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The Funk Brothers

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1The Funk Brothers Empty The Funk Brothers on Sun May 23, 2010 9:45 pm

The Funk Brothers was the nickname of Detroit, Michigan, session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown Records recordings from 1959 until the company moved to Los Angeles in 1972. The Funk Brothers played on Motown hits such as "My Girl", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Baby Love", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours", "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone", "The Tears of a Clown", "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", and "(Love is Like a) Heat Wave".

The role of the Funk Brothers is described in Paul Justman's 2002 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown, based on Allan Slutsky's book of the same name. The opening titles proclaim the Funk Brothers as "having played on more number-one hits than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined."

Notable members

Early members included bandleader Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke (piano); James Jamerson (bass guitar); Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin and Richard "Pistol" Allen (drums); Paul Riser (trombone); Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar); Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba); Jack Brokensha (vibraphone, marimba); and Eddie "Bongo" Brown (percussion). Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer. Late era bassist Bob Babbitt joined the ensemble in 1967.

There have been many articles written which identify the actual members of The Funk Brothers, some of which claim that virtually every musician who ever played on a Motown track was a "Funk Brother". In actuality, there are 13 actual Funk Brothers as identified in the film Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, as well as 13 members identified by both NARAS for the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and recognized by the recent Star on the Hollywood Walk Of fame. Despite that, many other musicians have contributed to the Motown Sound.[citation needed]
Legacy and techniques

Until the release of the Standing in the Shadows of Motown documentary, the members of the band were not widely known. Studio musicians were not credited by Motown until Marvin Gaye's What's Going On in 1971, although Motown released a handful of singles and LPs by Earl Van Dyke. The Funk Brothers shared billing with Van Dyke on some recordings, although they were billed as "Earl Van Dyke & the Soul Brothers", since Motown CEO Berry Gordy, Jr. disliked the word "funk". Alternatively, the name "Funk Brothers" could have been given to the band ex post facto; the term "funky" as an adjective came to be associated with uptempo, southern-styled soul music in the second half of the 1960s; the term "funk" as a noun is typically associated with uptempo soul music from the 1970s onwards. In the "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" documentary, Joe Hunter states that the name "The Funk Brothers" came from Benny Benjamin. Hunter states that Benjamin was leaving the studio (known as the Snake Pit) after session work, paused on the stairs, turned and said to his fellow musicians, "You all are the Funk Brothers". The band was then informally named.

The band used innovative techniques. For example, most Motown records feature two drummers, playing together or overdubbing one another — Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" used three drummers. A number of songs utilized instrumentation and percussion unusual in soul music. The Temptations' "It's Growing" features Earl Van Dyke playing a toy piano for the song's introduction, snow chains are used as percussion on Martha & the Vandellas' "Nowhere to Run", and a custom oscillator was built to create the synthesizer sounds used to accent Diana Ross & the Supremes' "Reflections" A tire iron was used in the Martha & the Vandellas "Dancing in the Streets".
Dissolution and later years

During the mid to late-1960s, one-fifth of Motown records began utilizing session musicians based in Los Angeles, usually covers and tributes of mainstream pop songs and showtunes. By 1970, an increasing number of Motown sessions were in Los Angeles instead of Detroit, notably all The Jackson 5's hit recordings. Nevertheless, Motown producers such as Norman Whitfield, Frank Wilson, Marvin Gaye, and Smokey Robinson steadfastly continued to record in Detroit.

The Funk Brothers were dismissed in 1972, when Berry Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles. A few members, including Jamerson, migrated to Los Angeles, but found the environment uncomfortable. For many of the L.A. recordings, members of 'The Wrecking Crew' the prominent group of West Coast session musicians famous for working with Phil Spector and Brian Wilson (Good Vibrations, California Girls, and the Pet Sounds album) including drummer Earl Palmer, bassist Carol Kaye, guitar virtuoso Tommy Tedesco, and keyboard genius Larry Knechtel, joined the team at Motown. Bejamin died in 1969, Jamerson in 1983, Brown in 1984, Van Dyke in 1992, White in 1994, Allen and Griffith in 2002, Hunter in 2007, Richard Wylie in 2008 and Uriel Jones in 2009.

In March 2006, some remaining Funk Brothers were invited to perform on Philly writer/producer/singer Phil Hurtt's unique and interesting recording session at Studio A/Dearborn Heights/Detroit where they contributed their performances to ‘The Soulful Tale of Two Cities’ project. The double album sleeve notes read ‘Motown’s legendary Funk Brothers and members of Philadelphia’s world renown MFSB take you “back in the day” with an album filled with classic Philly and Motown hits’. Bob Babbitt, Joe Hunter, Uriel Jones and Eddie Willis performed alongside other notable Detroit session musicians like Ray Monette, Robert Jones, Spider Webb, and Treaty Womack.

The musicians played on the Philly hits giving their unique Detroit interpretations of the songs under the leadership of Phil Hurtt, Bobby Eli, Clay McMurray and Lamont Dozier. Many other ex Motown and Detroit artists performed vocals on the session including The Velvelettes, Carolyn Crawford, Lamont Dozier, Bobby Taylor, Kim Weston, Freda Payne, and George Clinton.

