After some years of trying to wrest money from Nat Tarnopol at Brunswick Records, George Goldner at Gone/End Records, and various other labels, Berry Gordy decided to take total control of his songs, and on January 12, 1959, he borrowed $800 from the family trust to start his own record label, Tamla. He’d originally wanted to call it Tammy, after the Debbie Reynolds film, but that name was already taken (Tammy Records, which probably predated Tamla by a few months, is chiefly remembered for a few discs by the Monorays). Tamla Records was located at 1719 Gladstone Street in Detroit, and the first release was Marv Johnson's Come To Me. Apparently, Gordy approached Johnson after seeing him perform on a carnival float. Without national distribution, Gordy leased Come To Me to United Artists and it did sufficiently well for UA to pick up Marv Johnson’s contract. United Artists Records wasn’t much older than Tamla, but was capitalized with more than $800. With Gordy still producing, Johnson recorded You Got What It Takes in 1959, and it became the first Berry Gordy solo production to crack the pop Top 10.
Marvin Earl Johnson was born October 15, 1938 in Detroit, and his first musical experience was with a vocal group, the Serenaders, during the mid 1950s. His first single on Kudo Records in 1958 immediately preceded the first Tamla record. United Artists hung onto his contract in the face of diminishing returns until 1964, when he returned to the Motown fold first as an artist and then as a sales and promotion man. He returned to performing in 1987, but suffered a stroke while performing at a concert in Columbia, South Carolina, and died two days later on May 16, 1993. You Got What It Takes became one of the critical records in the development of British R&B. Johnny Kidd covered it in 1960, and many other cover versions followed, including one by the Dave Clark Five and another by Showaddywaddy...all of them hits, no matter how lamentable.