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Early Tamla, Motown & Gordy 'DR' handwriting on label


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Does anybody knows what's that 'DR' (direct release ?) handwriting that frequently appears on some 1961 up to 1963 smaller acts on Tamla, Motown and Gordy 45's releases from the Terre Haute pressing plant ? RobbK and other's help is welcome to shed some light on this long unsolved to me yet mystery... 😉

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Quote from a comment left on the motownjunkies website. https://motownjunkies.co.uk/2009/10/10/43/

“Don’t Return” They would give leftover stock of older Motown records away at Motortown Revue shows, and would mark them so that they couldn’t be returned to distributors/Motown. 

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“Don’t Return”

They would give leftover stock of older Motown records away at Motortown Revue shows, and would mark them so that they couldn’t be returned to distributors/Motown. 

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12 minutes ago, Nick Soule said:

“Don’t Return”

They would give leftover stock of older Motown records away at Motortown Revue shows, and would mark them so that they couldn’t be returned to distributors/Motown. 

Fantastic ! Cheers for that. Any luck on your quest for a stocker of LaBrenda Ben on Motown ? BTW my Gordy WDJ copy has the same matrix as your Discogs entry edit.

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13 minutes ago, Tlscapital said:

Fantastic ! Cheers for that. Any luck on your quest for a stocker of LaBrenda Ben on Motown ? BTW my Gordy WDJ copy has the same matrix as your Discogs entry edit.

No luck yet. Hopefully someday!

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I thought they were David Ruffin's personal copies. Or maybe Diane Ross.

Edited by Rob Moss
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1 hour ago, Rob Moss said:

I thought they were David Ruffin's personal copies.

This was what I had heard as well. 

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On to the music. I can explain to you how, and why, the “DR” got on SO many Motown (family) labels but first I have to take you back to the beginning. First of all “Motown” began as “Tamla”. Tamla was incorporated mid January ’59. The Motown label was incorporated two weeks later. Other labels would soon follow. The plan was (apparently) in the beginning, to make quality records that would catch the attention of the buying public of the time period. Then, after an initial local pressing to show the company/record had potential, LEASE that record to a larger label for a profit. BAD GIRL (Motown) was the first and was leased to Chess. Come To Me (Tamla) was second, leased to United Artists. Merry Go ‘Round (Tamla) was next, leased again to United Artists. After, with the money obtained from leasing, Gordy began to keep certain groups OUT of the leasing loop. The Satintones for instance, and of course, The Miracles. Beginning with the earliest days “Motown” had it’s own salesmen, at least at the “local or regional” level. They would deliver 45’s to the nearby regional record stores and retrieve unsold copies of other releases. This trend continued for several years. By early ’62 the Motown (family of) label(s) were doing quite well financially and Gordy came up with the idea of sending his artists out on tour. NOT independently but as a combined “caravan of stars” kind of set up. So a bus was purchased and that bus was sent out, accompanied by as many as 5 large cars, on tours. Originally sticking close to the “home” region the tours became quite popular. They expanded to include the east coast (New York City, etc) as eventually ventured as far south as mid-Alabama. It was during these tours that Gordys’ (and his accountant’s) other idea came into play. By ’62 they had several thousand records on hand that had been retrieved from record stores which had gone unsold. So they (Motown) sent these records out on tour with the Motortown Revue. At every show (sometimes 4 a day) they set up a table somewhere in the venue and gave away free records to the crowd. These records were “new” unsold stock. Sometimes a few months old, sometimes a year or more. The Motown employee assigned to distribute the records would mark each one, usually on the “A” side with the letters “DR” for “don’t refund/don’t return”. By being marked in such a way the recipient could not then take the record to the local record store for either a refund or exchange.
Giveaways of these records were profitable for Motown for two reasons. First, it helped spur interest in Motown artists and that would help sales. Secondly, and maybe the most profitable reason was that, these aged, unsold stock copies could now legitimately be claimed as promotional items by the company and be written off on their corporate taxes at full retail value. Sadly the “giveaways” ended when the tours ended. Which was once many “Motown” artists became so famous the tours were no longer necessary. A single TV appearance could sell many more records than the “tour” would ever generate. However, MANY of the rarest, hardest to find early releases are only around today because the unsold copies were given away free during the touring years. This is especially true of rarities by The Satintones.
It’s been my experiance that about 95% of these records will have “DR” written on the label in black marker. 3% will have “DR” in green marker and 2% will have it in red.
So “hooray” for “DR” on the label. If it wasn’t there that record likely wouldn”t exist today. Having been destroyed as an “unsold, useless” copy.

Quote from a comment left on the motownjunkies website.

https://motownjunkies.co.uk/2009/10/10/43/

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