May 9th, 2015

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Mike Theodore and I first met at Golden World Studios. I was doing sessions there every day and Mike was there looking for work. I had just done my first string date for producer Don Davis on a song by The Holidays called “I’ll Love You Forever”. Edwin Starr was did the lead vocals on that record as a member of the Holidays. I played on “Stop Her On Sight SOS” and “War” for Edwin. Later Funk Brother Joe Hunter told me he did the rhythm arrangements. Mike had done rhythm and horn arrangements before but not string arrangements. Golden World was becoming like Motown was in their early days. There were a lot of people hanging around the studio trying to find work or get deals. I remember recording there late at night with out of town producers Jimmy Bishop, Luther Dixon, and Labaron Taylor. Funk Brother Bob Babbitt was there too.

Mike approached me one day and told me he had a request from Don Mancha to do an arrangement for an artist called Jack Montgomery. The song was called “Dearly Beloved”. Don wanted full orchestra. Mike had not written for strings before and when he saw me doing a string session he asked me to partner up with him. I was using Wayne State University students on the string date. I agreed to work with him and we did the project which became a Northern Soul favorite in the UK. You can hear it on YouTube. After that session Mike and I teamed up as arrangers and eventually as producers.

Later Ralph Terrana the owner of Tera Shirma Studios gave us an office and a key to the studio and we started bringing in musicians and singers when they finished playing in the clubs at night. I played guitar and Mike ran the board. We started our sessions at 3:00am and worked all night. That was the beginning of Theo-Coff Productions. One of the first groups that hired us to arrange and produce an album for them was a local bar band called the Sunliners. The Sunliners drew great crowds where ever they performed. Their main club in Detroit was the Club Cliché on John R where they played a steady gig. George Katsakis and I saw them play at the Peppermint Lounge in NYC when we were in town recording at Bell Sound.

We got the group an album deal with MGM/Verve and recorded an album called “Dreams and Answers” that was released in 1966. The Sunliners later became Rare Earth. We did a studio version of “Get Ready” and Motown released a live version of the same song. You can hear cuts from that album on YouTube. That is me on the album cover wearing sunglasses standing in the back because their keyboard player Kenny James got lost on his way to the cover shoot. Mike and I always did what we had to do for our artists.

I made a lot of money playing Detroit music.


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Dennis Coffey