When I joined the Motown Engineering Department
as a technician in fall of 1963, I had thought a
job was something that you worked at steadily
for 8 hours with a lunch hour sandwiched in. It
wasn't long before I realized that part of my
job description was to engage in social chatter
and the discussing of life philosophy with the
boss and crew of the department. This activity
accounted for at least one-quarter of the work
The "stars" of Motown were very ordinary people
and many had jobs in the day-to-day running of
the company. When the Contours went out for a
series of shows, it seemed as though we lost our
Every week or two, 13 year old Stevie Wonder
would wander in to the department and visit for
about a half-hour. He would always be greeted by
the boss or the shop foreman saying, "Are you
getting any yet Stevie?" At the tender age of 17
I didn't know what they meant by this but I did
know it was the signal to take a "socializing
break" and join in the chatter. Stevie's purpose
apparently was to keep informed about what was
happening in the department, using his gift of
chatter rather than his absent gift of eyesight.
I do know that we managed to "jive-around" and
have no significant dialog during the visits.
Stevie was a comical and steady victim of
Motown's expansion. "Pop's" Gordy and his
assistant constantly changed the floor-plan of 3
houses on West Grand Blvd. Attempting to
continually add more work areas to the same
square-footage. This building-maintenance crew
changed the location of walls and doors at least
twice a month. Stevie's favorite trick was to
give the slip to his assigned guide ("handler")
and go off on his own to discover the changes.
You would regularly see him walk into walls
where doors had been a month ago. After finally
finding his way in to an area, he would ask "So
what's in here now?"
Today, Stevie remains very much like that
13-year-old kid. Several times I have run into
him on the display floor of the Audio
Engineering Society checking things out, alone.
When greeted, he seems genuinely happy to "see
you" and chat for a few.