The record that Berry Gordy declared to have the Motown sound he’d been looking for was climbing the U.S. pop & R&B charts in May 1963. It wasn’t the label’s biggest crossover single by any means, and incongruously it grew from something Lamont Dozier had tried to write years earlier with then newly-rising country singer Loretta Lynn in mind. Nevertheless, “Come And Get These Memories” by Martha & the Vandellas, came to be a key part of Motown’s early development.
Dozier’s original idea for the song, with Lynn’s voice in his ear, went nowhere until he teamed up with the Holland brothers, Eddie and Brian, and decided to revisit it. Martha & the Vandellas had made their debut under that recording name in September 1962 with “My Baby Won’t Come Back,” which completed Martha Reeves’ unscheduled transition from Motown secretary to artist, but didn’t trouble the charts.
Then came “Come And Get These Memories,” for which Holland-Dozier-Holland took Reeves and the Vandellas into the studio on 18 January 1963. They emerged with a take that, according to Gordy’s sister Esther, made him exclaim: “That’s the sound I’ve been looking for!”
Dozier agreed. “I’ve always thought that the Motown sound started with “Come And Get These Memories,”” he said in Volume 3 of The Complete Motown Singles, “because that one song had a mixture of all those musical elements — gospel music, pop, country and western and jazz.”
By May, the song was well on its way on both the R&B and pop charts, and although it stopped at No. 29 on the Hot 100, the single climbed all the way to No. 6 in the soul format. Within a few weeks, the Vandellas would strike again with “Heat Wave,” and by then there was simply no doubting that the Motown sound was here to stay.
Listen to “Come And Get These Memories” on the album of the same name: