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Black History Month - Kid's Corner

A boxer hits big in the record business

For many people the road to success is not a straight one. Sometimes there are a few turns in that road.

Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, didn't start his working life in the music business. Before going into the Army, Gordy was a prizefighter. One day he saw a poster for the ''Battle of the Bands.'' The poster showed young fighters that looked old and old musicians that looked young. He decided then that the fight game was not for him.

Gordy was born in Detroit, Mich., in 1929, and that is where he returned after two years in the Army. His first try in the music business was a store that sold only jazz records. That did not work out, and he ended up working on the assembly line in Detroit's main business, making cars.

However, the music stayed with him even on the assembly line. Gordy started writing songs for another ex-fighter, Jackie Wilson. Gordy felt that writing music was not the side of the business where the big success and the big profits were. Producing was where the real business was, so that is where Gordy went next.

Then a young singer, 19-year-old Smokey Robinson, convinced Gordy to take that last big step to being a true entrepreneur. Gordy borrowed $800 from his family and in 1959, he began Motown Records, named after the Motor City, Detroit.

Now Gordy not only produced the music, he made the records and distributed them. In addition, he believed whatever his company did, it should be done right. Quality was an important word, and Gordy made sure Motown Records produced just that.

For 29 years Gordy made Motown Records a success, producing some of the best in the business, from Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five. The ''Motown'' sound became a part of American culture, equally loved by black and white listeners. In 1988, MCA bought Motown Records for $61 million.

-- By Lizabeth Gray

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