in sales, employed over 175 people and had a roster of 175 artists.
“It was not his goal to head up a major entertainment complex,” his sister Esther Gordy said in the book “Motown: Music, Money, Sex and Power.”
“He just wanted to be a successful songwriter,” Esther explained. “Motown is the result of one thing leading to another and Berry Gordy saying I’ll do it myself when he could not get something done to his liking.”