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YouTube Gold: The Early Days Of Motown

Little Stevie Wonder
Young American singer Little Stevie Wonder, later simply Stevie Wonder, circa 1965.
Photo by Paul Slade/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Before Motown became a major cultural force it was just another regional label trying to scratch out a spot in the market place.

This video is really kind of fascinating because first Motown wasn’t even Motown yet: it was still called Motortown.

And this is an old-style 50’s revue, with a sometimes comic MC and the acts shuffling on and off stage.

The performers also aspired to elegance, something that would not be as common in music in the next several years.

What’s funny is, aside from the original name, is how some of the acts that would soon be major weren’t treated that way. The Supremes and Marvin Gaye were just sort of brought out early, more or less warm up acts if you will.

But even at 12, Stevie Wonder got the star treatment - he was called a genius and rightly so. He is riveting here.

And they kept their biggest act for last - Smoky Robinson and the Miracles.

Within just a couple of years, Motown would be a global sensation so it’s nice to see a glimpse into the very early days.