A look back at Martha and the Vandellas’ performance at a Ford factory
A The classic ’60s Martha and the Vandellas performance returned to the pop culture scene this spring: a music video for the song “Nowhere to Run”, performed as the trio let off steam among the manufactured Mustangs. Ford Motor Co. assembly plant.
The song was recorded as part of This is what happens baby, a national television show that aired June 28, 1965 on CBS. The show, hosted by legendary New York disc jockey Murray the K, featured black and white record stars and was intended as a way to help foster racial harmony through music.
Only brief clips of Martha’s Getaway and the Vandellas’ Mustang had been seen in the past 56 years. But that changed in March, when the lower-quality original copy was picked up, remastered, and aired on PBS stations nationwide, including on WTVS here in Detroit.
They might as well have included Smokey Robinson’s group, as the creation of the video was nothing short of a miracle. It’s fair to say that there is absolutely no way to make a video today. In fact, it’s unclear exactly how it happened at the time – how Ford allowed a film crew to freely access the shoot in the middle of an active assembly line inside its factory. , now known as the Red Complex.
âWhat’s crazy is that I can’t find anything in our records today as to why we participated or how they did it,â says Ted Ryan, Archives and Heritage Branding Manager for Ford. “Apparently [Motownâs] Berry Gordy asked for some favors, having worked in a Ford factory, and finally [then-Ford Vice President Lee] Iacocca said, “As long as he’s going to support the Mustang, let’s let them do it.”
The Mustang was brand new in 1965. It was Iacocca’s baby and a huge bet for the automaker. The allure of free advertising on a show aimed at the American youth market was apparently too hard to refuse.
So Martha and her Vandellas – Rosalind Ashford and Betty Kelly – were allowed to rear up in an open paint area without any protective clothing, dance among the metal quarter panels drying on the rope, and sit on the backseat of an unfinished convertible Mustang as the car‘s engine was being installed. OSHA probably couldn’t print the citations quickly enough today – and the UAW could declare a work stoppage.
“You know, there was no OSHA back then, so they didn’t have as many rules to follow,” notes Wendy Burkett, Ford’s director of global security. âCertainly today we present our beautiful and exciting new vehicles in different ways, and they all take place outside. We first finish our vehicles, then we show them off. In this case, I don’t think the workers knew what was going to happen, and I don’t think they were prepared for it.
Reeves, Detroit Time The star of the cover of July, second this emotion. âThe men were shouting, ‘Get these people out of here! Can’t you see we’re trying to work? ‘ Â», She remembers. âYou can see the anger on their faces when you watch the video. “
Reeves remains proud to have been a part of pop music history. âThis Murray Kaufman came from Brooklyn, New York, to our employees at Ford Motor Company and made us the women who made the first music video ever made,â she says.
His claim ignores other performances recorded for the CBS special, or the fact that some music historians note that boogie-woogie saxophonist Louis Jordan was creating mini-videos to accompany his songs as early as the 1940s. But, hey: it was definitely a once in a lifetime experience in Detroit.