Monday, October 05, 2015

Passings: Al Abrams, First Publicist For Motown Records

The man Berry Gordy depended on to get the word out on his young Motown Records, publicist Al Abrams, died Saturday at his home in Findlay, OH at the age of 74. He had been diagnosed with cancer just three weeks ago.

Abrams was born in Motown's home, Detroit, and, after graduating from high school at the age of 15, decided to forego college to enter the world of business, first with a music distributor and, later, at an advertising firm.

A big fan of the R&B records of the day, Abrams pestered Gordy for a job promoting his music before Motown was even formed. Gordy said he would hire him if he could get a record on Zelman, a vanity label that pressed records for anyone who would pay them $100, played on the radio. Abrams took the challenge, taking the record to a remote by station WCHB and pestering the DJ until he relented and played it on his show. Gordy heard the record being played and made good on his word, hiring Abrams.

Abrams became responsible for writing the press releases and album notes for the fledgling Motown empire along with ghost writing articles that were submitted to the press on the artists. An article by the University of Michigan states that Abrams actually made up the fact that Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson "America's greatest living poet", something that is now cited as fact. Abrams wife has also said that he came up with Motown's "The Sound of Young America".

In 1966, Abrams left Motown to start the PR firm Al Abrams Associates and began working on the side with Stax/Volt. Later in his career, he worked with Holland-Dozier-Holland after they left Motown on their new label, Invictus.

He later worked as a journalist and an author who had eleven books to his name.

Abrams is survived by his wife, a daughter and two grandchildren.