In 2008 Uriel Jones, Ray Monette, Dennis Coffey, Robert Jones and Bob Babbitt accompanied other notable Detroit session musicians including Larry Fratangelo, Dennis Sheridan, Edward Gooch, John Trudell, George Benson, Mark Burger, David Jennings, Spider Webb and Rob Pipho where they appeared on the Carl Dixon Bandtraxs project which featured a Dennis Coffey/Carl Dixon production of 4 brand new songs. In addition vocal performances from Spyder Turner, Pree and Gayle Butts provided lead and backing for the session. The session was also arranged by ex Motown arranger David J.Van De Pitte. The session was also at Studio A, Dearborn Heights, Detroit and was the dream of a 19 year old Dixon, back in 1974, to pay homage to musicians, particularly The Funk Brothers, producers and those who influenced him with their music. It took Dixon almost 33 years to find the musicians and with luck, met some of them on the web site soulfuldetroit.com. It was via this web site that he and Dennis Coffey hooked up and then eventually collaborated together to make the session work.
Awards and recognition

The Funk Brothers have received three Grammy awards:

* Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004
* Best Traditional R&B Performance for "What's Going On" with Chaka Khan, 2002
* Best Compilation Soundtrack Album For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media for Standing in the Shadows of Motown, 2002.

Bassist James Jamerson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and drummer Benny Benjamin in 2003. In 2003, surviving members were invited to the White House to meet President George W. Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, in an event tied to Black History Month.

As discussed above, the name "The Funk Brothers" was a loosely-applied designation. Although the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences recognizes 13 musicians as official "Funk Brothers", the name is often casually used as a catch-all designation to cover any musician who played on a Motown record.

The following list covers the musicians most frequently used on Motown recordings from 1959 through 1972; it is not an exhaustive list of every musician ever used. The 13 Funk Brothers recognized as official band members by NARAS are marked with an asterisk.

Membership lists based upon research by Allan Slutsky, with some minor corrections.
Detroit musicians

* Keyboardists:
o Joe Hunter (band leader, 1959–1964)*
o Earl Van Dyke (band leader, 1964–1972)*
o Richard "Popcorn" Wylie (1959–1962)
o Johnny Griffith (1963–1972)*
o Johnny Gittens (1963–1967)
o Ted Sheely (1963–1967)
* Guitarists:
o Robert White (1959–1972)*
o Eddie "Chank" Willis (1959–1972)*
o Joe Messina (1959–1972)*
o Larry Veeder (1959–1962)
o Dave Hamilton (1959–1962)
o Huey Davis (1959–1967, The Contours' road and studio guitarist)
o Marvin Tarplin (1958–1973, The Miracles' road and studio guitarist).
o Cornelius Grant (1963–1972, The Temptations' road guitarist/band leader)
o Dennis Coffey (1967–1972)
o Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin (1968–1972)
o Ray Parker
o Ray Monette
* Bassists:
o James Jamerson (1959–1972)*
o Clarence Isabell (1959–1962)
o Bob Babbitt (1967–1972)*
o Edward Pickens (1968–1972)
o Tweed Beard
o Joe Williams
o Michael Henderson
o Joe James
* Drums:
o William "Benny" Benjamin (1959–1969)*
o Richard "Pistol" Allen (1959–1972)*
o George McGregor (1959–1962)
o Corey Jahns (1959–1967) bongos
o Clifford Mack (1959–1962)
o Marvin Gaye (1959–1962)
o Uriel Jones (1963–1972)*
o Frederick Waites (1963–1967)
o Andrew Smith (1968–1972)
* Percussion:
o Jack Ashford (1959–1972, tambourine)*
o Eddie "Bongo" Brown (1959–1972, various)*
* Vibes:
o Jack Ashford (1959–1972) (also listed above)*
o Dave Hamilton (1959–1962)
o James Gittens (1959–1962)
o Jack Brokensha (1963–1972)

* Trumpets:
o Herbie Williams
o John "Little John" Wilson
o Marcus Belgrave
o Russell Conway
o Johnny Trudell
o Floyd Jones
o Maurice Davis
o Billy Horner
o Don Slaughter
o Eddie Jones
* Saxophones:
o Henry "Hank" Cosby
o Andrew "Mike" Terry
o Norris Patterson
o Thomas "Beans" Bowles
o Teddy Buckner
o Ronnie Wakefield
o "Lefty" Edwards
o Eli Fountain
o Ernie Rodgers
o Kasuka Malia
o Eugene "BeeBee" Moore
o William "Wild Bill" Moore
o Angelo Carlisi
o Dan Turner
o Bernie Peacock
o Larry Nozero
o Lanny Austin
* Trombones:
o Bob Cousar
o George Bohanon
o Paul Riser
o Jimmy Wilkens
o Don White
o Carl Raetz
o Patrick Lanier
o Bill Johnson
o Ed Gooch
* Flute:
o Dayna Hartwick
* Strings:
o Gordon Staples and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra Strings Section

Los Angeles musicians

Los Angeles was an alternate recording center for Motown artists beginning in the mid-1960s, utilizing a different set of musicians. Hit tracks recorded in LA include The Miracles' "More Love", many of Brenda Holloway's songs, and all the early hits of The Jackson 5.

