Motown Records is indeed the story of a small company that became a dominant force in the music
industry, eventually encompassing some two dozen different labels and thousands of record, tape, and
compact disc issues. We have tried here to construct album discographies for almost all these labels,
from the time the first albums were issued in 1961 to the time compact discs virtually forced vinyl out of
existence. The Motown Story is so immense that we've had to construct this page just as a road map.
We have benefitted much from prior research on the subject. These discographies were compiled using our record collections, Motown catalogs from 1970, 1971 and 1972, Heat Wave, The Motown Fact Book by David Bianco (1988), Off The Record: Motown By Master Number 1959-1989, Volume 1: Singles by Reginald J. Bartlette (1991) and The Motown Story by Don Waller (1985). Some material on Motown promotional releases and the MC label was obtained in personal correspondence with Reginald Bartlette of Winnipeg Canada, who is perhaps the world's foremost authority on the Motown label.
In general, the releases covered in the discographies of the various labels are only the releases on those labels that were issued while that label was being distributed by Motown. Also included are three labels purchased by Motown: Golden World, Wingate, and Ric-Tic, with all known album releases on these labels prior to being purchased by Motown also included. We have also included related records from Berry Gordy's early days prior to the formation of Motown. Finally, there is a listing of the known Motown album releases where multiple covers were issued. The discographies that follow cover the period from Motown's founding in 1959 until it's sale to MCA/Boston Ventures in June of 1988.
Most of the Motown material, except for some of the earliest recordings, were done using at least two- track recorders. In the early days, these multi-tracks would be used to mix down a mono master for single release, which was the focus of the label. It has been said that at Motown, stereo album releases were an afterthought, and often the stereo mix was relegated to some nameless engineer who would do them after everyone went home. Whether that was always true in fact, as opposed to philosophy, remains unclear. What shows up in the history of the releases, however, is that most of the early albums on Motown and Tamla were released initially in monaural only. The stereo versions of these albums were often released months and even years later, giving some credence to the idea that they weren't mixed at the time the singles were mixed. In addition, a surprising number of the later stereo versions turn out to be alternate takes ("Please Mr. Postman," "Do You Love Me," "Jimmy Mack," "Fingertips," etc.), and even when the right take is used, the mixes can be significantly different. This problem was corrected for the most part by 1966 or so.
We would appreciate any additions or corrections to this discography. Just send them to us via e-mail. Both Sides Now Publications is an information web page. We are not a catalog, nor can we provide the records listed below. We have no association with Motown Records. Should you be interested in acquiring albums listed in this discography (which are all out of print), we suggest you see our Frequently Asked Questions page and follow the instructions found there. This story and discography are copyright 1998, 2012 by Mike Callahan.