2 minute read

Musical Ambitions

A Detroit Record

When Stevie was twelve years old, he had many friends who played music and sang. One of his musician friends was named John Glover. They used to play harmonica and sing together. John Glover had a cousin, Ronnie White, who lived in another part of Detroit. Ronnie White sang with a group called the Miracles. John Glover told his cousin Ronnie about a kid he knew named Steveland Morris. Ronnie didn't believe that a twelve-year-old boy could sing and play instruments as well as John claimed. John asked Ronnie to come around the neighborhood some time to see (and hear!) Steveland for himself. One day Ronnie did just that. Of course, Stevie was jamming on the front porch, as usual. Ronnie was blown away by the kid's voice and music style. Steveland Morris was about to get a great chance to become a recording artist.

The Miracles had a record contract with Hitsville USA. Ronnie White knew the president of Hitsville USA, Berry Gordy Jr. White called Gordy and told him about this kid he'd heard all about and finally had listened to himself. He suggested to Gordy that he give Steveland Morris an audition.

Stevie's parents took him down to the Hitsville USA studios for his audition. Ronnie White met them and gave Stevie a tour of the studio. He let Stevie play different instruments. Stevie asked the name of each instrument he picked up and played. Stevie thought he'd gone to heaven. This was where he wanted to be!

Berry Gordy was excited to meet Steveland Morris. He sat in the studio and listened to Stevie play the bongos and sing. Gordy remembered that day clearly: “He was playing the bongos and singing, doing very well. I didn't even know at the time that he could play harmonica as well as he could. I knew that he was very talented. I heard him sing and I felt that there was a uniqueness in his voice.”

After Stevie sang for Gordy, the Hitsville USA president wanted to hire this boy genius immediately. Stevie's parents were thrilled. There wasn't a lot of talk about money. They saw this as a great opportunity for Stevie. He might never get an opportunity like this again. The fact that a successful record company wanted to give this twelve-year-old blind boy a chance to write, play, and record music was the best part of the deal. Because Stevie was a minor (under eighteen years old), his mother signed the contract. The Hitsville USA recording studio would be the place where Stevie spent most of his time over the next ten years.

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderMusical Ambitions - Radio Days, Early Instruments, Wonderful Music, A Detroit Record