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Motown Museum begins 60th anniversary celebration with new artifacts

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, January 12, 2019

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The Motown Museum is giving fans a look at exactly what happened in the company's history 60 years ago this weekend.

Commemorating the day Berry Gordy Jr. received an $800 loan from his family's Ber-Berry Co-op to start the legendary music label, the museum is rolling out some never-displayed artifacts documenting Motown's beginnings. The items include: the Ber-Berry savings account book; an Analysis of Member Accounts from April 1960 that show Gordy's repayment of the loan; and minutes from a Feb. 8, 1959 meetings.

The items will be revealed at 3 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11, on the museum's Facebook page and unveiled Saturday, Jan. 12, in the museum on Detroit's West Grand Blvd.

During a 50th anniversary interview, Gordy recalled that getting the family loan -- primarily to recorded a song, "Come To Me" with Marv Johnson" -- "was tough, but I was pretty strong and firm and I sold my heart out...they had never let anybody borrow anything from that before, and they felt if I borrowed anything it would open up the floodgates and everybody would use the savings club. But I pitched my thing. I said, 'I need this thousand dollars,' and I said, 'I'm gonna be rich, I'm gonna be famous and I'm gonna be the greatest thing in the world!' And they said, 'Yes, but you've been a failure in anything you've ever done in your life!'

"But I had two sisters, Gwen and Ana, that were really in my corner. They said, 'Give him the money. Give him the money!" And finally my mother looked at my father, and they looked at each other and they felt so sorry for me that they said, "We won't give you $1,000, but we will give you $800. But you've got to sign this IOU and sign your life away.' So they made me promise whatever, and that was it. I made the record, 'Come to Me,' and the rest is history."

Motown Museum Chairwoman and CEO Robin Terry said in a statement that the new artifacts "provide fans a rare and remarkable glimpse into the inception of this incredible story" and will be part of a "year-long anniversary celebration" that will include a series of Archive Drives to find new artifacts for the collection. "This is just the beginning," Terry said. "It's a privilege for us to continue to share more Motown history and artifacts from our vast collection with fans and to tell new stories in new ways."

The Motown Museum is working on expansion plans using nearly $17 million in gifts and grants from the Ford Motor Company, the Kresge Foundation and other organizations.

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