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Home | MusicMakers | Mickey Stevenson
Color: Gray
Food: Jamaican Fish, Goat
Quote: Learn All You Can, Can All You Learn.
Season: Spring
Vacation Destination: Hawaii
Detroit, Michigan United States
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 11/17/2016

Music executive Mickey Stevenson was born on January 4, 1937, in Detroit, Michigan, to the noted blues singer Kitty “Brown Gal” Stevenson, and stepfather Ted Moore. Stevenson attended Detroit’s Northeastern High School.

From the age of eight, Stevenson performed in a singing trio with his younger brothers. In 1950, the group won first place at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater in New York City. However, three years later, Stevenson’s musical career halted when his mother, the group’s coach and producer, passed away from cancer. Between the ages of thirteen and sixteen, Stevenson was in and out of Detroit’s prison system, until he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1956, where he was part of a special unit that organized entertainment for the troops. While on furlough around 1958, Stevenson saw a performance by the Four Aims—later known as the Four Tops—which inspired him to leave the military and to make a career in music. Stevenson joined the Hamptones, touring with the great bandleader Lionel Hampton. Upon his return to Detroit, Stevenson met Berry Gordy, who told him of his plans to start a record label. Stevenson briefly worked as a producer and songwriter for Carmen Carver Murphy’s gospel label, HOB Records, until 1959, when Gordy hired him to head the artists and repertoire department at Motown Records. As Motown’s A&R man, Stevenson was responsible for talent scouting, auditions, and managing the artistic development of recording artists and songwriters. Stevenson was also responsible for organizing and establishing the company's in-house studio band, which came to be known as the Funk Brothers. The band included Benny Benjamin on drums, James Jamerson on bass, and Eddie “Bongo” Brown on percussion. In 1961, Motown had its first #1 hit song: the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman.” Stevenson was responsible for the song, as well as for such classic Motown acts as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, the Contours, Martha and the Vandellas, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Stevenson also toured the country with the Motortown Revue. He created and organized the Motown Orchestra to play during the shows, also serving as the orchestra’s conductor at the suggestion of Smokey Robinson. In 1968, Stevenson was replaced by Eddie Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland, Motown’s top production team, as head of artists and repertoire. He then worked briefly as head of MGM’s Venture Records. In 1972, Stevenson recorded his only album, Here I Am. He later began producing stage musicals.

Stevenson was honored during the opening of Detroit’s Motown Museum in 2003.

Stevenson lives in West Hollywood, California.

Mickey Stevenson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 17, 2016.

Speaker Bureau Notes: