Some Backtracking–Ann Arbor, Detroit and Motown

(Blogger’s note: the trip mentioned below occurred several months before I finally got around to posting about it. Sorry about that.)

In October 2019, I published my first book, So You Want to Sing Spirituals. Just the month before the book was set to be released, I was invited to the University of Michigan to be a panelist during their African American Classical Music History conference in Ann Arbor. The theme was, “Reflecting on the past…Reaching toward the future, II”

The four-day conference was a wonderful opportunity to touch bases with colleagues, both those I’d worked with previously and a host of folks who I’d “met” on social media, in the small world of classical music. And the program, led by host Dr. Louise Toppin and Videmus, was jammed-packed with events throughout.

This was also close to my XXth birthday, so one of my nieces invited me to stay with her a few days in the Detroit area.

I left Ann Arbor mid-morning in the hope that I would avoid the morning rush, get some matters done, and be at Courtney’s place well before the evening rush. She took me out to dinner that evening, which turned into a rather interesting restaurant adventure of the six-legged kind (they are damned lucky I decided not to review them on my Tripadvisor page). The manager offered to replace my meal, but I just couldn’t eat there without wondering where the rest of its family was.

Despite this, I really enjoyed my evening with someone who has grown up into a wonderful young lady. We found another eatery nearby and talked about a range of topics.

Anyway, the next day was my actual birthday. Courtney had to work with evening classes, so I was on my own. I drove into Detroit and found the Motown Museum. Since the website had indicated that tickets were time-based, I waited until I’d actually found the site and was nearly unpleasantly surprised that even on Tuesdays, the tickets sold out quickly. I was fortunate to get one for the last tour of the day and filled the time before the tour started by taking a few pictures of the areas outside the house. As it turned out, photography inside the house was restricted to a studio where Motown’s biggest hits were recorded in the 1960’s.

Early in the tour, the guide showed us a large square hole in the ceiling of one room that was used to create the reverb in recordings. The guide asked for a volunteer who would be willing to sing into the hole. I volunteered (surprise, surprise), but the only songs still in my mind from the conference were spirituals, so I sang “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

Okay, whatever.

It was amazing to learn of the history made in that house. The group got to sing some Temptations in the studio and take pictures of the room. We finished in the museum shop so folks could buy stuff.


After I left Motown, I found a Cheesecake Factory and got slices for myself (when did they stop selling the German chocolate cheesecake, btw) and Courtney, over which she sang “Happy Birthday” once I returned to her place. We called it an early night because she had to leave early for work the next morning, and I had a 9-plus-hour drive ahead of me, depending on how lucky I was in avoiding Chicago’s evening rush hour.

Wednesday morning, Courtney had already gone by the time I finally arose. Since I was traveling lightly, it didn’t take long for me to get going. The Detroit area morning rush was dying down, so my drive back to Ann Arbor wasn’t bad at all. I had decided to go back there so I could add another presidential library to my list. President Gerald Ford had attended the University of Michigan, so one of the two facilities that make up his presidential library was on the university’s campus. I was the only person there that morning, so I had the freedom to move around the exhibits as I chose. Below are a few of the pictures. The rest should be on my Flickr page.


It’s interesting to hear the retelling of history from the perspective of the men who held the office of president of the United States.

Especially considering that Ford became president with the resignation of Richard Nixon and shortly thereafter pardoned Nixon so that the disgraced former president never stood trial for his involvement in Watergate and its fallout.

The images pictured here include a reproduction of The New York Times newspaper cover announcing Nixon’s resignation, and the other is a reproduction of Ford’s pardon letter. It was stated that Ford issued the pardon to spare the country the upheaval of a trial, Certainly, it cost Ford the opportunity to win the 1976 presidential elevtion against Jimmy Carter



I’ve now visited the Hoover, Truman, Ford, and Clinton libraries. I had the chance to visit Bush ’43 when I was in Texas, but I wouldn’t pay to go. I’m hoping that the Obama library will open before my time in Iowa ends, and I return to the East coast to retire. Perhaps I can make my way to Eisenhower’s, too, the next time I am in Kansas. Johnson’s would also be a possibility.

And, of course, I got caught in Chicago’s evening rush hour, a most unpleasant experience. I finally got off the interstate and had a relaxed dinner before hitting the road and steering RB towards home.