Al Abrams, Motown’s legendary press officer to be honored with a permanent plaque on the Fifth Third Wall of Fame at The Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, Findlay, OH USA. 

On Friday evening, May 3, 2019, Al Abrams, Motown’s first employee and its iconic press officer, will be formally recognized at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts for his behind-the-curtain contributions to Music.

The Wall is a tribute to those individuals within the community who have made an impact within the Arts World. 

Fifth Third Bank is to be commended for initiating this diverse community recognition. 

It is a remarkable and notable event as it will be the first time that a Jewish individual will be publicly honored in this micro-city of more than 40,000 people. 

Findlay is also headquarters to three Fortune Five-Hundred global corporations, including Marathon, and is internationally expanding its commerce borders.

There are very few Jewish families and residents residing within the city and county.  Abrams, a Detroiter, was a resident of Findlay for more than a decade.

Although the tribute is for Abrams, he will be sharing his posthumous honor with Max Fisher, a man whom he admired and respected. 

The story connecting these two men to Findlay is remarkable.  It is both humorous and poignant.  Max died in 2005; Al died in 2015.  

Abrams was committed to the music industry.  His area of expertise was working behind the scenes as the legendary press officer for three notable record labels - Motown; Stax-Volt; and Invictus-HotWax. 

Abrams was well-respected and considered a rare commodity as an innovative press officer within the realm of the music world. 

Abrams was also responsible for creating press for Aretha Franklin and her father, The Rev. CL Franklin; James Brown; Jackie Wilson; Flo Ballard; The Supremes; The Miracles; Temptations; Four Tops; Mary Wells; Martha Reeves and The Vandellas; The Marvelettes; Sonny Bono; Holland-Dozier-Holland; plus many more.

In fact, Abrams wrote Bob Seger’s very first press release - another untold PR music note.

However, very few individuals know that Abrams' personal music journey also included cutting a promo vinyl record in his mother’s Detroit flat with the original musicians whom later would form the “Standing in the Shadows” Funk Brothers.   Abrams even hired a few south of the Michigan border Ohio shake dancers to enhance the vinyl recording.

Al and his close friend, Sanford Freed, then took a road trip through Ohio to meet Leonard and Phil Chess at Chess Records in Chicago to try to sell their pre-Funk vinyl.  Another story … 

Motown: The Sound Of Young America; The Detroit Sound; The Motown Sound; The Memphis Sound are some of the iconic slogans Abrams imagined and created.  These PR slogans are still used today. 

Unfortunately, the various entities that use these legendary slogans never identify the young Jewish press officer who made them synonymous with the branding of their respective music labels.     

At eighteen-years of age, Abrams understood the importance of music integration; at seventy-four-years of age, he still understood that a community is not the music it plays, but the music it is willing to allow to be played that makes it an arts community.

Abrams was on center stage for a music revolution that became a 1960’s movement for equality.   Abrams never wavered from supporting international equality for every man, woman, child and animal. 

Human life is always on the frontlines.  

Communities put up walls to insulate it from change. 

Abrams took the black and white walls down through his persistent and dedicated efforts to place the emphasis on the music and not on the skin color of the artist or the teenage dance floor.

 STORY:  Music Man, Oil Man & Mary

Al Abrams, Detroit born and an Ohio transplant, is still a Man of the Arts.             

Max Fisher, Ohio born and a Michigan transplant, is still a Business Man. (Aurora Oil; Marathon Trustee; Billionaire Philanthropist; Mary’s Father)                          

 Life is an intersection of fate, destiny, chance, luck and the unknown.

Max was an exceptional individual. The way he lived is testament to his understanding of what is of value in our lives.  Max’s handshake was his contract.  

Max sold Detroit Aurora Oil to James C. Donnell II, president of Marathon Oil, Findlay in such a business transaction.

However, the story of how Al first met Max actually is relevant to his daughter Mary (Fisher) and Motown.  The story travels from Detroit to Findlay via an I-75 music pipeline.

Al was entrenched in the Motown Record label.  He was a young teen who surrounded himself with his love for music and books. 

Al was required, per Berry Gordy’s (Motown Founder) mandate, to attend many of the Detroit and local area record hops with the artists.  This is where this story begins. 

According to Al, Mary Fisher and he met at a record hop. Their match-up ended with them making plans to go on a real date. 

Mary gave Al her address and phone number and they agreed on a weekend date.

As was typical in Al’s unorthodox music employment, he made arrangements with Hot Sam’s, the local African-American downtown Detroit retail establishment to acquire stage outfits for some of the male groups (The Temptations, Four Tops, The Miracles). 

In exchange for donating their performance attire, Hot Sam’s would garner advertising from the Motown groups for sponsoring their wardrobes.

The outfits consisted of glittery-sequined jackets, satin shirts and pants.   Al’s description … “stage attire with flash appeal”.

Hot Sam’s also provided Al with one of these sexy outfits to wear to concerts and other engagements.  Al considered it to be his “chic” magnet suit.

On the eve of his date with Mary, Al appeared on Max’s doorstep with a smile wearing his new “HS” threads hoping to impress Mary.

Al knocked on the door.  Dad Max answered; looked at Al and asked him what he wanted.  Al said he was there to pick Mary up for a date … Max, basically stared at Al in disbelief, and said, “The hell you are.” 

Whereupon, Max slammed the door in Al’s face.  Ejected and rejected by Mary’s father … Al, reluctantly, returned to his car and drove away leaving only a glitter trail on Mary’s doorstep.

Mary might have thought she was “stood up” by Al.   She was not.  

Hot Sam’s was simply too hot for a conservative Max.  Al went dateless in Detroit that Saturday night. 

Decades later, when Al was scheduled to interview Max for a profile in The Detroit Jewish News, he was terrified that Max would remember his first encounter with him. He selected a conservative dark navy blue suit.

It is these unknown memorable moments in our lives that are intriguing interludes.

As Al perused the Marathon archival vault material relevant to Max’s death for a special tribute issue for the Detroit JN, he was profoundly happy to be a Jewish journalist researching a Jewish man of integrity who contributed to the creation of one of the largest global oil and gas conglomerates in the world with a simple handshake based upon trust.

Al strongly felt that Max deserved mention in Marathon’s authorized history.

Al was always explaining to people that once upon a time Marathon had a Jewish trustee.  His name … Max Fisher. 

No one ever believed Al because of Max’s omission in the Marathon World book, One Hundred Years On The Frontier.   

It is ironic that Motown was founded in an area of Detroit that was predominately Jewish and African-American; Marathon Oil & Gas founded in a White Christian agricultural community.

Al requested that Max be publicly integrated into any Findlay honor he might ever receive.  Thus, Al’s Motown, Mary, Max and Marathon story is appropriate. 

The Marathon Center for the Perfroming Arts is integral to the local Arts Community.  It gives credibility and testament to a community’s willingness to accept diversity and change.

The Fifth Third Wall of Fame is a beautiful way to honor those individuals who have contributed to splashing color on artistic walls locally, nationally and globally.

On May 3, Al Abrams will join other distinguished names on the MPAC Fifth Third Wall of Fame.  This posthumous honor is coveted and testament to a community Wall.

Applause to those at Fifth Third Bank who understand the social connectivity of a global planet is set in every community hometown where freedom of expression through the arts is allowed to address life.

Be a risktaker.  Shine the light by coloring our planet with  your own social brush.