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  • City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co.

    It’s a really, very cool idea. Paxahau, the good people behind the Movement Electronic Music Festival, are hosting a series of warm-up events, or previews, to the big festival which takes place Memorial Day weekend. On Thursday evening, Movement moved into the Urban Coffee Bean on Grand River in Detroit. While Dj AvA and Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp ably worked the decks, the regular coffee shop goings on continued behind them. It made for an interesting and amusing webcast experience – one guy was taking a nap on camera, while others supped coffee and tappd their feet. It should come as no surprise – the Urban Coffee Co. people have always been big supporters of electronic music. The place includes a DJ stand, and co-owner Josh Greenwood encourages customers to bring their own vinyl and spin on the open turntables. Not on Thursday night though. This being a coffee shop, and it not being particularly late at night, the music remained pretty chill throughout. DJ AvA (real name Heather McGuigan) includes Beth Orton, Madonna, the B-52’s, Daftpunk and David Byrne among her list of influences, so you know that she’s capable of both whipping up a storm and also […]

    The post City Slang: DJ AvA, Chuck Flask & Keith Kemp preview Movement at Urban Bean Co. appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County

    CNN has a message to all prospective landlords: Head to Wayne County! Occupancy and rental rates are increasing, the report says, creating an opportunity for serious returns on investments. In fact, after comparing the median sales price of homes to average monthly rents in nearly 1,600 counties, RealtyTrac found that Detroit’s Wayne County offers landlords the best return on their investment in the nation. Investors who buy homes in the metro area can expect a 30% gross annual return from rents. That’s triple the national average of 10%. RealtyTrac, an online real estate information company, says the county offers investors low prices for larger homes — with a median price of $45,000. “We’ve got some steals here,” said Rachel Saltmarshall, a real estate agent and immediate past president of the Detroit Association of Realtors, told CNN. “There’s a six-bedroom, 6,000 square-foot home in a historic district selling for $65,000.” For more, read the entire report here.

    The post Here is why landlords could do well in Wayne County appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit

    This Saturday, audiophiles across the world will venture out to their favorite independent record stores in search of limited releases that quickly become collectors items. The third Saturday of April marks the fairly new international holiday Record Store Day. There are certainly dos and don’ts to know for RSD — like where to shop, and how to shop. That’s right, there is an etiquette to shopping on Record Store Day and violating that code makes you look like a real asshole. In my experience of celebrating Record Store Day, I’ve seen stores use a few different tactics as far as stocking the special releases. Some establishments will set up a table, somewhere in the store, where a few shoppers at a time can flip through records in a calm and contained manner. Other places will have a similar setup, with all the releases at a table, but shoppers ask the store employees for the releases they want. It’s like a record nerd stock exchange. This process gets loud, slightly confusing and incredibly annoying — this is where elbows start getting thrown. Then, there are places that put the releases on the shelves, usually categorized by size — twelve inches with the twelve inches, seven inches with the seven inches and […]

    The post The Record Store Day Guide for metro Detroit appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled

    The Detroit Electronic Music Festival, which was supposed to be making a triumphant return this year, has been canceled. A statement on the website says that the festival will be back in 2015. Back in November, Ford Field hosted an announcement party for DEMF, where it was revealed that a new DEMF festival would take place at Campus Martius Park in Detroit over the July 4th weekend. “I’m proud to be involved in the biggest and best electronic music festival in the world,” said Juan Atkins. “The future’s here. This is techno scene.” Not the immediate future, apparently. The DEMF people claim that the M-1 rail construction is partially to blame for the cancellation/12-month-postponement. Read the full statement here. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: DEMF 2014 canceled appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards

    Despite a turbulent 2013 which saw Metro Times change owners, move buildings and change editors twice, we picked up eight awards at the Society of Professional Journalists Awards on Wednesday night. The big winner was Robert Nixon, design manager, who picked up a first place for “Feature Page Design (Class A)” for our Josh Malerman cover story, first for “Cover Design (Class A)” for our Halloween issue (alongside illustrator John Dunivant), and a second in that same category for our annual Lust issue. In the news categories, our esteemed former news editor and current contributing writer Curt Guyette won third in “General News Reporting” and third in “Best Consumer/Watchdog” – both Class A – for the Fairground Zero and Petcoke Series respectively. Music & Culture Editor Brett Callwood placed third for his Josh Malerman cover story in the “Best Personality Profile (Class A)” category, and former editor Bryan Gottlieb picked up a couple of Class C awards for “Editorial Writing” and “Headline Writing” (third and second, respectively). We were also pleased to learn that our investigative reporter Ryan Felton won first place and an honorable mention for work published while at the Oakland Press. The MT ship is steady now, […]

    The post Metro Times wins heavy at the SPJ Awards appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval

    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.



