Berry Gordy, the mogul of Motown, stepped onto the stage of Chicago’s Hard Rock Cafe Monday as part of a kickoff event for the national touring company production of “Motown, The Musical,” the Broadway hit that will kick off its national tour at the Oriental Theatre here, April 22 -July 13, 2014.
The ever-dapper Gordy, who looks decades younger than his 83 years, may be the quintessential Detroit man, but he happily sang the praises of Chicago.
“I started here, before there was Motown,” said Gordy, as he charted his connections to this city. “I was an independent producer, and was good friends with Leonard Chess at Chess Records. ‘Bad Girl’ by The Miracles, and was my first-ever release for the Motown record label and Chess Records picked it up.”
“There are so many memories,” Gordy continued. “The way Johnson Publications put us on the covers of Ebony and Jet magazines, and my special arrangement with WVON radio [every song Berry produced was immediately sent to the radio station, before it went to any others]. Scenes in my film, ‘Mahogany’ [about a young woman living in the Chicago projects who dreams of becoming a fashion designer] were shot at Marshall Field’s on State Street. And then there was the Regal Theatre. In 1962, during a Motortown Revue, we taped Stevie Wonder doing ‘Fingertips’ [his first live, non-studio song to hit Number 1 on the Billboard chart].
And now, the unasked question: Might Berry Gordy buy the beleaguered Regal Theatre and make it new, if only for old time’s sake?