Alan E. Abrams papers: 1959-1982 (bulk 1964-1971)
Summary Information
Title: Alan E. Abrams papers
Creator: Abrams, Alan E.
Inclusive dates: 1959-1982
Bulk dates: 1964-1971
Extent: 2 linear feet (in 4 boxes)
Abstract:
Alan Abrams is a Detroit-based press agent/public relations consultant in the music business; publicist for Motown Record Corporation, 1964-1966, later with Stax Records, 1967-1968. The collection consists of press releases, clippings, publicity material, scrapbooks containing press coverage of the recording artists that he represented, including the Supremes, photographs, and his writings about Motown, Otis Redding, and Florence Ballard.
Call number: 9943 Aa 2
Language: The materials are in English.
Repository: Bentley Historical Library
1150 Beal Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2113
Phone: 734-764-3482
Fax: 734-936-1333
e-mail: bentley.ref@umich.edu
Home Page: http://www.bentley.umich.edu/
Finding aid prepared by: Johnna Childs and Thomas E. Powers

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

The collection was acquired from Mr. Abrams in 1998 and 2011. Donor no. 8763

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

To protect fragile audiovisual recordings (such as audio cassettes, film reels, and VHS tapes), the Bentley Historical Library has a policy of converting them to digital formats by a professional vendor whenever a researcher requests access. For more information, please see: http://bentley.umich.edu/research/duplication/.

Copyright:

Donor(s) have transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan but the collection may contain third-party materials for which copyright was not transferred. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.

Preferred Citation:

item, folder title, box no., Alan E. Abrams Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan


Biography

Al Abrams was a press agent/public relations consultant for Motown records during its early formative period, roughly 1964 to 1966. In 1959, having worked as a trainee in the mailroom of Detroit's McCann-Erickson Advertising Agency, Abrams signed on as the first employee of Berry Gordy's Rayber Music Writing and Recording Company. Abrams, though a young man at the time, here began developing skills needed to be a publicist within the music business. He knew that for a record to succeed it must be played on the radio. Abrams got to know all of the important Detroit area DJs and participated in publicity stunts to make known artists and their records.

Abrams stayed with Rayber for a time then left to follow other opportunities. In 1964, he returned to Gordy and his Motown company which was still a small struggling firm. He stayed with Motown for two years handling the press relations first for singer Mary Wells then for the Supremes. During this period, Motown and its stable of singers and musical groups, such as the Supremes, began its string of great successes. In 1966 Abrams left Motown to form his own public relations firm - Al Abrams Associates - where he worked as public relations consultant for the Stax Record Company, a Memphis-based firm, and Stax-Volt recording artists such as Otis Redding. Following Redding's tragic death, Abrams ended his association with Stax-Volt in 1968 to work independently. Florence Ballard who had left the Supremes and was no longer working for Motown became his biggest client. He also did press work for Invictus Records based in Detroit and worked with James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and many other artists.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Al Abrams collection contains scrapbooks, correspondence, press releases, photographs, and memoirs detailing Abrams' work as a publicist and press agent for Detroit's Motown and for Stax Records in Memphis. The collection is valuable for its documentation of Motown in the period of the early to mid-1960s when this Detroit company was beginning its great string of record successes. Abrams was a great collector of press and other materials about the artists who worked for Motown and Stax-Volt.

The Abrams collection measures two linear feet and four oversize volumes whose contents have been foldered. The collection has been arranged into the following series: Motown Record Company, Stax Record Company, Al Abrams Associates, Miscellaneous, Visual Materials, and Scrapbooks.

Subject Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in the finding aid database and catalog of The Bentley Historical Library/University of Michigan. Researchers desiring additional information about related topics should search the catalog using these headings.


  • Singers -- United States.
  • Performing arts -- Public relations.
  • Press agents.
  • Rhythm and blues music.
  • Sound recording industry.
  • Disc jockeys -- Michigan -- Detroit.
  • Publicity.
  • Sound recording industry.
  • Photographs.
  • Videocassettes.
  • Abrams, Alan E.
  • Ballard, Florence, 1943-1976.
  • Motown Record Corporation.
  • Redding, Otis, 1941-1967.
  • Stax Records.
  • Supremes (Musical group)
  • Abrams, Alan E.
  • Ballard, Florence, 1943-1976.
  • Beatles.
  • Cambridge, Godfrey, 1933-1976.
  • Cavanaugh, Jerome Patrick, 1928-1979.
  • Dave Clark Five (Musical group)
  • Epstein, Brian, 1934-1967.
  • Gaye, Marvin.
  • Good, Tommy.
  • Gordy, Berry.
  • Gordy, Berry, 1888-1978.
  • Motown Record Corporation.
  • Pearson, Drew, 1897-1969.
  • Silvers, Phil, 1911-1985.
  • Stax Records.
  • Supremes (Musical group)
  • Romney, George W., 1907-1995.
  • Velvet Underground (Musical group)
  • Warhol, Andy, 1928-1987.
  • Williams, G. Mennen, 1911-1988.
  • Wonder, Stevie.
Contents List
Request materials for use in the Bentley Library
Container / Location Title
 
Motown Record Company [series]

The Motown Record Company series consists of a draft of part of a proposed memoir of Abrams dealing with his association with Motown, its founder Berry Gordy, Jr. and its biggest musical group, the Supremes. This series also includes an extensive collection of the press releases from the company in the period of 1964-1966.

