The Birth Of Motown Music In Detroit

Jackie Wilson

You Can’t Talk About Detroit Music Today Without Talking About Motown

After World War II there was a birth of a new style of music in the great city of Detroit which came to be known as Motown. A rhythm and blues music scene that involved the two main elements that later came to be known as honkers and shouters.

The jump blues bands that emerge during that time in the 40s became known as the honkers.

In the great vocalists who had a blues Gospels sound to their music became known as the shouters.

Back then Detroit had several jump blues bands they leaned heavily on the use of saxaphones and drum backbeats.

With some the great band leaders like King Porter, Todd Rhodes, Paul Williams, T.J. Fowler leading the charge, the most jump blues bands were some of the most recorded in the city during the 1940’s and 1950’s.

These great musicians typically came out of the big band jazz and swings groups of the 1930’s, which explains the jazz influences in the Motown music sound.

The great city of Detroit seemed to have an endless supply of great singers who loved to belt out the R & B sound. Coming out of genres like the blues and traditional gospel.

At the time, some of the most well known of these singers were Hank Ballard, Little Willie John, and Jackie Wilson.

There were several local area record labels around during this time. However, they really didn’t have the national reach that the major labels had and really hindered the national recognition of the artists. Even when deals between the smaller labels and the larger national ones could be arranged, they almost always failed in the end.

That is where Motown, under the leadership of Berry Gordy, come in.

Barry himself was actually a hopeful songwriter.

While he was starting his record label he actually worked at a bar known as the Flame Show Bar.

While there he provided material to the artists that were performing there.

He actually wrote two nationwide hits for Jackie Wilson, and a local hit performed by Smokey Robinson.

However in 1959, after being disappointed by the returns as a producer for Robinson he formed his own label. He produced number one hits on the pop charts and R & B charts for the next two years.

In the 1960’s Motown went on to become the first and most successful black owned record company to reach into the mass market.

Later Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson helped to create an iconic Motown sound that is still identifiable today.

It wasn’t just the singers though, the musicians played an important part as well.

Contributions from the likes of the Funk Brothers created a mix of the Detroit jazz and R & B scene that would propel the city, the music, and the artists into music history.