Marsha Music

A Grown Woman's Tales from Detroit

HOME – Welcome to Marsha Music!

Video – Marsha Music, produced for Kresge Literary Arts Fellows, 2012 by Stephen McGhee: 
      I grew up in the musical world of Detroit, and on these pages are stories that I’ve written, true chronicles of music, life and labor – and the lack thereof- in the formerly Motor City.
       Here, you’ll find mature, thoughtful observations of life in Detroit – from a Grown Black Woman – and I was awarded a 2012 Kresge Fellowship in the Literary Arts for my efforts.
       I have had a unique view of America’s economic and musical explosion of the last half of the 20th century. I wasn’t literally born in a record shop, but I might as well have been, growing up as I did, the daughter of a legendary pre-Motown record producer, Joe Von Battle, and working and playing in his records shops during all of my young days.          
I grew up in Highland park,  a “city within the city” of Detroit, during its lush green halcyon days – studying classical music and literature. However,  I spent a good part of my life around my father’s Hastings Street and 12th Street record shops, witness to the intense “street life”, and the excitement of music and life in the tumultuous 1960’s.
 I developed a hyper-awareness of music and became a lover of many genres. My maternal family was steeped in old-time, sanctified church music where the Holy Ghost reigned – and still does. I was immersed in the blues, soul and gospel of my father’s record shops, laboratories of meter and song; places where bluesmen had a “taste”, smoked cigarettes and cut a record or two before long.
I came of age during the British Invasion and the integrated airways of Detroit’s AM radio in the 60’s. The musicality of it all is deep in my bones. 
Me, at Joe's Record Shop; early 60's; brother Darryl in backround, Rev. CL Franklin photo on back wall As the music of my surroundings morphed into my own tastes, I spent my young years loving the Beatles and the new sounds, my teens knee-deep in Motown, Soul and R&B, my twenties in the Album-Rock/FM radio world, and later, I lived the Detroit’s jazz life. Through it all, I’ve had a love and a critical ear for the “Old School” (and sometimes, even, a hankering for Opera).  Today – Signed, Sealed, Saved and Delivered – my ear is turned towards Gospel.
 I’m a witness to the forced relocation of my father’s first store in 1960, at the end of the community of Black Bottom and Hastings St., and later, his business’ final demise in the 67′ Riots.   I’m a witness to the economic contraction that hit Detroit like a tsunami, and its profound effects on urban life – all of these conflagrations from which Detroit has never recovered.
I have seen, in recent years, the revival of  sections of Detroit and the return of suburban sons and daughters to the city and urban life. In addition to my writing on culture and music, I’ve been an activist, labor leader, and speaker – from Birmingham to Bryn Mawr, radio to HBO. Today, I work, pursue Biblical studies and enjoy the ample offerings of the arts, here in Detroit.
Welcome, and please come back to this place where I’ll tell more of my true stories; writing from Detroit in transition, one of the most amazing cities in the world. 
Live from Detroit!
Marsha Music
mlc hart plaza maune



Marsha Music on Facebook –

or email –


Comment or question below:

{Comments meant for my eyes only will not be posted, just let me know}

46 thoughts on “HOME – Welcome to Marsha Music!

  1. Marsha,

    I linked to your Elvis piece. I hope you got my message. Please email me.


    Hairy Larry

  2. I recently came across this blog and I find all the content to be informative, intelligent and most cogent.

  3. Thank you Alan, for visiting Marsha Music and for posting such positive comments.

    I am making every effort to post content that is worthy of your words.

    Keep coming back as I post more about music and Detroit.


  4. Marsha,

    I really enjoyed the Elvis article and I linked to it from my website, Delta Boogie. Please send me an email.


    Hairy Larry

  5. Dear Thinker-woman,

    Your website is intelligent, thought-provoking, and beautiful, like you.

  6. Larry,

    Thank you for stopping in and enjoying the Elvis piece. I’ll email you asap.


  7. Tumerica,

    Thank for the kind words; I hope to live up to them as I continue this sweet work of writing.


  8. You have a fantastic blog!
    Most interesting story. I am a Dutch writer, could you please e mail me?


  9. Hi Marsha,

    just now checking out your blog — thanks a lot! anybody from Detroit knows how important music is, and how great Detroit music can be!!!!

    cheers, -ig

  10. Wow, what a wonderful collection. This is important stuff and I am very glad to have come across it. Marsha, you may remember me from 35 years ago from some classes we attended together. I still have BoBo Jenkins’ photograph on my office wall. I now own a printing company and play a little music from time to time with some 80 year old swing musicians.

  11. I love the blog, Honey Marsha! And I love you and The Thinker face to face. I think he’s saying: “This woman has alot to say!”


  13. Thanks Derrick – I know that must be you! John! Thanks!

  14. Hi Honey Marti! Thanks for your kind words. The Thinker is one of my Favorite Things in the D!

  15. Tomorrow we reposting a portion of your blog post on your father’s record store. What a wonderful history. We think this is a marvelous contribution, we thank you for all your wonderful work.

    The Folk at

  16. Marsha!
    Your writing creates a journey! It’s fresh, exciting and makes me want to know more about your life whose soundtrack was the music of Detroit.

  17. I love the new look of the blog and the ever changing look of its author!

  18. Lynn! Nice website!

  19. Your blog is beautiful!

  20. Thanks; yes I have seen your site and the posting, and I thank you for your attention to Joe Von Battle’s Story.

  21. Great site! I will continue to visit.

  22. this is MASTA TEACHA shizz!!!

