Berry Gordy began to write songs in his head while working on an assembly line at the Ford Motor Company. Some of these early songs were recorded by local singers and some-- including "Reet Petite" and "Lonely Teardrops"-- were sold to Decca Records.
Gordy soon realized that writing the songs was not enough. He wanted a more entrepreneurial role in the record industry. Therefore, he was now determined to not only write songs, he wanted to own and produce them as well.
The "Motown Sound" started with an eight hundred dollar loan from the savings of the Bertha and Berry Gordy, Sr. Originally called Tamla Records, the company's first national release was "Money (That's What I Want)," in August 1959.
Berry Gordy, the company’s founder, choosing a name that reflected the Motor City, coined the word "Motown" for the company that was incorporated as the Motown Record Corporation on April 14, 1960. Motown Records was headquartered in a house on Detroit's West Grand Boulevard, where Gordy slept on the second floor and made records on the first.
That same year it produced its first gold record, "Shop Around." The song sold more than a million copies, and with that record, Gordy's company launched the most successful and influential era in the history of popular music.
By the end of its first decade, Motown was the largest independent manufacturer of single 45 rpm records in the world. Among Motown's record labels were Tamla, Motown, Gordy, Soul, VIP, Rare Earth, Black Forum, Workshop Jazz, Divinity and others. In 1972, Motown moved its headquarters to Los Angeles, California. The company expanded its television productions and entered the motion picture industry.
Lady Sings the Blues, Motown's first feature length film, received five Academy Award Nominations. By 1975, Motown Industries was the largest black-owned corporation in the world. In 1980, the Motown Historical Museum was established at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit to celebrate the Motown Sound and its international influence.
In June 1988, Gordy sold his record company to MCA, Inc. He kept control of Jobete, the music publishing operation, and Motown's film division.
Gordy's talents as a songwriter and entrepreneur and his huge contribution to popular music were recognized in 2001, when he was inducted into the Independent Music Hall of Fame.