William “Mickey” Stevenson showed up at Hitsville [a.k.a. Motown] for an audition one day with an official-looking briefcase and a big, easy grin. Sharply dressed, hip, fast-talking, Mickey was street, much more street than I was.
I could see he was an Eastside graduate while I was still sort of that Westside boy at heart. I liked him a lot. Then he sang a song. I liked him less. “Your singing is okay,” I said, “But I just don’t need another singer right now. What I really need is an A&R director. Can you do that?” Motown Founder Berry Gordy from his book “To Be Loved.”]
Thus began the career of William “Mickey” Stevenson at legendary Motown records. In his recently published self-penned book titled ‘Motown’s First A &R Man Presents The A & R Man,’ Stevenson offers some straight-no-chaser revelations about his Motown experience – shining light on the love, hate and heartbreak embraced and endured by himself and other unsung heroes of Hitsville.
In addition to his A&R duties, Stevenson wrote and produced many hit records for Motown, some with co-writer and producer Ivy Jo Hunter. They included his biggest success, “Dancing in the Street” which he co-wrote with Hunter and Marvin Gaye; “It Takes Two” (with Gaye and Kim Weston [Stevenson’s former wife]); “Ask the Lonely” for the Four Tops; Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted;” “My Baby Loves Me” Martha & The Vandellas; “Can You Jerk Like Me” by The Contours; “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” for Stevie Wonder and Gaye’s “Stubborn Kind of Fellow.” He also wrote “Devil with the Blue Dress On” in 1964 with Shorty Long, which became a hit for Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels in 1966.
Probably more important than all was Stevenson’s success in organizing and establishing Motown’s in-house band now famously known as The Funk Brothers.
Stevenson’s new book is a must read about the man who “carried a big stick and knew how to use it.” He tells how Gordy made him the “backbone” of the company – as portrayed in Gordy’s “Motown: The Musical” – and why. The book is 254 pages of the blood, sweat and tears that built and drove the Motown dynasty. Assisted by his daughter Ashley Stevenson, the book publisher is Stevenson International Entertainment.
“This was a very good book. It was really good to hear what went on behind the scenes at Motown. Smokey Robinson once said that Mickey Stevenson was the hammer in AR department. After reading this book I truly believe him…” Amazon review by Jerry S. Steele
“Mickey Stevenson is my brother, brother. He has not received his props.
He was our first A&R man at Motown. Marvin wanted to be a crooner. Mickey was the one who turned Marvin around to become what we know and love! He convinced Marvin Gaye to sing rhythm and blues.” (Quote from Legendary songwriter and performer, Smokey Robinson via the 2010 presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Mickey Stevenson at the California African American Museum)
“Mickey Stevenson was one of the first producers I met at Motown” (Quote from Stevie Wonder, Motown Artist for Life, via the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremonies for the Funk Brothers. March 2013)
“When new musicians came into Motown and wanted to know, who’s the power? It was Mickey.” (Quote from Jack Ashford, Funk Brothers percussionist via the documentary taping of “William Mickey Stevenson: Motown’s First A&R Man”)