Box   1  
"Motown Memoirs" 1970 (2 folders)

(draft of proposed chapter intended as a memoir of Abrams experiences with Motown)

Box   1  
Press releases undated, 1964-1966 (4 folders)
Box   1  
Clippings and articles
Box   1  
Miscellaneous
 
Stax Record Company [series]

The Stax Record Company series consists of press releases, promotion material for the company, and a remembrance of Otis Redding following his death in 1968.

Box   1  
Press releases 1967
Box   1  
Publicity material for Stax artists
Box   1  
Recollection of Otis Redding 1968
 
Al Abrams Associates [series]

The Al Abrams Associates series mainly documents press coverage of Florence Ballard and other mainly Detroit-based artists. There is also some mention here of the proposed "soul bowl" promotion being headed by the Rev. C. L. Franklin.

Box   1  
Press releases (Florence Ballard and other clients) 1968-1969
Box   1  
Florence Ballard law suit 1970
Box   1  
Florence Ballard (articles and draft of article about) 1968
 
Miscellaneous [series]

The Miscellaneous series is arranged alphabetically and consists of files arranged by topic or type of material. Included is Abrams correspondence with members of the press, especially those who wrote about music and the entertainment industry. Most of the letters are brief and chatty in content. Included are notes from Walter Winchell and Bob Talbert.

Box   1  
Alan, Lee (anonymous letter charging this radio personality with accepting "payola")
Box   1  
"All got rhythm" (start of Abrams novel about the music business)
Box   1  
Clippings
Box   1  
Correspondence undated, 1959-1971, 1982 (8 folders)
Box   1  
Holland-Dozier-Holland litigation 1968
Box   1  
Invictus Records press materials
Box   1  
Invictus Records litigation 1971
Box   1  
New Worlds Unlimited publicity proposal December 1966
Box   1  
Miscellaneous
 
Visual Materials [series]

The Visual Materials series includes photographs and one videocassette. The photographs include publicity photos and candid shots of the Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Tommy Good, and other Motown acts; photos of Berry Gordy and his family; former Supreme Florence Ballard during her solo career; a small number of photos of Stax artists; and promotional stunts performed by Abrams with Detroit radio personalities to publicize new recordings. Some of the photos depict other celebrities visiting Motown or the Gordy family, including the Dave Clark Five, Godfrey Cambridge, the Beatles, Drew Pearson, Brian Epstein, Phil Silvers, and others; and the Supremes with Michigan political figures Jerome Cavanaugh, George Romney, and G. Mennen Williams. One folder of photographs (and one scrapbook folder) documents the Carnaby Street Fun Festival and "The World's First Mod Wedding," promoted by Abrams and sponsored by the Borman Brothers' Food Fair stores. The event took place at the Michigan State Fairgrounds, Nov. 20, 1966, and featured Andy Warhol (painting paper dresses), Gerard Malanga (performing a whip dance), and music by the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed and Nico. Abrams prepared captions for most of the photos, which are included in a separate folder. The videocassette contains a 1965 tape of Motown acts on a local Detroit-Windsor music program.

Box   1  
Abrams captions and notes
Box   1  
Al Abrams
Box   1  
Al Abrams publicity stunts
Box   1  
Florence Ballard (includes Godfrey Cambridge, Greg Morris)
Box   1  
Marvin Gaye
Box   1  
Berry Gordy and family (includes the Beatles)
Box   1  
Tommy Good and "March on Motown"
Box   1  
Motown acts miscellaneous (includes Brian Epstein, Phil Silvers, Everly Brothers)
Box   1  
Stax-Volt (includes Howard Baker)
Box   1  
Supremes
Box   1  
Supremes with others (includes Dave Clark Five, Jerome Cavanaugh, George Romney, G. Mennen Williams)
Box   1  
Stevie Wonder with others (includes Drew Pearson, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Ruby Dee, Tony Bennett, Peter Noone)
Box   1  
"World's First Mod Wedding," featuring Andy Warhol, Gerard Malanga, and the Velvet Underground with Lou Reed and Nico November 20, 1966
Box   1  
Videotape of Robin Seymour "Teen Town" television program featuring Berry Gordy, Jr., the Supremes, the temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, the Marvelettes 1965 (VHS tape)
Box   1  
Negatives--Staff Use Only
 
Scrapbooks [series]

The Scrapbook series, formerly stored in large loose-leaf volumes, has been taken apart for preservation reasons and placed in folders. The chronological order of the scrapbooks has been largely maintained with many of the pages of the volumes devoted to the careers of the Supremes, Otis Redding, and Florence Ballard. The scrapbooks represent the mass of clippings and articles from newspapers and music magazines - both mainstream and publications aimed at the African-American community - that Abrams accumulated and pasted together in scrapbooks.

 
Motown Record Company [subseries]
Box   2  
1964
Box   2  
1965 (4 folders)
Box   2  
1966 (3 folders)
 
Stax-Volt Records [subseries]
Box   3  
1967 (4 folders)
Box   3  
1968 (2 folders)
 
By topic [subseries]
Box   4  
Abrams and miscellaneous clients 1965-1968
Box   4  
Mod wedding 1966
Box   4  
Death of Otis Redding 1967-1968
Box   4  
Florence Ballard 1968