  23. Thanks Sista Crown! I appreciate your youthful kudos!

  24. Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams recorded a few songs at John Von Battle’s record shop including Thirtyfive – Thirty (35-30), Hastings Street Bounce, and “The Hucklebuck”.

  25. Enjoyed the quick positive trip through Detroit — good to see there’s a good side! Enjoyed your blog!

  26. It was a pleasure to meet you, Marsha, and your husband, David, at the Detroit Collision event in Eastern Market on Saturday, September 14. You are an engaging and creative teller of the very complex and spiritual tale of this grand old city. As I told you, your use of the metaphor the “kidnapped children” to describe part of the tale was very insightful and illuminating. I’m looking forward to reading the essay when it was finished. Thank you, and I’m glad to know we are neighbors in Lafayette Park.

    Paul Andrew (“Andy”) Kettunen

  27. A lovely visit with a new friend. Thank you.

  28. Hi Marsha,
    I wanted to ask you the authorisation to use one picture from your blog (the one of you as a kid in front of the record shop), I host a radio show on a little local French station and I always use old 50’s or 60’s black and white photos related to radio, record shops to illustrate my show when I upload it on line. And this one was fitting! I read some of the stuff about your dad and his shop, great story! So let me know if it’s possible (I can put a link to your blog). here’s a link to my show : Kind regards Ed

  29. Hi Marsha! Great blog! I’ve been reading in tonight since Rachel Lutz recomended it to me. I have a book coming out at the end of October that deals with one part of the pre Motown music scene in Detroit that’s gone undocumented thus far. I was talking to Rachel about it and after I explained the whole Southern move north to Detroit starting in the teens she said that you might be interested in our research. The Book is called Detroit Country Music; Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies. I’d love to get a review copy to you from University of Michigan Press as soon as they are ready for shipping. If you’d like to get one or would like to know more about our research please feel free to contact me or check out or blog to see a taste of what the book has to offer.
    Thanks and best of luck!

  30. We met last year thru Kresge Arts. My husband is Stephen Mack Jones. Steve and I will be attending Failure Lab and look forward to seeing you and hearing your story.

  31. I went to Ferris School and my grandmother ran a party store on Hastings Street. I remember Mrs. Ashford…in fact she was my favorite teacher of all time. That was about 1959 or 1960. Could it be the same Mrs. Ashford you speak of? Is she still alive? I recently wrote an article published in The Journal of Multiculturalism in Education and I told a story about her.

    God bless, Frank Bailey

  32. Like your blog.

  33. Thank you.

  34. Sorry for my belated reply. Yes, it’s probably Mrs. Ashford who was widowed and remarried and became Mrs. Ashford-Dash. She passed away a few years ago. I am friends with her daughters; if there is a link to this article I’m sure she’s like to see it. Thank you for your comments.

  35. As a Detroit boy, , long gone already in teh 60’s off to South Oakland County, and From the little I follow about what’s happening in the Detroit area, assuming that the Phoenix will yet rise to give region a spirit, it may just be that people that have pockets that are “not as deep”, as they say in my part of the world, might go a few blocks over to Highland Park. I may mean they have to “take the bus” to the Main Branch, or the Art Institute. The proximity to Palmer Park, of course makes it a good place to be, too. Ah! and it may catch on to the apartment buildings that might be renovated.

    Mind you, I am not a Midtown person, and my prayer is that the West Side revives, even in more interesting ways, that the populations likely will not reach the numbers it did then.

  36. Ms. Music~

    If not for my love of music, my love of words would make me return to this blog! It’s a wonderful mix of music, poetry, history, love, magic. I was interested any way, then I read your opening paragraph about Elvis. I’ve always loved the Motown artists — didn’t immerse myself, but always thought of them as a singular, changing moment in history. And I find it ever encouraging that music is a leveler of all.

    I am a high school English teacher and found you as I searched for some bit of commentary or a film clip to show my students in relation to Warriors Don’t Cry. It is difficult for them to understand how such things could’ve happened to Melba Patillo and the other kids. I look forward to reading more here and am so glad you’ve taken time to share so much. Thank you. :)

  37. I enjoyed your visit to our class last week.
    THANKS so much!

  38. I enjoyed my visit to College for Creative Studies too, especially our discussion on your projects on Detroit topics. I got as much as I gave, I assure you. Thanks Hilarie! Go to my Marsha Music Facebook page, I have our “class photo”.

  39. Robin,
    Please forgive my delay in posting your lovely words. I appreciate your compliments about my “tales” here on these pages, and how my work as resonated with you. Thank you for taking the time to write, and please come back.

  40. Marsha,

    I love your writing. You have not only a well rounded view (or perspective) of an important history and your community, but you also have the great ability to express your memories and thoughts in an engaging, straightforward way, that is hard for many other writers.
    I don’t know if this is intentional… or just how you do it :-) … but either way I love it.

    Respect to you and please keep writing and sharing.

  41. Thank you for your kind words. I hope to continue to be blessed with the gift of telling this story.

  42. So sorry I’m just responding! I enjoyed you all too and I had a great time! Thanks!

  43. Well thank YOU very much.

  44. Amen Zev.

  45. I know this is an but if you still want, you can contact me on facebook

  46. I know this is an but if you still want, you can contact me on facebook.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers