Keys to success

The story was nifty enough — Paul McCartney spent rather a lot of money to have one of Motown’s studio pianos, an 1877 Steinway, refurbished — and he and Berry Gordy will be playing it at a New York charity event before it’s returned to Motown’s Detroit museum.

First thought: “Money (That’s What I Want),” the first real Motown hit, with a remarkable piano part. Could it have been this very piano, played by Gordy himself? Second thought: Didn’t John sing all the Beatles’ Motown covers?

Well, yes to John, no to the piano (or to Gordy, who didn’t actually play piano on Barrett Strong’s session). In fact, this instrument was a late addition to Gordy’s empire:

[The] piano made its way to Motown when the studio acquired Golden World Records in 1967, a facility that was redubbed Motown Studio B.

Aha! Now this is a story I’ve told before:

[I]rked that the Funk Brothers house band was moonlighting for Eddie Wingate’s small family of Detroit labels, and unable to persuade them to stop doing so, Gordy wrote a large check to Wingate, ostensibly to acquire Edwin Starr’s contract, and bade him go away.

So if you want to hear Exactly That Piano, you need only dial up Starr’s classic “Agent Double-O-Soul,” recorded for Wingate’s Ric-Tic label.

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