not all those who wander are lost

(Marvin Gayes handwritten notations)

Okay – heres some reposts and additional Motown documents that were recovered from the demolition of the Donovan/Sanders Motown Headquarters Complex. These are what I saved after the building had been open to looters and vandals for several decades – no telling what left that building before I came along.

What I was able to recover didnt look like much at first, but with a good working knowledge of Motown and what goes on in the recording process, I was able to find documents that are simply invaluable. Whats represented here is merely the tip of the iceberg as far as how much data was recovered.

Currently I do not own nor do I possess ANY of this data. None was sold on eBay or the like. Every bit of the documents and blueprints were entrusted to the Burton Historical Collection right here in Detroit within the protection and expertise of the Detroit Public Library system.

I was paid nothing, although the Director bought me a nice lunch.

These things belong to history, not people.

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One collection of papers were hand written Producers notes from recording session in Studio A, aka “The Snakepit”. The month that was found happened to contain the 10 day time period that Marvin Gaye created one of the most important pieces of popular music ever recorded, the album “Whats Goin On”. (March 1971)

The most stunning aspect of this document is that Marvin was actually the producer, and it is written in his own hand. The list of musicians alone gave me chills down my spine when I first saw it, including the greatest bass player in popular music – James Jamerson.

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Famous Motown producer Norman Whitfield working on music for The Temptations. Just look at the list of Funks on this – Bob Babbit, Pistol Allen, Joe Messina, Eddie Willis, Jack Ashford – it goes on and on !

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The late Earl Van Dyke, leader of the Funk Brothers, doing overdubs of piano and Hammond B3 for producer William Robinson Jr., aka Smokey Robinson. Written in the Smokes hand.

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Again, in Marvin Gayes handwriting, doing overdub work with the great James Jamerson.

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A fascinating collection of Road Manager records of Diana Ross and the Supremes. This pile of records spanned from the mid sixties, until the supremes broke up in the early seventies.

Ever wonder how much Motown got paid for the Supremes singing on The Tonight Show in 1969 ?


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Okay, how about – how much did Motown get paid for the Supremes singing on Ed Sullivan in 1970 ?

$7,500.00 before disbursements.

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Payroll check made out to Diana Ross for $1,000.57 in 1969.

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Now onto some blueprints of the Donovan/Sanders building(s). The property was/is owned by Cherrylawn properties, Berry Gordys property management company. These blueprints are from the 1968 acquisition of the buildings, and the subsequent remodeling to use for Motown Headquarters.

This is the first floor plan. Note that the front of the Donovan is listed as a “bank”. Beyond that is Motown Center entry/reception etc.

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The basement level of the complex – note that one portion of Sanders is made into “echo chambers” for recording
remixing. Remixing of albums was in fact done on site here – Marvin Gaye mixed the first version of the ‘Whats Goin On” album here, before going out to LA for what became the album mix.

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7th floor blueprints

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Side view of Motown Headquarters Complex with “donovan” on the right, and “sanders” on the left.

11 Responses to Motown Lowdown

  • Thanks C.S., I totally agree with your statements. That data belongs to the ages, and did not belong in the debris, nor on eBay – and also not in a private collection. Currently they are housed in a collection at the Detroit Public Library where they are available for researchers and writers. Many friends and family did not understand my decision, especially since I am far from being a wealthy individual.

  • Motown Records and the music which came out of it, at least in the 60’s and 70’s, was as much a part of American History as the Civil War or the Apollo moon landing. Why the honchos at Motown did not donate their disused studio notes to The Smithsonian (and maybe get a handsome tax write-off in the process) is beyond me. Why no one thought to gather up *ALL* of the stuff in the abandoned building and take it home is beyond me (as much as I hate Ebay, better that than the landfill). Brave, culturally-literate and civic-minded people like yourself seem to be a rarity here in nineteen-eighty-twenty-six.

    As a DJ and a long-time listener to Stevie Wonder, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, etc., etc., the only words I can think of to say to you are thank you. And those words are really inadequate to express what I feel.

  • I watched this building come down, nobody in the community was even notified it was happening. (a selection of the final moments can be viewed at the URL posted). The building was still full of stuff and when it finally came down, what a mess. They’re still grading and paving the property 6 months later. It’s great that some of the material was recovered! Fantastic work & a great act of humanism.

  • Wow, I cannot believe all of this great and important stuff was just left to the mercy of time, vandals, and the elements. I’m glad you rescued them!

  • I am speechless concerning your turning over all this information to the Burton Historical Collection. In this day and age it is so easy to be cynical and suspicious of everyone’s intentions and rightfully so. But, I applaud you for making the decision you made to donate these records for posterity. It is such a selfless and generous act to say nothing of the uniqueness of your gift that I am again, speechless! Thank you for choosing “the road less traveled.” Money is so temporary but this act will cascade throughout eternity. I say “Hail” to you for your thoughtful munificence and considerate benevolence. The simple and profound tribute I offer to you is the title of “Kind and Thoughtful Human Being.” Thank you, again!

  • Very interesting information. Keep up the good work!

  • “These things belong to history, not people.”


  • Incredible

    This just blew my mind

    Am speechless


    Amsterdam, HOLLAND

  • Great site.
    Read stuff I have never even heard about..

  • I agree – I think much of the blueprints were suggestions for modifications that were not realised. A large portion of them are concerning heating and venthilation ductwork.

    There were also several variations, 3 full sets of prints that were slightly different plans.

    There was only one floor I saw that had a passthrough to Sanders, maybe 4th or 5th. Didnt look like on the prints though.

  • I have been wondering with these blueprints, I think these are preliminary.

    I saw no sign of the buildings connected at all, did you notice any when you were in the location?