MARY WELLS THE FIRST LADY OF MOTOWNON THIS DAY: In 1959, Berry Gordy started his first record label, Tamla Records, running it out of a house he purchased at 2648 West Grand Blvd. in Detroit, Michigan—a location better known as Hitsville, USA. Over the next three years, Tamla made its headquarters live up to its name, turning out a string of hit records that included “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong (1959), “Shop Around,” by The Miracles (1960) and “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes (1961)–which is why a young aspiring songwriter named Mary Wells was so excited to be offered a recording contract by Berry Gordy in 1962.
The catch was that Gordy wanted to make a record with Wells and issue it on a brand new label that had no identity or reputation in the marketplace: Motown Records. Not really in a position to argue, she signed on as the fledgling label’s very first artist, and two years later, Mary Wells gave Motown its first #1 hit when “My Guy” reached the top of the Billboard pop chart on this day in 1964.
Shortly after signing Mary Wells, Berry Gordy transformed her from a songwriter to a performer of other writers’ material. In this capacity, she was one of the first singers in the Motown stable to record a song by the now-legendary Holland/Dozier/Holland songwriting team.