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Edition limited to 5000 non-numbered limited edition copies.

Say the word “Motown,” and an immediate image forms in your head: maybe Smokey, or Diana, or Stevie, or the Temptations doing their famous steps. Or one of dozens of other classic Motown artists. But before the Motown sound had written itself into our musical DNA, before there was even a Motown label, there was an idea in the head of Berry Gordy, Jr.

Gordy’s empire began even before the house at 2648 W. Grand Blvd. became ‘Hitsville U.S.A.’ The Complete Motown Singles, Part 1: 1959-1961 documents Motown’s earliest days, from Marv Johnson’s “Come To Me” on Tamla 101 from January 1959 through The Twistin’ Kings’ “Congo (Part 1)” on Motown 1023 from December 1961.

This six-CD set offers an amazing insight into the development of the Motown Sound. You can follow along, single by single, as Gordy pursues his dream, often to unexpected places. It features the A-side and B-side of every single released by Motown and its subsidiaries during the label’s first three years of existence. Over the course of the set’s 155 tracks, you can hear the recorded debuts of the Temptations, the Supremes, Mary Wells, and many others. You’ll also hear Motown’s first big hits: Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want),” The Miracles’ “Shop Around,” and The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman.”

The luxurious packaging resembles a scaled-down 78-rpm-era “album,” with cardboard sleeves to hold each of the discs, and 92 pages of rare photos, detailed annotations and scholarly - as well as personal – liner notes. It also features a reproduction 45-rpm single from its era; in this case, it’s Barrett Strong’s “Money” b/w “Oh I Apologize.” Berry Gordy, who co-wrote and co-produced nearly every track in this first set, contributes a brief, personally signed note in the booklet’s opening page. It introduces an eyewitness account of the early days from singer Mable John, the first female solo act signed to Motown. Also included is a historical overview by author and scholar Craig Werner of the University of Wisconsin, and track-by-track annotations, with not just song credits but stories and context of each song, by noted authors and discographers Bill Dahl and Keith Hughes.

The Complete Motown Singles, Volume 1: 1959-1961 is a limited-edition set. Most of the songs contained on it are unavailable anywhere else; many had never been re-released on vinyl, let alone on compact disc.

Volume 1 is only the first of a 12-part box series.

The Complete Motown Singles: 1959-1961

Jan 14, 2005

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 2: 1962

May 13, 2005

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 3: 1963

Oct 14, 2005

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 4: 1964

Feb 24, 2006

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 5: 1965

Aug 4, 2006

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 6: 1966

Nov 24, 2006

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 7: 1967

May 25, 2007

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 8: 1968

Oct 3, 2007

The Complete Motown Singles Vol. 9: 1969

Dec 7, 2007

The Complete Motown Singles Vol.10: 1970

Jun 27, 2008

The Complete Motown Singles Vol.11A: 1971

Nov 18, 2008

The Complete Motown Singles Vol.11B: 1971

Jan 20, 2009

The Complete Motown Singles Vol.12A: 1972

May 31, 2013

The Complete Motown Singles Vol.12B: 1972

Dec 10, 2013



We think of them coming off the production line, smiling girls in matching satin cocktail dresses and carefully groomed men in slick mohair suits, choreographed to perfection. We think, most of all, of that driving backbeat, a whip crack synthesis of snare drum, tambourine and (the secret ingredient completing the magic formula) the down stroke of a plectrum across a set of heavy-gauge strings attached to a Fender Telecaster.


What we do not think of, when we think of Motown, is surf music, or novelty songs, or gospel hymns, or white-bread rock ballads, or supper-club crooning. But that is what we get among the 155 tunes that populate this album.


Gordy was ready to try almost anything in his bid for success, and in the early days trying anything usually meant copying something. There are attempts to emulate the Coasters' Yakety Yak (Blibberin' Blabberin' Blues by Gino Parks), Larry Verne's Mr. Custer (Custer's Last Man by Popcorn and the Mohawks), Sheb Wolley's Purple People Eater (It by Ron and Bill - actually Ronnie White and William "Smokey" Robinson of the Miracles), and the Champs' Tequila (Ich-i-bon by Nick and the Jaguars). None of the imitations came close to success, which may have persuaded Gordy to encourage the search for originality among his protégés.

