Between Takes: That Child Is A Wonder

In Episode 009 of Between Takes, Martha Reeves talks about watching Stevie Wonder audition for Motown.

Welcome to Between Takes; where artists and musicians tell stories about what happens behind the scenes.

WDET’s Sam Beaubien has been dedicated to making music in Detroit for 20 years, and this series connects you with the stories he has heard on gigs and at recording sessions.

Get a look into Stevie Wonders audition for Motown Records, sessions with funk master George Clinton, renowned hip-hop producer J Dilla’s first days with a drum machine, and many more stories about what shaped the legacy of this musical city. 

Episode 009

Martha Reeves and her group Martha and the Vandellas churned out many hit records for Motown including “Come and Get These Memories”, “Nowhere to Run”, “Heat Wave”, “Jimmy Mack”, and their signature “Dancing In The Street”.

Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe

But before Martha started recording for Motown, she was singing in nightclubs around the city. Covering popular songs and jazz standards is how a working musician survives, but in the early 1960s in Detroit, it was a great way to get discovered and given a chance to record for one of the many record labels in the city at that time. One night she was performing at a local club and was heard by a talent scout for Motown. She was given a business card and asked to come to Hitsville the following day.

When Martha Reeves showed up to Motown’s Hitsville, she pushed past a long line of young singers looking to get their big break who were all standing outside of the building hoping to get noticed. When she got inside, the talent scout who asked her to come seemed overwhelmed and uninterested, and instead of asking her to sing, he asked her to start answering phones. Her first gig at Motown was not as a singer but as a secretary. While this was a slight let down for her, she took the opportunity to build her new relationship.

While working as a secretary, Martha Reeves got to meet young talent coming in to audition for the record label. One day a young boy came in. He was blind, very interested in everything around him, and was immersed in music. She was invited to watch this young boy audition for Motown with label owner Berry Gordy.

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  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.