Remembering Barney Ales, the Motown Man Who Kept the Bills Paid

Barney Ales, Motown’s former President, died last month at the age of 85. CultureShift’s Ann Delisi remembers Ales and the legacy he left.

We all know Berry Gordy and the Motown records story, but there is part of the Motown’s success that belongs to a man who most people don’t know.

“Barney wasn’t musical, but could come up with a lyric idea or theme.” — Adam White, author

His name is Barney Ales, and he passed away on April 17th in Malibu, Calif., of natural causes. He’s a Detroit native who was the Executive Vice President and then later, President of Motown Records. Just as Gordy was the force behind the creative side of Motown, Ales was the force behind getting the records distributed, played on the radio and got the label paid.

Adam White is the author of “Motown: The Sound of Young America,” which Ales worked with him on. In 2016, he spoke with CultureShift’s Ann Delisi about the Motown story and the role Ales, who didn’t partake in the creative side, played in the shaping of individual songs. 

“Barney wasn’t musical, but could come up with a lyric idea or theme,” White said. “One of those was “Once Upon A Time” by Marvin and Mary Wells, credited to Mickey [Stevenson] and Barney.”

Click on the player above to hear Ann Delisi’s conversation with Adam White about Barney Ales and his legacy in Motown.

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  • Ann Delisi
    Ann Delisi hosts Essential Music, the Essential Conversations podcast series and the Essential Cooking broadcast and podcast. Born and raised in the Motor City, Ann is a broadcaster, interviewer, producer, music host, storyteller and proud Detroiter.