Friday, April 10, 2015

The man who helped to bring Motown to the world

  • Colin Hadley
Fifty years ago Motown music was topping the charts and all these years later, it is still popular. Colin Hadley was instrumental in the success of the genre. Dawn Ellis reports.
Hit songs by the likes of legends Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Temptations, The Jackson 5 and The Four Tops are still popular today and part of the success is down to a Westcountry man.

Just over 50 years ago the Tamla Motown record label was formed by Exeter man Colin Hadley and his two colleagues at EMI Records Rex Oldfield and Derek Everett.

Colin with DJs Simon Dee and Tony Blackburn

By starting the label it opened the doors for hit after hit for the Motown market.
Colin, now 80, was part of the team who selected, promoted the artists that flowed from Hitsville US, the musical production line created by Berry Gordy.
Tamla was formed by Gordy with an $800 family loan and by 1986 he made it into Forbes Investors Magazine annual rich list of Americans with a personal fortune of $180m.
In the 60s Motown was booming and Colin was there every step of the way.
After launching Tamla Motown label, Colin became one of the youngest board members of an EMI group company and in 1968 was appointed a director and general manger of the group’s Richmond-based World Record Club.

Derek Everett, American singer Lou Christie, John Nathon (MGM Europe) and Colin Hadley.

“I joined the music business, for the best of all reasons, money,” he said.
“I was working for Unilever soap subsidiary on five guineas a week and I moved to EMI as a statistics clerk for more money and less travel.
“I started in a back office as a statistician and after four years I moved over and became the PA to the HMV sales manager for a couple of years. I went out on the road for four years and worked my way up. By 1964 I had come back into the office as deputy marketing manager.

“At the time we were too busy to think about what you were doing and who you were working with to really understand how well it was doing.”

He puts the success of the label purely down to the catchy music.

“That’s what makes it pay, it doesn’t matter how much hype goes on, if it hasn’t got it in the grooves it’s a waste of time,” said Colin.

Along the way he worked with some of music’s greats including Stevie Wonder.
“He was a 17 year old when I met him to do some promotion. I saw him perform in a nightclub at The Scotch of St James,” said Colin.

“That was where is all started for him. Who would have known he’d still be going strong.”

He also remembers The Jackson family and recalls a day where he met them at a hotel.
“They were children when I knew them,” he said.

“I remember well that they were staying at The Portman Hotel and they had to escape because of the crowds. They came out via a back door as it was absolute mania. It was at the same time that The Beatles came and everything music wise erupted both here and America. It was an exciting time.”

Despite many of the acts becoming music legends, Motown as a genre wasn’t an overnight success and it took time to build in popularity.
“If truth be told as EMI weren’t consulted at all about the first Tamla Motown tour,” said Colin.
“It went ahead on the advice of the founder of Tamla Motown Appreciation Society who was over enthusiastic. Large concert halls were booked, but were only half full.
“In fact, I think they had to parachute Georgie Fame in to give the shows a bit of umph and helped rescue the shows. Dusty Springfield was also involved and she gave them a boost at the end.”
Soon hits flowed and for a 20 year span, more than 300 Motown singles went into the British top 10 hits, with many making the top spot.
Three tracks made it to the charts before the launch of the Tamla Motown label was even launched and are still well known today.
My Guy, Mary Wells; Where Did Our Love Go, The Supremes and Baby Love were all released on Stateside before the known TM label was launched.
“At the weekends you had to switch off from it all, else it was too much,” said Colin.
The pensioner said that it wasn’t just Motown that was big business, EMI had their work cut out as they were also working with the likes of The Animals, Eddie Cochran, The Beach Boys and many more.
“We launched Mary Poppins and I saw it so many times at trade shows. The song Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious still flows off the tongue today,” he joked.
He said looking back,
artists had an incredible
ride, but it wasn’t all glamour.
“The set up in Detroit wasn’t in a massive recording studio,” said Colin.
“The echo chamber was in the lavatory and the string section was on trestles as space was so tight.
“There’s also a sad side to Motown, as Marvin Gaye was killed by his own father and Florence Ballard, one of The Supremes, finished up destitute. It’s heartbreaking.”
In his later working years he quit the music business and went into publishing, working for the Copyright Protection Agency before retiring in Exeter, 16 years ago, where he lives with wife Jean.
“ I still love London, as there is a buzz, but I think the Westcountry is nice. I’ve got a lovely view and only a few minutes out of the city.”
Being out of the business, he said he isn’t up to date with today’s music charts.
“I think I’m out of touch these days,” he said.
“The music isn’t as melodic as it used to be. The first essential thing when it came to any track was you had to be able to dance to it and that has gone.”

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