The exceptions, not surprisingly, are the songs we know. These include the Miracles' irresistible Shop Around (which finds Smokey Robinson exploring a useful metaphor), Barrett Strong's pounding Money (That's What I Want) and the Marvelettes' sparkling Please Mr Postman. Each of these songs is based on a powerful central idea, and each was a national hit. But even the near-misses and the palpable mistakes are full of interest.


Most of the tracks feature the embryonic work of the Funk Brothers, as the house rhythm section became known. They appear as the Swingin' Tigers on Snake Walk and bluesy instrumental. Renamed the Twistin' Kings, they are also heard on Xmas Twist. And there is also the chance to examine the claims of such obscure early Motowners as Henry Lumpkin, the Satintones and Singin' Sammy Ward.


For those who wince at the sound of classic singles digitized in gutless fake stereo on modern CD anthologies, the very best aspect of this historic project will be the determination of the remastering engineers to reproduce the effect of the original vinyl - which is to say, hot to the point of distortion and in glorious mono, just the way they burst out of transistor radios in the days before Berry Gordy Jr looked at the Billboard chart, gave a little smile of satisfaction and picked up the phone to put down a deposit on his first Cadillac.


Richard Williams / The Guardian


Summertime in Detroit, and the city is sizzling. I’m driving my boyfriend’s Roadmaster over to the corner of St. Antoine and Farnsworth, where the Gordys live. Berry’s waiting for me. I’m his driver—he doesn’t own a car—and I’m also one of the two acts he manages. The other is a group that used to be called the Matadors. Now they’re the Miracles. We’re all hoping for a miracle because, truth be told, we’re all scuffling.

The Gordy household is a beehive of activity. Pops is booking plastering jobs, Mom is selling insurance, the sisters and brothers are running a printing shop. Everyone’s working. Everyone has big plans. Everyone’s eager to score.

“Let’s go,” says Berry.

“Where to?”

“To see the jocks.”

Berry’s selling songs. His songs. His method is to get the songs to as many people as possible. The first line of attack is the people who know the artists and actually play the songs—disc jockeys.

Driving down Woodward Avenue past the Fox Theater, where Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis played, Berry says, “You’ll be playing there. All my acts will be playing there.”

Suddenly “Fever” is playing on the radio—sung by Little Willie John, my brother.

Berry smiles and sings along. “We’re getting there,” is all he says.

A little while later, we’re at Lee’s Sensation, an east side nightclub where in the backroom the deejays are holding a mini-convention. The jukebox is playing “The Great Pretender” by the Platters, “Let the Good Times Roll” by Shirley & Lee. Joe Howard from WCHB in Inkster is there. So is Martha Jean Steinberg—Martha Jean the Queen—a force in Detroit radio. Berry is working the room while I prepare the food.

“I got a hit,” he tells the jocks. “I got lots of hits.”

When winter hits, Berry really does have a hit. “Reet Petite,” a song he wrote for Jackie Wilson, is climbing the charts.

Now I’m driving him to dances and high school hops. Now I’m driving him to the Brewster Center. Now he’s meeting writers and singers at every turn.

Here’s a girl named Janie Bradford. Here’s a guy named Harvey Fuqua. Here are the Holland Brothers. Here’s Barrett Strong. Here’s Marv Johnson. Here’s a great drummer named Benny Benjamin.

Berry has more hits; the hits make him bolder.

In New York, where he takes me and Smokey Robinson, along with his parents, sisters and Raynoma, his second wife, to a BMI dinner, he wins a songwriting award.

“Start your own label,” I say.

“Amen,” adds Smokey.

We’re eating at Gladys’, a house with a restaurant in the basement serving the best down-home cooking in the city. Berry has spilt barbecue sauce on his otherwise clean white shirt.

“Rehearsal time,” he says.

Rehearsal is at Claudette’s house. She’s Smokey’s girlfriend and one of the Miracles. Rehearsals go great.

Berry has an idea for a new song. Berry has an idea for three new songs. Berry is still writing songs while we drive over to the Flame, the jazzy night spot where his sisters take pictures and sell cigarettes, and Maurice King is the maestro.

“Maurice is going to be your music coach,” says Berry.

Maurice is great, but the main coach is Berry. He’s coaching everyone. He’s pushing everyone in six different directions at the same time.

Riding down West Grand Boulevard he spots a plain-looking house with a ‘For Sale’ sign.

“Stop,” he says.

