Baldassare "Barney" Ales, the charismatic sales chief who helped turn Motown Records into a music industry powerhouse as Berry Gordy's right-hand man, died of natural causes Friday in Malibu, Calif. He was 85.
Born in Detroit on May 13, 1934, Ales attended the city's Cooley High, where he met his future wife, Eileen "Mitzi" Cauley. His career in music began at just 21 years old, when he joined the stockroom of Capitol Records' local branch, advancing over the next four years to posts in sales and promotion before joining Warner Bros. Records in 1959 as its Detroit branch manager. The following year, Ales met Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr., who offered him the job of national sales manager and promotion director at the then-fledgling company.
From there, Ales played a key role in growing Motown from a young upstart to the frontline of the record industry, helping break nationwide hits by The Marvelettes, Stevie Wonder, The Miracles, Mary Wells, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and The Supremes -- who scored five consecutive Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits in 1964-65. In 1969, Ales was promoted to executive VP and general manager, and in 1970, Motown scored seven more No. 1 hits on the Hot 100, an annual record for the independent company.