Early years
Gordy, Jr. was the seventh of eight children born to the middle class family of Berry Gordy II (a.k.a. Barry Gordy, Sr.) and Bertha Fuller Gordy, who had relocated to Detroit from Milledgeville, Georgia in 1922. Gordy was brought up in a tight-knit family with strong morals. His siblings were Esther (born 1920), Fuller (1921-19??), Anna (born 1922), Louyce (1924-1965), George (b. 1925), Gwen Gordy Fuqua (1927-1999), Robert L. Gordy (born 1931). All except Esther, Fuller and Anna were born in Detroit, Michigan.
Berry Gordy II (1888–1978) was the son of Berry Gordy I and a woman named Lucy. Berry Gordy I was the son of James Thomas Gordy, a white farmer, and a female slave in Georgia. This James Thomas Gordy (1828–1889) was also, by his wife Harriet Emily Helms, the great-grandfather of James Earl Carter, Jr., the 39th President of the United States, making Berry Gordy III and Jimmy Carter second half-cousins. It is also through James Thomas Gordy (and James' great-grandfather Andreas Presley) that Berry Gordy and Jimmy Carter were sixth cousins to Elvis Presley.
Berry Gordy II was lured to Detroit by the many job opportunities for blacks that booming automotive businesses like Ford offered.
Berry Gordy, Jr's older siblings were all prominent black citizens of Detroit. Berry, however, dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade to become a professional boxer in hopes of becoming rich quick, a career he followed until 1950 when he was drafted by the United States Army for the Korean war.
After his return from Korea in 1953, he married Thelma Coleman. He developed his interest in music by writing songs and opening the 3-D Record Mart, a record store featuring jazz music. The store was unsuccessful and Gordy sought work at the Lincoln-Mercury plant, but his family connections put him in touch with Al Green (not the singer), owner of the Flame Show Bar talent club, where he met singer Jackie Wilson.
In 1957, Wilson recorded Reet Petite, a song Gordy had co-written with his sister Gwen and writer-producer Billy Davis. It became a modest hit but had more success internationally, especially in the UK where it reached the Top 10 and even later topped the chart on re-issue in 1986. Wilson recorded four more songs co-written by Gordy over the next two years, including "Lonely Teardrops", which topped the R & B charts and got to number 7 in the pop chart.
 Motown Record Corporation
Gordy reinvested his songwriting success into producing. In 1957 he discovered The Miracles (originally known as The Matadors) and began building a portfolio of successful artists. In January 1959, Gordy, using an $800 loan from his family, founded an R&B label called Tamla Records, which produced Marv Johnson's first hit, "Come To Me." This was picked up for national distribution by United Artists Records who also released the artist's more successful follow-up records such as "You Got What It Takes", co-produced and co-written by Gordy. At Miracles leader Smokey Robinson's encouragement, Gordy created Motown on December 14, 1959. Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)," besides appearing on Tamla, charted on Gordy's Anna label from February 1960. The Miracles' hit "Shop Around" peaked nationally at #1 on the R&B charts in late 1960 and at #2 on the pop charts on, January 16, 1961 and established Motown as an independent company worthy of notice. The following year, The Marvelettes "Please Mr Postman" made it to the top of both charts.
Gordy did not cultivate Caucasian artists, although some white artists were signed, such as Nick and the Jaguars, Chris Clark, Rare Earth, The Valadiers, Debbie Dean and Connie Haines. He also employed several white workers and managers at the company's headquarters named Hitsville USA on Detroit's West Grand Boulevard. He largely promoted African-American artists but carefully controlled their public image, dress, manners and choreography for across-the-board appeal.
His gift for identifying and bringing together musical talent, along with the careful management of his artists' public image, made Motown initially a major national and then international success. Over the next decade, he signed such artists as Mary Wells, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Gladys Knight and The Pips, The Commodores, The Velvelettes, Martha & the Vandellas, Stevie Wonder and The Jackson 5.
In 1968, Gordy moved to Los Angeles, California, and expanded Motown's offices there, following the riots in Detroit. In June 1972, he relocated the entire Motown Records company to LA, closing the Hitsville studios which had produced a long string of worldwide hits. The following year, he reorganized the company into Motown Industries, an entertainment conglomerate that would include record, movie, television and publishing divisions.
In the '70s, Gordy produced the successful film Lady Sings the Blues starring Diana Ross. The film also starred
Answered By: Russell - 2/22/2009