Motown is an American record company founded by Berry Gordy Jr. as Tamla Records on January 12, 1959, and was incorporated as Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960, in Detroit, Michigan. Gordy started Motown with an $800 loan from his family and royalties earned writing for Jackie Wilson.
The Funk Brothers are the Detroit-based session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown recordings from 1959 until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972.
According to the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, the Funk Brothers have “played on more number-one hits than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys combined.
People would ask, what is the Motown sound? It was the musicians. Without them, there really wouldn’t be a Motown.
Motown music arranger
[The Funk Brother] created billions of dollars worth of music, a lot of it they created themselves.
~ Cornelius Grant
Temptations music director
In 1973, BLACK ENTERPRISE started its annual ranking of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, and Motown debuted at the No. 1 spot, grossing $40 million in revenues and holding that position on every list until 1983 when the company grossed $91.7 million in revenues. Motown lost the title of list leader in 1984 when Johnson Publishing Co., publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines and producer of Fashion Fair Cosmetics, took the top spot.