Marv Johnson was the very first singer signed to the Motown label.
He had began his singing career with the doo-wop group The Serenaders in the mid-1950s and was also a talented pianist and songwriter. Berry Gordy discovered Marv at a live performance and convinced him to sign with his new label. Berry assembled background musicians (future Funk Brothers) and backing group The Rayber Voices. Their recording of “Come To Me” in 1959 became the first ever release for the Tamla label.
Berry signed a distribution deal with United Artists, and Marv himself was then signed by the company. He racked up an impressive string of hits (under the UA label) in the early 1960s. Marv continued to record in Motown’s Hitsville USA studios in Detroit, and all of his early songs were written by Berry Gordy himself. After his initial success began to dry up, his contract was dropped by United Artists, and he returned to Motown in 1964, writing and producing, as well as recording.
Marv could never recreate the success he had previously enjoyed in America, but enjoyed a resurgence in the UK with his 1969 song “I’ll Pick A Rose For My Rose” which was a Top 10 hit and spawned a whole album of his work. He continued at Motown into the 1970s, working on sales and promotion, and writing songs for other artists.
Marv eventually separated from Motown, but continued singing, even returning to the recording studio in 1989 for the Motorcity Records label. There he rerecorded some songs and cut some new material; one album, Come To Me, and four singles (“Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing” with Cal Gill of The Velvelettes, “By Hook Or By Crook”, “Run Like A Rabbit” and “Come To Me”) were released.
Marv died while performing live in 1993. His headstone rightfully reads “Motown Pioneer”.
- COMING SOON!