Friday Night Oldie: Motown turns 60

A special concert honoring the 60th anniversary of Motown Records will be broadcast this Sunday on CBS.

The historic company began in 1959. Its first record label was Tamla, and their first # 1 single came in December of 1961.

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That was the Tamla label. BTW the Beatles and the Carpenters also recorded the song.

Fifty-five years ago the Motown Records label celebrated its first No. 1 single on the Billboard charts.

Jimmy O’Neil does the introduction.

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There’s no telling how big a star Mary Wells could have been.

In 1961 through 1964, she hit the Top 10 in the pop charts with “The One Who Really Loves You,” “You Beat Me to The Punch,” “Two Lovers” and her signature “My Guy,” all written or co-written by Smokey Robinson, a fellow Motown Records star.

“In 1964, Mary Wells was our big, big artist,” said Lucy Gordy Wakefield, Motown’s first sales chief. “I don’t think there’s any audience with an age of 30 through 50 that doesn’t know the words to `My Guy.”‘

Wells left Motown to join 20th Century Fox records in 1964 and other labels as well, but never enjoyed the fame she achieved with Motown.

A daily two cigarette pack smoker, Wells had no insurance when she was diagnosed with cancer, couldn’t pay the rent, and lost her home in Los Angeles.

This beautiful singer underwent surgery for cancer of the larynx in August 1990, and died two years later at the age of 49.

Peter Benjaminson wrote Mary Wells: The Tumultuous Life of Motown’s First Superstar  and said in an interview:

“From our perspective, it looks like a mistake to have left Motown, and I’m pretty sure it was. She would have taken all those songs that the Supremes made into hits, starting with Where Did Our Love Go, on and on. She could have been not just a star, but a super-superstar. … She was the first major person to leave. … In a way, she helped other Motown artists by showing them what they shouldn’t do.”

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