GOLDEN WORLD – THE OTHER DETROIT MUSIC EMPIRE

Berry Gordy wasn’t the only enterprising Black man in Detroit in the 50’s and 60’s.  Another success story that is overshadowed by the folk lore romance with Motown is that of one Ed WingateWingate was a successful businessman who owned a motel, several cafes, a taxi cab service, the extremely famous Twenty Grand Supper Club and Golden World Records.  While Golden World Records was Motown Records’ chief rival, it was Berry Gordy who came to Ed Wingate and asked him to become his business partner at MotownMotown had its first hit record with Smokey Robinson & the Miracles’, “Shop Around,” but Berry still needed more cash to keep up with his manufacturing costs and other business expenses.  Ed Wingate turned Berry Gordy’s partnership offer down.  Why?  Because Wingate intended to have the same success with Golden World Records he had achieved in his other businesses, especially the Twenty Grand, Detroit’s hottest night spot.  The Twenty Grand is where all the Motown acts and musicians hung out and sat in, performing more music during their down time.  After all, the Twenty Grand was a stone’s throw away from Motown’s studios on West Grand Boulevard.  Ed Wingate and his business partner, Joanne (Jackson) Bratton, created “the other Detroit music empire” and co-reigned with Motown for four short years, from 1962 to 1966.  Golden World and its subsidiary labels, Ric-Tic and Wingate Records, flaunted such dynamic acts as J.J. Barnes (Ortheia Barnes’ brother), The Fantastic Four, Pat Lewis, Edwin Starr, The Holidays, Steve Mancha (recorded “I’ll Love You Forever” with Edwin Starr and J.J. Barnes but was never featured as a Golden World artist), The Debonaires, The Parliaments (with an “s” at the time), The Reflections, Theresa Lindsey, The Sam Remo Golden Strings, The Detroit Emeralds, Gino Washington, Flaming Embers (on Motown changed name to Flaming Ember and had the hit, “Westbound #9”), Laura Lee, Carl Carlton and Freddie Gorman (later became Baritone/Bass singer for The Originals).  See a more thorough roster of performers just below the VIDEOS in this article.  In ’66 Motown owner, Berry Gordy, bought out Golden World Records; I guess Berry made Ed and Joanne an offer they couldn’t refuse.  Motown continued the Ric Tic label for a couple of years and utilized Golden World’s recording facility on West Davison as their “Studio B” to the famed Hitsville Studio on West Grand Blvd.  The end of an era of excitement came to pass and shortly thereafter, in 1972, Motown moved its operations to Los Angeles, California and Detroit has been trying to reignite its music industry ever since.  Would Motown have been as big if they wouldn’t have had Golden World chasing them?  Did Ed Wingate’s success as a business mogul motivate Berry Gordy to be the best in his own town, let alone the world?  After selling his Golden World assets to Motown in 1966, Ed Wingate never returned to the music business.  He spent his last years living in Las Vegas and passed away in 2006 at the age of 86.

One thing of note that you will find by reading my comments about each VIDEO we play below, there were some extremely talented singers, songwriters, producers, musicians and arrangers who all traveled in a small circle, working together from project to project.  It seemed like, and I know it was, an explosive musical Renaissance period in Detroit.  You see the beginnings of greatness for countless artists who had an OULET for their Artistic Expression.  To have been an intricate part of that period of explosive creativity had to make some of these artists who still create today, like George Clinton, the geniuses that they are.  Those who have survived are up in age now but remember, they were youngsters during this period of Golden World Records and some of them, I’d guess many of them, trained and untrained, were musical geniuses even then.

Growing up in Detroit, I always heard rumors that Berry Gordy bought out Golden World Records to get rid of the competition that the Fantastic Four presented to the Temptations, J.J. Barnes presented to Marvin Gaye and so on.  I clearly don’t know if it’s true but my memory is of Sweet James Epps and the Fantastic Four cranking out JAM after JAM and then they vanished for several years; not a note from them until “Alvin Stone” in 1975.  That fueled the fire for the rumor that Berry Gordy felt Motown wasn’t big enough for two incredible male singing groups; I happen to have disagreed.  My love for the Fantastic Four had no bearing on my love and devotion to the Temptations.  There was (and still is) enough room in my heart for as many great singers as my ears can hear.  How ‘bout it?  But why did Ed Wingate and Joanne Bratton sell Golden World Records to Berry Gordy in ’66 at a time when they appeared to be coming on strong?  Many Golden World songs sounded an awful lot like Motown songs.  Is there any truth to the rumor that the Funk Brothers (Motown’s studio musicians) also moonlighted at Golden World?  I certainly read that Motown Funk Brother musicians like Bassist, James Jamerson, were fixtures at Golden World.  We’ve all heard rumors about how scarcely money trickled down to the Motown singers and musicians who were the artists; they were gaining fame way faster than they were gaining wealth