We stop and get out.

He walks up the stairs, peers in the window.

“That’s it.”

“What’s ‘it?’” I ask.


“For what?”

“The operation. The music publishing company. The label. The studio. It’s all going to happen here. Can you see it?”

“I can see that you can see it—and that’s good enough for me. That’s good enough for all of us.”

A few months later the house is bought and the sign goes up:

“Hitsville, USA.”

—Mable John (as told to David Ritz)

Mable John was the first solo female recording artist on Berry Gordy’s first label, Tamla. Later in the Sixties she recorded for Stax/Volt. For many years, she was Ray Charles’ lead Raelett. Today she is Dr. Mable John, a minister of the Joy in Jesus church in Los Angeles.



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CD 1
1. Come To Me - Marv Johnson
2. Whisper - Marv Johnson
3. Merry-Go-Round - Eddie Holland
4. It Moves Me - Eddie Holland
5. Let’s Rock - Barrett Strong
6. Do The Very Best You Can - Barrett Strong
7. Solid Sender - Chico Leverett
8. I’ll Never Love Again - Chico Leverett
9. Snake Walk (Part 1) - The Swinging Tigers
10. Snake Walk (Part 2) - The Swinging Tigers
11. It - Ron & Bill
12. Don’t Say Bye Bye - Ron & Bill
13. Going To The Hop - The Satintones
14. Motor City - The Satintones
15. Money (That’s What I Want) - Barrett Strong
16. Oh I Apologize - Barrett Strong
17. Ich-i-bon #1 - Nick & The Jaguars
18. Cool And Crazy - Nick & The Jaguars
19. Bad Girl - The Miracles
20. I Love Your Baby - The Miracles
21. The Feeling Is So Fine - The Miracles
22. (You Can) Depend On Me - The Miracles [first version]
23. My Beloved - The Satintones [without strings]
24. Sugar Daddy - The Satintones
25. You Never Miss A Good Thing - Eugene Remus [without strings]
26. Hold Me Tight - Eugene Remus
27. Gotta Have Your Lovin’ - Eugene Remus

CD 2
1. Way Over There - The Miracles [without strings]
2. (You Can) Depend On Me - The Miracles [second version]
3. Way Over There - The Miracles [with strings]
4. My Beloved - The Satintones [with strings]
5. You Never Miss A Good Thing - Eugene Remus [with strings]
6. Yes, No, Maybe So - Barrett Strong
7. You Knows What To Do - Barrett Strong
8. Custer’s Last Man - Popcorn And The Mohawks
9. Shimmy Gully - Popcorn And The Mohawks
10. Who Wouldn’t Love A Man Like That - Mable John [first version]
11. You Made A Fool Out Of Me - Mable John
12. Whirlwind - Barrett Strong
13. I’m Gonna Cry (If You Quit Me) - Barrett Strong
14. Bye Bye Baby - Mary Wells
15. Please Forgive Me - Mary Wells
16. What Makes You Love Him - Singin’ Sammy Ward [first version]
17. That Child Is Really Wild - Singin’ Sammy Ward
18. Who’s The Fool - Singin’ Sammy Ward
19. Shop Around - The Miracles [regional version]
20. Who’s Lovin’ You - The Miracles
21. True Love - Herman Griffin
22. It’s You - Herman Griffin
23. Shop Around - The Miracles [national version]
24. Oh Lover - Sherri Taylor & Singin’ Sammy Ward
25. That’s Why I Love You So Much - Sherri Taylor & Sammy Ward
26. I’ve Got A Notion - Henry Lumpkin
27. We Really Love Each Other - Henry Lumpkin

CD 3
1. Don’t Feel Sorry For Me - Jimmy Ruffin
2. Heart - Jimmy Ruffin
3. Don’t Let Him Shop Around - Debbie Dean
4. A New Girl - Debbie Dean
5. Ain’t It Baby - The Miracles
6. The Only One I Love - The Miracles
7. Money And Me - Barrett Strong
8. You’ve Got What It Takes - Barrett Strong
9. When I Needed You - Little Iva & Her Band
10. Continental Strut - Little Iva & Her Band
11. Whole Lotta Woman - The Contours [regional version]
12. Come On And Be Mine - The Contours
13. I Want A Guy - The Supremes
14. Never Again - The Supremes
15. He Lifted Me - The Gospel Stars [unedited version]
16. Behold The Saints Of God - The Gospel Stars
17. Poor Sam Jones - Mickey Woods
18. They Rode Through The Valley - Mickey Woods
19. Money (That’s What I Want) - Richard Wylie & his Band
20. I’ll Still Be Around - Richard Wylie & his Band
21. Tomorrow And Always - The Satintones [without strings]
22. A Love That Can Never Be - The Satintones
23. Tomorrow And Always - The Satintones [with strings]
24. Whole Lotta Woman - The Contours [national version]
25. Blibberin’ Blabbin’ Blues - Gino Parks
26. Don’t Say Bye Bye - Gino Parks