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Cover Story

Motown revival

Remembering the Marvelettes and the hit factory's beginnings

Photo: Justin Rose, License: N/A

Justin Rose

Photo: Doug Coombe, License: N/A

Doug Coombe

The Marvelettes: Looking for that postman, again?

Now That I Can Dance — Motown 1962 is performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 18-19, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, May 20, at the Detroit Film Theatre, inside the DIA, at 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit (entrance is on John R); $20 general admission, $12 for students and seniors; purchase at or at the DIA box office, 313-833-4005; info at 313-872-6910.


You may think you know the Motown story: the story of mogul Berry Gordy and his belief that he could take an act with a modicum of talent and turn them into stars. 

In the Gordy assembly line at 2648 W. Grand Blvd., the process started with raw, often unknown talent. Then came songwriters, who often doubled as producers, the likes of Norman Whitfield, Smokey Robinson and the Holland-Dozier-Holland team. The ultra-prolific Funk Brothers added the music. Off the line would roll the polished product, such acts as Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder and the Temptations, with songs like "My Guy," "Hitchhike," "Baby Love," "Uptight" and "My Girl." 

In the early '60s, Detroit's most popular exports didn't run on gasoline; they ran on soul. 

You probably know the first hit single (Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" and the first No. 1 Billboard R&B hit ("Shop Around" credited then to "The Miracles featuring Bill 'Smokey' Robinson") and the first No. 1 Billboard pop hit ("Please, Mr. Postman").

But do you know the story of Katherine "Kat" Anderson? 

What's that? 

Kat Anderwho? 

She's the 16-year-old girl who, with a few of her girlfriends, came in fourth place at their high school talent show yet still won a contract with Motown Records and made their world debut with the aforementioned "Mr. Postman."

Before they were placed on the conveyor belt, the group went by the Casinyets — and "Postman" had a bluesier feel. Georgia Dobbins, the leader of the group, wrote it but, in a heartbreaking twist of fate, was denied permission by her parents to sign a recording contract with Motown. 

Kat Anderson and her friends — Gladys Horton, Georgeanna Tillman and Juanita Colwart — promptly recruited recent graduate Wanda Young. (The song was reworked into the love-longing pop tune we know today. Upon Dobbins' suggestion, Horton moved to the feature vocal role. When they cut the tune, a young Marvin Gaye sat behind the drum kit.)

On Dec.11, 1961 "Mr. Postman" soared to the top spot on the Billboard chart. 

The Marvelettes recorded 22 more Billboard Hot 100 singles, and Kat Anderson sang on all of them, including "Too Many Fish in the Sea," "I'll Keep Holding On" and "Don't Mess With Bill." 

By 1970, she was a 25-year-old showbiz veteran, married to the Temptations' road manager Joe Schaffner and the only original member of the Marvelettes. She decided it was time to disband the group, before Motown's move to Los Angeles.

A Motown icon head-to-toe, yet you most likely don't know Mrs. Anderson-Schaffner's story. After that she dropped from public view, finally obtaining her high school dipoma at 55 years old. But she's back, for a limited time only, as the center figure in a stage musical. And if you don't know her, rest assured that a group of Detroit's young people has been learning the Motown story for you firsthand.

It was a recent Sunday at Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit's rehearsal space, less than a mile east from the old Hitsville, now rechristened the Motown Museum. Two Vandellas (Rosalind Ashford-Holmes and Annette Beard-Helton), a Contour (Joe Billingslea) and one very important Marvelette (Anderson-Schaffner) sat before the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit who rehearsed a production that sets out to tell their story in Now That I Can Dance — Motown 1962. 

Founder Rick Sperling turned his company into an award-winning cultural institution that's performed at the Kennedy Center and has had the honor of being invited to White House. (Trivia-time digression: Sperling's brother Gene is President Obama's chief economic adviser.) This summer marks Mosaic's 20th year of making world-class musical theater. 

The kids, 11 to 18, were as well-behaved as they were giddy. The opportunity to warm up their voices in the presence of Motown hit-makers, and the news that there'd be a few minutes of full vocal rehearsal, sent them over the top in shouts, claps and gasps. Sperling asked for an intense and professional warm-up and got just the rousing recital he was looking for. 

While the entire Mosaic ensemble practiced singing backup on "Too Many Fish in the Sea," the Motown originals sat at a table looking on and catching up.

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