He was a Detroit ghetto kid who dropped out of high school to make his fortune as a fighter. "Killer" was the name he chose. "Canvas bag" was what they called him because that's where he spent most of his time in the ring.
He was a flop.
Then he tried a stint as a record store owner.
Now, Berry Gordy Jr. is singing a different tune.
Ray Kroc was a two-time high school dropout who wanted to be a famous jazz pianist.
Instead he was a classic failure, blundering through a string of unsuccessful careers.
Today he makes millions and he can stand before a college audience and proclaim unabashedly, "Hello customers."
Gordy, the man who built the multi-million-dollar show business empire, Motown Industries Inc., and Kroc, chairman of the McDonald's Corp., which operates more than 4,500 fast food restaurants and posts sales of more than $3.5 billion finally won recognition from academia this week.
The two, along with Soichiro Honda, founderof the Honda Motor Co., Royal Little, founder and former chairman of Textron Inc. and Kenneth H. Olsen, president of Digital Equipment Corp. were among the first businessmen who built their own successful corporations to be named to Babson College's new Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs.
The five "outstanding entrepreneurs" were chosen by a panel of judges including officials of the business school and editors and publishers of national financial publications.
Creation of the academy was time to coincide with the announcement of the business school's plans to begin a new curriculum this fall in entrepreneurship. It will be one of only a handful of programs of its kind in the country.
The businessmen honored this week imparted some words of advice to Babson's budding capitalists.
From Honda, the word was "civic responsibility.
Profit isn't everthing - we have a responsibility to society to contribute to the financial stability of the countries we come into," said Honda, whose firm has just built a new assembly plant in the United States.
Little, known as the "father of conglometrates," advised simply, "Diversify" to spread the risk over a number of companies. That theory pushed Textron Inc. to gross close to $3 billion annually.
Olson, who was a relatively poor MIT computer researcher, told the financiers of the future not to fear giving away a part of their new company to get more working capital. He gave away about 80 percent of digital, which now holds $338 million in working capital.
Kroc, whose highest education degree comes from his own "Hamburger College," gave a sentimental pitch to become "rich in your heart and soul and mind and you'll be rich in dollars, to."
And Gordy, who recently expanded his music business into films with "Lady Sings the Blues "and" Mahogony," told of the first song he'd ever written - called appropriately enough, "Money."
Your love gives me such a thrill, but your love don't pay the bill," the song goes, "I want money."
Now he has it.