CD 4
1. Angel - The Satintones
2. (I’m Afraid) The Masquerade Is Over - Marvin Gay
3. Witchcraft - Marvin Gay
4. Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide - Marvin Gaye
5. Never Let You Go (Sha Lu Bop) - Marvin Gaye
6. I Don’t Want To Take A Chance - Mary Wells
7. I’m So Sorry - Mary Wells
8. Rosa Lee (Stay Off The Bell) - Andre Williams
9. Shoo-Doo - Andre Williams
10. Misery - Barrett Strong
11. Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right - Barrett Strong
12. Broken Hearted - The Miracles
13. Mighty Good Lovin’ - The Miracles
14. No Love - Mable John [without strings]
15. Looking For A Man - Mable John
16. Same Thing - Gino Parks
17. That’s No Lie - Gino Parks
18. I Know How It Feels - The Satintones
19. My Kind Of Love - The Satintones
20. No Love - Mable John [with strings]
21. Buttered Popcorn - The Supremes [first version]
22. Who’s Lovin’ You - The Supremes
23. Buttered Popcorn - The Supremes [second version]
24. Oh Mother Of Mine - The Temptations
25. Romance Without Finance - The Temptations
26. I Am Bound - Golden Harmoneers
27. Precious Memories - Golden Harmoneers

CD 5
1. Please Mr. Postman - The Marvelettes
2. So Long Baby - The Marvelettes
3. The Stretch - The Contours
4. Funny - The Contours
5. Itsy Bity Pity Love - Debbie Dean
6. But I’m Afraid - Debbie Dean
7. They Shall Be Mine - Rev. Columbus Mann
8. Jesus Loves - Rev. Columbus Mann
9. Someone To Call My Own - The Equadors
10. You’re My Desire - The Equadors
11. Love Me - Pete Hartfield
12. Darling Tonight - Pete Hartfield
13. Everybody’s Gotta Pay Some Dues - The Miracles
14. I Can’t Believe - The Miracles
15. Angel In Blue - Joel Sebastian
16. Blue Cinderella - Joel Sebastian
17. Strange Love - Mary Wells
18. Come To Me - Mary Wells
19. The Day Will Come - Freddie Gorman
20. Just For You - Freddie Gorman
21. Have I The Right - Popcorn And The Mohawks
22. Real Good Lovin’ - Popcorn And The Mohawks
23. Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart - The Satintones
24. Faded Letter - The Satintones

CD 6
1. Jamie - Eddie Holland
2. Take A Chance On Me - Eddie Holland
3. Greetings (This Is Uncle Sam) - The Valadiers
4. Take A Chance - The Valadiers
5. Actions Speak Louder Than Words - Mable John
6. Take Me - Mable John
7. What Makes You Love Him - Sammy Ward [second version]
8. Don’t Take It Away - Sammy Ward
9. Check Yourself - The Temptations
10. Your Wonderful Love - The Temptations
11. Small Sad Sam - Bob Kayli
12. Tie Me Tight - Bob Kayli
13. Whose Heart (Are You Gonna Break Now) - Don McKenzie
14. I’ll Call You - Don McKenzie
15. Xmas Twist - The Twistin’ Kings
16. White House Twist - The Twistin’ Kings
17. Please Mr. Kennedy - Mickey Woods
18. (They Call Me) Cupid - Mickey Woods
19. Twistin’ Postman - The Marvelettes
20. I Want A Guy - The Marvelettes
21. What’s So Good About Good Bye - The Miracles
22. I’ve Been Good To You - The Miracles
23. Congo (Part 1) - The Twistin’ Kings
24. Congo (Part 2) - The Twistin’ Kings

Harry Weinger, Motown Vice President of A&R speaks

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