MALIBU (CelebrityAccess) – Barney Ales, one of the key figures at Motown Records during the infamous label’s heyday and later the company’s president, died on Friday (April 17) of natural causes in Malibu, California, his family has announced. He was 85.
Born Baldassare Ales May 13, 1934, Barney was raised in the heart of Detroit. As a young adult, he worked at Chrysler’s Dodge plant before joining the stockroom of Capitol Records’ local branch at the age of 21. His penchant for sales and promotion saw him work his way through a variety of roles at Capitol all before the age of 25. He then became the branch manager of Warner Brothers Records in 1959.
The following year, Ales met Berry Gordy Jr., who offered him a position as national sales manager and promotion director at his fledgling label, Motown Records. Ales accepted, not yet realizing what a massive impact the job would have on transforming the face of popular music during the 1960s.
Between 1961-72, Ales played a major role in the label’s growth and success, helping to break hits for the likes of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Temptations, and the Miracles, among others, which ultimately put the world-famous Motown sound on the musical map.
Ales became executive VP and general manager of Motown in 1969, however, when Gordy decided to move the company’s headquarters to California in 1972, he opted to remain in Detroit and launched his own label, Prodigal Records. Later, in 1975, he was invited back as executive VP of Motown Records in Los Angeles and became the company’s president.
After leaving Motown for the second time in 1979, Ales went on to work at Elton John’s Rocket Records and at both Penthouse and Pablo Records. He retired from the music business in the late 1990s.
Ales is survived by wife Eileen; children Steven, Barney, Shelley, Brett and Cristina; nine grandchildren and six great grandchildren.