Franklin honored at historic Detroit studio

Karen Bouffard
The Detroit News

Fans lined up around the block Sunday for a memorial to Aretha Franklin at Detroit's historic United Sound Systems studio, where the Queen of Soul recorded "Jumping Jack Flash," "Who's Zooming Who" and other hits.

Visitors walk past a framed photo of Aretha Franklin in Studio A of United Sound Systems Recording Studios, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 in Detroit.  Franklin recorded many of her albums at this studio.

Metro Detroit fans viewed the studio used by generations of music greats, including the Temptations, Whitney Houston, John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis, and reminisced about the role Franklin's music played in their lives. 

"I just feel a connection to her, coming from Detroit and growing up with her music," said Pam Thompson of West Bloomfield, who grew up not far from Franklin's home in Detroit's historic Boston-Edison neighborhood. She attended with her husband, Howard Thompson.

The Thompsons said they would often see Franklin out and about in Detroit, including at the marina where they kept their boat.  Once, she was a guest on one of their friend's boats and invited them on board, they said. 

"She was over there cooking," Thompson said. "A lot of folks, when they reach a certain level, distance themselves from folks, but she did not." 

Several members of Detroit's music industry also turned out, including Gary Grier, a vocalist with the Contours, one of the early soul groups signed to Motown Records. The Contours' hit "Do You Love Me" topped the charts in 1962.

"I grew up in that neighborhood and I never got to meet her," said Grier of Oak Park. "But I listened to her and grew up with her music."

Grier attended with Gisele Cover of Southfield, who said she heard Franklin sing many times at New Bethel Baptist Church, where the singer's late father, famed evangelist C.L. Franklin, was pastor. 

"I went because my dad used to sing in a Gospel Quartet (at New Bethel)," Cover said. "As an adult, I would go to her gospel shows.

"It was just part of your musical experience being from Detroit because there was music everywhere." 

MORE ONLINE: Aretha Franklin remembered, a Detroit News special section

Brenda Wilson, the daughter of vocalist Jackie Wilson, who gained fame as a member of Billy Ward and his Dominos and went on to have 16 top 10 hits on the Rhythm & Blues charts, also visited the studio to honor Franklin.  


United Sound Systems owner Danielle Scott said Franklin was part of the rich history of the studio, which was founded in 1933. She estimated 200 to 300 people turned out for Sunday's memorial. 

"We just wanted to pay our respects to Miss Aretha Franklin and her family, considering all of the music she’s made here and throughout her career," Scott said. 

Tour guide and historian Alex Alexander, foreground, talks about the history  of United Sound Systems Recording Studios, Sunday, Aug. 19, 2018 in Detroit.

Kiko Davis, widow of former United owner Don Davis, brought the platinum album "Who's Zooming Who" for display at the event. 

"(Don Davis) told me there was no one like Aretha," Davis said. "She was professional, she was a perfectionist and she had the voice of an angel." 

"The music that was created here, and that she created, made an impact worldwide and will continue to make an impact for years and years to come."

Kendall Goodman and family members spent most of the day Sunday honoring the singer. They drove by Franklin's childhood home, visited Motown Records and ended up at the United Sound Systems memorial. 

"Back in the day, you'd sit down on a Friday or a Saturday and your mom would put on Aretha records," he said. "She was not just the Queen of Soul, she was the Queen of Detroit."