Marvelous Marv: Motown’s First Recording Artist

Oct 15, 2014 | 2162 Views | 2 Comments

When I was 6 years old, the lady who lived in the apartment above ours gave me a stack of old 45s she no longer wanted. One of my favorites from the bunch was, and still is, Marv Johnson’s “Merry Go Round.” Ever heard of him? Well, you should have, because he was the first artist to release a record on the label that would come to be known as Motown.

Marv Johnson "Merry Go Round"In the late 1950s, up-and-coming music mogul Berry Gordy was on the verge of forming his new Tamla record label when he discovered Marv performing at a carnival. Impressed with the young man’s talents as a singer, songwriter and pianist, he signed Johnson, whose May 1959 hit “Come to Me” became Tamla Records’ first single.

Tamla was incorporated as “Motown Record Corporation” on April 14, 1960.

Between 1959 and 1961, Marv issued nine Billboard Hot 100 singles including two Top 10s. He and Gordy co-wrote four hit songs. The talented singer died of a stroke on May 16, 1993.

Thanks, Ruth M., wherever you are. You turned me on to some great music with those records of yours! Now, here’s “Merry Go Round.”

© Dana Spiardi, Oct 15, 2014

Tagged: Marv Johnson, Motown, R&B


  1. M.M. says:

    October 19th, 2015 at 12:38 pm (#)

    When you were six I was, um, older and I remember listening to Marvin Johnson songs on, most likely, WINS, WMGM or WABC, New York’s premier pop music stations. I fondly remember stuffing my tinny Japanese transistor radio (which, btw, Steve Jobs did not invent) under the pillow so I could pull almost-all-nighters and make a positive out of my early childhood insomnia. Anyway, I can’t remember his big hit(s?)’s and it’s driving driving me crazy. Could it have been “Baby, You’ve Got What It Takes?” Clearly, you’re a better Internet researcher than I. What were his two Top Ten singles? I’m holding my breath.,

  2. Dana Spiardi says:

    October 20th, 2015 at 1:10 am (#)

    M.M – I, too stuffed my transistor radio – the Westinghouse H-901P7GP – under my pillow, but we didn’t have the great assortment of stations you enjoyed in NYC. As for Marv, I never actually bought any of his records. But it looks like the highest charting songs were “You Got What It Takes” (#10) and “I Love The Way You Love” (#9). When my neighbor Ruth gave me those singles she no longer wanted, I didn’t even know which side was supposed to be A or B. I just played both, and chose my favorite, which USUALLY ended up being the flip side. But in the case of this Marv single, the A side caught my fancy. It sounded like a carnival.

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