SIXTY years ago tomorrow, in Detroit, Michigan, Berry Gordy founded the Motown record label, which launched the careers of Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and the Jackson 5 to name just a few.

Its story is told in Motown The Musical, the hit West End show heading for Bradford on its first UK tour.

Creative consultant Michael Lovesmith spent decades working with Berry Gordy at Motown Records, coaching the Jackson 5 and producing the likes of The Temptations and The Supremes. “I was on the road as a child, singing in churches with my brothers,” says Michael. “Aged 11, I was signed to a songwriting contract and wrote my first song for them, performed by Dionne Warwick. I met Mr Gordy aged 17, by that time I’d produced about 12 artists. Motown wanted me to work with the Jackson 5. I was their age, so could relate to them in a way not everybody could. They were so used to working with older people who didn’t quite understand their energy! I ended up becoming Berry Gordy’s protégé, producing and vocal coaching Michael and his brothers.”

Motown The Musical is the story of Gordy’s ‘Hitsville’ dream. “I was desperate to get working in music but my parents wanted me to get through school, so I studied and studied so I could graduate early, and from there I went straight to Detroit,” says Michael. “The funny thing about Motown is, it could have been anywhere. In a sense, it was.”

How did he go about faithfully recreating that sound, loved by audiences for six decades, on stage? “We searched high and low for someone who understands the need for the show to sound like Motown.” says Michael. “One person came to meet us, and gave us his idea of how he’d find a Stevie Wonder, a Michael Jackson, a Smokey Robinson, which we didn’t think was possible, and that person was (director) Charles Randolph-Wright.

“Charles walked into the room and knew what Motown is, what it looks and feels like. He grew up on this music. He understood Motown. We put the show in his hands.

“What was great about Charles’s casting process is he would find people who were so good, we wanted to sign them as artists in their own right! He had a vision, just like Mr Gordy. Sometimes I call him ‘Little Berry’. He understood what to look for.”

Charles admits he felt under pressure, approaching the show. “It was so important to me because Mr Gordy is one of my idols, so I wanted to create the show he wanted to see,” he says. “I approached it the way he approached it - I needed to find artists that would evoke a certain thing. What I never wanted was people who would just impersonate those performers, I wanted them to make me feel the way Diana Ross made me feel. I wanted to find people who had what these people did before they became stars. What was that spark, that tone?

After success on Broadway and the West End, Michael was keen to take the show on the road. “The UK is probably 50per cent responsible for the success of Motown; it has kept Motown alive,” says Michael. “The vibe here is fantastic, it’s like being back in shows from the 70s.”

Charles adds: “Motown appeals to every age. I love that each audience member finds some aspect of this show that resonates with them. The show is infectious, and the UK truly knows it.

“Motown is not just a record label, it’s not just a show - it’s a movement.”

* Motown the Musical is at the Alhambra from April 9-20. Call (01274) 432000.