Motown Record Corporation founder and former president Berry Gordy comes from a hard-working family with a strong business sense. At any given time there was at least one family-owned business in operation — a grocery store, a print shop, a bricklaying operation, etc.
This spirit of entrepreneurship was no doubt a factor in Berry Gordy’s decision to start a record company, one that was destined to become iconic. Prior to that, he had owned a record store but made the mistake of attempting to sell jazz to people who wanted blues and R&B.
At one point in his youth, Gordy was a newsboy, right after operating a shoeshine stand. “From the shoe industry, I turned to journalism, selling the Michigan Chronicle, Detroit’s top colored weekly newspaper,” said Gordy in his memoir.
“One weekend I packed up some papers and went to sell them in the White neighborhood. I figured White people there would probably love to buy them if they got the chance. After all, you could always find them hanging out at the Black nightclubs, like the Flame Show Bar or those down in Paradise Valley.”
He continued, “Well, I was a big hit and sold more papers in less time than ever before. I decided I could afford to share the wealth and brought my brother Bobby down with me the next week. “We did not do well. We both got a hard, fast lesson in race relations. It seemed one precocious little Black kid was cute, but two were a threat to the neighborhood.”
Berry Gordy will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Michigan Chronicle 2013 Legacy In Motion black tie gala taking place on Saturday, Dec. 7, in the Cobo Center Grand Ballroom. For more information, call (313) 963-5522.