Many of the Los Angeles players were members of The Wrecking Crew collective of studio musicians.

* Keyboards:
o Mike Rubini
o Joe Sample
o Clarence McDonald
o Don Randi
o Larry Knechtel
* Guitars:
o Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin
o Arthur Wright
o David T. Walker
o Tommy Tedesco
o Louie Shelton
o Adolph Green
o Weldon T. Parks
* Bass:
o Wilton Felder
o Carol Kaye
o Bill Pitman
o Jacob Aaron Greenberg
o Ron Brown

* Drums:
o Earl Palmer
o Jacob Greenberg
o Gene Pello
o Paul Humphreys
* Percussion:
o Gary Coleman
o Bobbye Porter
o King Errisson
o Joe Clayton
o Sandra Crouch
o Jerry Steinholtz
o Emil Richards

Arrangers and conductors

* Detroit: Paul Riser, Willie Shorter, Dave Van DePitte, Wade Marcus, Johnny Allen, Gil Askey, Ernie Wilkins, Jerry Long, Henry "Hank" Cosby, Slide Hampton, and H. B. Barnum
* Los Angeles: Gene Page, James Carmichael, and Arthur Wright

List of #1 Songs on which The Funk Brothers played

* "Please Mr Postman" The Marvelettes
* "Fingertips Pt. 2" Little Stevie Wonder
* "My Guy" Mary Wells
* "Where Did Our Love Go" The Supremes
* "Baby Love" The Supremes
* "Come See About Me" The Supremes
* "My Girl" The Temptations
* "Stop! In the Name of Love" The Supremes
* "Back in My Arms Again" The Supremes
* "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" The Four Tops
* "I Hear a Symphony" The Supremes
* "You Can't Hurry Love" The Supremes
* "Reach Out I'll Be There" The Four Tops
* "You Keep Me Hangin' On" The Supremes
* "The Happening" The Supremes
* "Respect" Aretha Franklin
* "Love Child" Diana Ross and the Supremes
* "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" Marvin Gaye
* "I Can't Get Next to You" The Temptations
* "Someday We'll Be Together" Diana Ross and the Supremes
* "ABC" The Jackson Five
* "The Love You Save" The Jackson Five
* "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" Diana Ross
* "I'll Be There" The Jackson Five
* "The Tears of a Clown" Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
* "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" The Temptations
* "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" The Temptations
* "Superstition" Stevie Wonder
* "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" Stevie Wonder
* "Touch Me in the Morning" Diana Ross
* "Let's Get It On" Marvin Gaye
* "Midnight Train to Georgia" Gladys Night and the Pips
* "Keep on Truckin' (Part 1)" Eddie Kendricks
* "You Haven't Done Nothin'" Stevie Wonder

* "Just a Little Misunderstanding"
* "Shop Around"
* "Shotgun"
* "How Sweet it Is"
* "The One who Really Loves You"
* "The Way you Do the Things you Do"
* "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing"
* "Road Runner"
* "Ain't too Proud to Beg"
* "I Wish it would Rain"
* "Heat Wave"
* "Hitch Hike"
* "What's so Good about Goodbye"
* "I Was Made to Love Her"
* "It's the Same Old Song"
* "You've Really Got a Hold on Me"
* "Standing in the Shadows of Love"
* "If I Were your Woman"
* "Going to a Go-Go"
* "Heaven Must Have Sent You"
* "Dancing in the Street"
* "Mercy Mercy Me"
* "Cloud Nine"
* "What's Goin' On"
* "Do You Love Me"
* "Get Ready"
* "Function at the Junction"
* "My Arms are Empty Without You"
* "The Tracks of my Tears"
* "Can I Get a Witness"
* "Nowhere To Run"
* "Here Comes The Judge"
* "Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I'm Yours"
* "Beachwood 4-5789"
* "Bernadette"
* "Two Lovers"
* "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted"
* "My Cherie Amor"
* "I Second That Emotion"
* "Losing You"
* "First I Look at the Purse"
* "Ooo Baby Baby"
* "I'll Be Doggone"
* "Pride and Joy"
* "Ball of Confusion"
* "Losing You"
* "It Takes Two"
* "This Old Heart Of Mine"
* "Uptight"
* "Devil With a Blue Dress"
* "Jimmy Mack"
* "Since I Lost My Baby"
* "War"
* "Stubborn Kind Of Fellow"
* "Don't Mess With Bill"
* "You Beat Me to the Punch"
* "Shake Me, Wake Me"
* "Mickey's Monkey"
* "Ain't That Peculiar"
* "Shoo-be-doo-be-doo-da-day"

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2The Funk Brothers Empty Re: The Funk Brothers on Mon May 24, 2010 4:25 am

Wah Wah Watson played on Marvins 1976 'I Want You' recording.
Dennis Coffey was on Lead Guitar.

And he played on loads of Funk Brothers band recordings after 1972.

After 72' it got even better



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