not all those who wander are lost

Back to the now demolished Motown Center Headquarters. I had these up long ago, but much controversy caused me to yank all the Motown data for awhile. well, Im puttin it back up now – including many of the documents that were rescued from the demolition. Today we are starting by revisiting the interior of the Donovan Building. (Donovan is on the left, Sanders in on the right. Both were combined for use by Motown in 1968)

Upstairs we see the hallways and elevator lobbies bordered with slabs of 1 inch thick marble. the demolition of the structure was so hasty, they did not even bother to recliam any of the marble slabs.

The first few floors had the tradmarked “Motown Blue” covering the windows, giving the interior an insane blue cast. I cant imagine working in a blue office all day. That must have really screwed up some peoples vision when they walked outside.

All major recordings still were held at Studio A, aka “The Snakepit” up on the Boulevard. Overdubs and orchestrations were done at studio B on Dexter. (now a shopping plaza)

There was remixing and rudimentary recording facilities at this location also. Marvin Gaye mixed his first version of “Whats Goin On” in this building, and then had tapes flown out to California to remix a second version which is what was released.

Isolation wall for recording

Heres the lightcourt between buildings

At one point in time, the graffiti guy “Turtle” had adorned the windows of Donovan with his moniker. Heres one of those windows with the telltale “T”.

Why so many important and interesting records of Motowns history were abandoned in this manner, we may never understand. This building was open for DECADES – so one could only imagine what walked out of here before the months leading up to demolition. This room was piled deep with fan letters and requests to come audition for Motown.

Stamped with a “received” and “answered” date.

This is the manner in which valuable, and in some instances priceless, documents were left in the building.

Junk mail addressed to Smokey and Berry.

Later this week I will put up some of the documents recovered from the demolition – many that I hadnt put up before. Stay tuned.

5 Responses to Back to Motown

  • As a child my mother lived in the “brand new” projects in Detroit (about 1950). She raised me listening to the sounds of Motown. When I was about 10yrs old (1975), we moved to California. I visit the Detriot area every fall. I anticipate the feeling I get when I land in Detroit. The feeling of the very soul of Motown. My friends all know when I planning a trip – they say I have that “Motown” look in my eyes. When they go to concerts with me to see Motown artists they say the same thing and they can’t believe how excitied I get. They make comments like “watch out – she’s in a grove”. I have in turn raised my children listening to the sounds of Motown. When thier friends ask “what kind of music is this”, they simply answer “MOOTOOWN BABY!!!!” I know that they will bring their children up listening to the sounds of Motown and responding the same way to their friends. The above pictures break my heart! The heart of Motown to be in that condition. However, those of us that fell and know the SOUL of Motown have the resposibility to keep it alive and together we can!!!!

  • Hey Chris – what book was that ?

    Yeah, what I understand is that Donovan/Sanders was a wreck when they bought them – complete with failing elevators and leaks. Berry Gordy never embraced the new headquarters, and didnt utilize his offices there much. He already had a place in L.A. by the late 60’s, and when in Detroit he used the “Top of the Ponch” meeting rooms on the top floor of Hotel Ponchertrain. This further isolated and disconnected the staff and artists back at Donovan. They were used to a family style operation over on the Boulevard.

  • I recently read a good book on the history of Motown which asserted that the Donovan building was old and somewhat unpleasant when Gordy and Co. moved in back in 68. This leads me to believe that despite it’s historical significance, the building had little value in the eyes of the Motown folks especially during talks of demolition.

  • After looking at your photos, letters and some documents I wondered why in the world the Motown people wouldn’t have done something with all of that historical information and data. Well, I can’t figure it out other than to say it must be all about money, pure and simple. Imagine what has been lost in antiquity by barbarians. I think these are the modern day barbarians. Fortunately, we have people like you that care about history and are doing something about it. Sometimes, a simple thank you is as prfound a statement as you can make to another human being. So, I say, “Thank you for what you are doing to save the Detroit that we are losing!”

  • Thank you sharing these memories ! I didn’t know that blue covered windows on first floor dated back from the use of the building…