Well, I could speculate all day long and speak about the stories I heard over the years but I’ve got a much better proposition.  I recently spoke with Diane Mathis, lead singer of the Golden World girl group, the Debonaires.  She shared myth busters and stories with us that says volumes more that my speculating; she was young at the time but she was there, smack dab in the middle of a music explosion.  Wow!  What a blessing for her to be a vital part of a true “happening.”  Her own words about this time and this place are below on VIDEO.  She had a lot to say, lots of memories relived.  Check out her unfiltered video below… along with some (mostly) AUDIO VIDEOS of a sampling of JAMS that came out of Golden World and Ric Tic RecordsDETROIT’S OTHER POWERHOUSE RECORD COMPANY.  By the way, the Diane Mathis interview is lengthy because I wanted you to get the whole feel for the Detroit History that’s inside her.  There are many, many legendary people walking around like her in all of our communities… for the most part, neglected.  If you only knew what that unassuming gentleman standing next to you in the grocery store line accomplished in his day… the history made by that lady who lives next door… the one you always hear singing while weeding her flower garden.  So I didn’t want to limit or whittle down the wonderful stories Diane so graciously shared with us.  Every now and then, you may hear me (Reuben Yabuku) off mic asking Diane a question.  I was not supposed to be seen nor heard but I got so carried away in the discussion, I forgot we were interviewing.  So, every here and there, my voice is heard, off mic, posing the question.  We left my question in the video only if it helped you understand Diane’s response.  Dig it. 

GOLDEN WORLD RECORDS SD from Tony Mottley on Vimeo

The original members of the Debonaires, Pershing High School students, were Elsie Baker, Dorothy Garland and Joyce Vincent (who went on to be one half of Tony Orlando’s “Dawn” with other Detroiter, Telma Hopkins).  Diane Mathis was recruited into the Debonaires to be the lead singer of the then-trio.  She says in her interview below that she recalls recording, “How’s Your New Love Treating You,” in one take.  The song got a lot of attention but very little promotion; probably because negotiations were already underway to sell Golden World.  “C.O.D.” was the Debonaires’ final release for Golden World in ’66 since the company was sold, lock stock and barrel, to Motown later that year.  These young girls could sing with the best of ‘em and simply deserved to be bigger than Bubble Gum but fate would deal them another set of cards.  Check out what I mean.


posted by TheSoulhawk

“Sweet” James Epps (lead vocals), Ralph & Joseph Pruitt and Wallace Childs were Golden World’s best selling artists.  They had a string of successes like “I Love You Madly,” “Can’t Stop Looking For My Baby,” “You Gave Me Something,” “I’ve Got To Have You,” “Goddess Of Love,” “Man In Love,” “To Share Your Love” and this ’67 classic, “The Whole World Is A Stage.”  It hurt me deep as a music fan when they stopped recording for those few vital years.  Sadly, James Epps, the powerful lead voice of the Fantastic Four, passed away in 2000, silencing the group as we knew it, forever.


posted by 24exile

Edwin Starr first released, “Agent Double-O Soul” and “SOS,” as a solo artist for Ric Tic Records at Golden World before they were re-released at Motown after Ed Wingate sold his company to Berry Gordy.  Here we have Edwin Starr on lead vocals for the group, The Holidays.  This classic song was written by Don Davis, founder of Groovesville Productions, United Sound Recording Studio and later First Independence Bank; the Black-owned bank in Detroit.  Check out Edwin Starr and The Holidays singing, “I’ll Love You Forever.”


posted by quieterrps

Pat Lewis is most famous for being an historic background singer, singing behind the likes of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic, Aretha Franklin and Isaac Hayes as a member of his backup group, Hot Buttered SoulPat started and sang with Golden World’s backing group (and artists), The Adorables, Motown’s backing vocalists, The Andantes and various singers upon request.  I was giddy as a school child when I met her in the 70’s at WJLB Radio in Detroit.  I was a Disc Jockey at the time but also an unofficial student of music so I was very aware of who she was when I met her.  I’m sure she doesn’t remember our “in-passing” encounter but I never forgot it.  I don’t remember the “Why’s” and “Hows” but I remember meeting the great Pat Lewis.  Dig on her singing a song that has a four-noted musical turnaround reminiscent to the musical turnaround in Barbara Acklin’s, “Love Makes A Woman.”  This is, “Let’s Go Together.”


posted by cloud9dj

Before they went to Atco, Westbound and Warner Records… before they put rings on their toes and wore diapers and became the P-Funk mob, Parliament wore suits with processed hair and called themselves the Parliaments with an “s” at the end of their name.  George Clinton was a writer, producer and recording artist who had many affiliations in the Detroit music scene and for a fleeting moment, he and his Parliaments Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins, Ray “Stingray” Davis, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas, recorded for Golden World Records.  Here’s one of Parliaments’ Golden World songs, “Don’t Be Sore At Me.”


posted by raselptahhotep

In ’67, J.J. Barnes put out a song called, “Please Come Back Home,” and I know it was mistaken a lot for being Marvin Gaye’s newest release.  Written by J.J. and Don Davis (United Sound Recording Studios owner), it had all the elements of a Marvin Gaye masterpiece because Detroit was full of talented songwriters, producers and musicians who all worked together from time to time, depending on the “paying gig” opportunity.  The J.J. Barnes song that struck a lasting chord in my musical heart is this Ric Tic JAM, “Please Let Me In.”  This great voice and familiar Marvin-like song fans the rumors that he was shelved when Motown bought Golden World Records to eliminate the competition for Marvin.  What did you hear back then?


