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Record Giant Re-opens Detroit Office

Record Giant Re-opens Detroit Office image
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Inside the respectable-looking bluetrimmed 1 0-story office building at Woodward and Fisher that was world headquarters for the Motown Record Corporation until 1972, carpenters are now at work. According to Detroit Motown executive Gordon Prince, a staff of "12 or 1 3 people" will be at their desks, selling and promoting records, in the first floor of the Motown Building "in about three weeks." Yes, Motown is back in Detroit. The black record firm that used the name and talent of the Motor City to . build a hit-making empire has been centered on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California for the last four years, ever since company head Berry Gordy (now America's wealthiest black man) moved his entire operation in a dramatic attempt to enter the Hollywood film industry. Formal announcement of Motown's return will not come until next month, when the Detroit offices will be fully functioning. But Gordon Prince, currently directing the company 's new activities in the city, says that plans to set up a full branch operation are already in full swing. A fully-owned statewide distribution company is already set up, and regional record promotion is presently centered in temporary offices on James Couzens, on Detroit's northwest side. "What we 're doing is no secret," says Prince, "and we're not trying to hide it. When we get set up in the new space on Woodward we'll make a big announcement, but until then we're going right ahead." Ray Henderson, until recently a popular disc jockey on WGPR-FM, has been hired as Promotion Manager for the Detroit branch, and, along with Regional Promotion heads Arnie Leeman (pop) and Andre Morgan (R&B), will be servicing radio stations n Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, "and everywhere in between," according to Prince. Other staff positions already filled and active in Motown's Detroit office include National Rack Sales Director (Charlie Salah) and Regional Sales Director (Wilson Lindsay). Larry Rochen, formerly with Merit Distributors and Grinnell Bros. in Detroit, has been hired as Branch Manager for the new office, and Mr. Prince will be appointed Vice-President of Branch Operations for the Motown Group. While Motown wjll retain its central office and recording facilities n Hollywood, the Detroit branch will be a complete record operation except for artist relations and in-house studios. Earlier this year, Motown President Berry Gordy told a WXYZ-TV news crew that the compány ntended to re-open studios in the city at some point, but Prince says that there are no definite plans to do so at this time because "there are plenty of studio? available" for rental use in the Detroit área. "But we're here to make money," he adds, "and if we can be successful and make this a going concern, there's no limit to what we can do." Motown has" a long and exciting history in Detroit, dating backtto 1959 when Berry Gordy, Jr. came off a Ford Motor Co. production line to form Motown with his family and friends. In the next 1 3 years the circle grew to include such artists as Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, the -Four Tdps, the Spinners, the Isley Bros., Kim Weston, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Junior Walker and the All Stars, Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Mary Wells, and Tammi Terrel. Producers and writers with Motown include such creative greats as Holland-Dozer-Holland and Norman Whitfield,and there were more than a few sharp recordng industry businessmen who helped Gordy run Motown as well, ncluding Barney Ales (pronounced "A-less"). Ales left Motown and came back to Detroit after the company's unexpected move to Hollywood, as did nis long-time Motown associate Gordon Prince. "I just couldn't get used to the laid-back atmosphere. I could only stand it out there for about 18 months," Ales told The Sun in an interview published earlier this year (Sun, February 26). Neither Ales nor Prince wanted to drop out of the record business, though, and they soon decided to start their own company, Prodigal Records. Over a year's time they released several records that had some success, ncluding hit Lp's by Ronnie McNeir and the comedy team of Gaylord and Holiday. In the meantime, Motown's mighty grip on the record charts started slipping (they lost hitmakers the Jackson 5, Gladys Knight, Kim Weston, the Spinners, the Four Tops, the Isley Bros., and the land-Dozier-Holland team) while they scored big box-office successes with two films starring Diana Ross: Lady Sings The I Blues and Mahogany. In what appears to many as an effort to re-establish the position of tremendous I power they once had in recording business, I Motown has taken a new look at its old home town, starting with Barney Ales. Last year, Motown bought Prodigal Records from Ales and Prince to get them back in the company. Then Ales was named Executive Vice-President of Motown, second in command to Berry Gordy, who was President and Chairman of the Board. Last month Ales was given equal executive title with Gordy, that of Copresident. Prodigal Records, whose offices now serve as a temporary base for Motown I troit, was retained as an active label by the company. Prodigal has since been reorganized as the firm's pop-rock outlet under the direction of Prince, who managed the start-up of a country-and-western I label for Motown called Hitsville. "When Barney and I started this two years ago there were only two of us," Gordon Prince tells us from the current Motown Detroit headquarters, where the sign outside still says "Prodigal Records." I "Now there are 1 2 or 1 3 people and we need to expand." One of the mmediate factors which precipitated the move to the Motown office building in downtown Detroit (which, I until recently , was up for sale) is the recent establishment here of Hitsville I butors, Motown's first fully-owned record I distributing outlet. Unlike many of the major record firms, Motown still does most of its record sales through independent record distribution outlets in major I American cities, rather than having their own distribution network. Prince says that Motown "thought it was time for a change" and decided to I place their local distributor, Merit, with its own distribution operation. Hitsville, which will be operated out of the blue Motown Building, currently delivers Motown producís to stores and warehouse operations throughout Michigan and north-j ern Ohio. O