posted by bricomaligno

Freddie Gorman had his songwriting hand in some really big early classics.  As a mostly uncredited co-writer on the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman,” (covered by the Beatles) Freddie also co-wrote a hit for Golden World’s “Blue-Eyed Soul” group, The Reflections“Just Like Romeo and Juliet” was co-written by Bob Hamilton who later sang with the R&B group, Choice 4 (“You’re So Right For Me” and the Van McCoy song, “When You’re Young and In Love”).  Freddie put out some singles as a solo singer for Ric Tic like, “In a Bad Way,” “There Can Be Too Much,” “The Day Will Come” and “Can’t Get It Out Of My Mind” before going on to sing with the group Marvin Gaye discovered, The OriginalsFreddie lived directly across the street from my church during the “Baby I’m For Real” days with The Originals; he always took the time to talk and be cordial to us kids in the neighborhood.  Well, just like “Please Mr. Postman,” Freddie struck Gold again with the Reflections.  Check them out on TV lip synching, “Just Like Romeo and Juliet.”


posted by oldiesbutgoodies4you

Not exclusively but Abe Tilmon was the principal songwriter (the Westbound Records hits) for the Detroit EmeraldsAbe’s brother Ivory and their friend, James Mitchell (brother to Paul Mitchell of the Floaters) made up the trio who were coming into their recording career at Ric Tic Records as the label, purchased by Berry Gordy, was being dissolved.  That bad timing didn’t hurt them much in retrospect because they moved on to Armen Boladian’s Westbound Records and had a string of hits like “Feel The Need In Me,” “You Want It You Got It, “Baby Let Me Take You In My Arms,” “Wear This Ring” and  “Do Me Right.”  Even though it wasn’t their biggest chart buster (22 on the R&B charts), our featured Detroit Emeralds song is their most memorable, although you wouldn’t know it since Detroit radio is devoid of any Detroit Emeralds song.  None the less, I know you’ll enjoy reminiscing to their breakthrough hit on Ric Tic Records, “Showtime.”  Unfortunately, Abe Tilmon died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 37.


posted by lytation

Al Kent was a part of a songwriting team that went from Motown to Golden World and, with the selling of Golden World to Motown, back to Motown again. Al (born and sometimes credited as Albert Hamilton), Hermon Weems, Bob Hamilton (Al’s brother) and Ronnie Savoy (Al’s other brother; real name Eugene Ronald Hamilton) can be found credited on many of the 60’s songs from Motown and Golden WorldHermon Weems was also a Fine Artist who created memorable album covers like Psychedelic Shack and Cloud 9 for the TemptationsAl Kent was a noted Band Leader and Arranger which, I’m sure, led to him releasing an instrumental track like this one which was widely played on Detroit radio and was a sho’ nuff JAM.  This is Al Kent’s, “You’ve Got To Pay The Price.”


posted by 1KFOXY

FULL ROSTER OF PERFORMERS AT GOLDEN WORLD, RIC TIC & WINGATE RECORDS:

J.J. Barnes (“Please Let Me In”), The Fantastic Four, The Adorables, Pat Lewis, Edwin Starr, The Holidays, Steve Mancha (recorded I’ll Love You Forever with Edwin Starr and J.J. Barnes but never featured as a Golden World artist), The Debonaires, The Parliaments, The Reflections, Theresa Lindsey, The Sam Remo Golden Strings, The Detroit Emeralds, Gino Washington, Tamiko Jones, Flaming Embers (on Motown changed name to Flaming Ember and had the hit, “Westbound #9”), Laura Lee, Carl Carlton, Freddie Gorman (later became Baritone/Bass singer for The Originals), Ronnie Savoy (check out “Memories Linger” on YouTube… Ronnie could really sang!), Larry Knight & the Upsetters, Willie G, Rose Batiste, Andre Williams, Little Ann, Sue Perrin, Rocky Heart, Joyce Webb, Leroy Small, Willie Kendrick, Patti Gilson, Elliott Baron, The Manhattans (not the “Kiss and Say Goodbye” group), Juanita Williams, Barbara Mercer, The Sunliners, Gino Parks, Tony Michaels and Dickie & the Ebb-Tides.  What a dynamic lineup of top performers.  Did I leave anybody out?  I’m sure I did.  Did you record at Golden World or on Ric Tic or even the Wingate label?  Make a COMMENT and tell us all about your personal experience on the Detroit music scene.  Do you know someone who recorded at Golden World but are missing from this list?  If their songs were never released, give us details if you know them.  As you can see, all the best singers were not exclusively signed to Motown Records.  Many never saw the light of day once Motown bought Golden World.  Sadly, these names that you do not recognize are countless examples of potential Super Stars whose flames were dampened as they were just starting to catch afire.

NEXT MONTH:    We’ll share another interview with a walking Music Historian, FRANCISCO GARCIA.

Peace.