Blog

MOTOWN ARTISTS

dennis

November 15th, 2014

No comments

MOTOWN ARTISTS

STEVIE WONDER
Stevie Wonder is an amazing Motown artist. I played on the Motown record “We Can Work It Out” for Stevie. I remember doing overdubs for Stevie at Golden World Studios. As a guitarist I felt that I was an extension of the music Stevie Wonder was hearing in his head. When he sang a guitar part for me to play, he not only heard the notes, he heard the phasing and dynamics as well. I remember playing “It’s a Shame” by the Spinners at Motown Studio A. I was playing the written guitar part intro line and Eddie Willis was playing a background guitar part. Stevie heard this drum part and was singing it to Funk Brothers Uriel Jones and “Pistol Allen”. They kept trying to get that drum part down and grew frustrated because they couldn’t get it. Finally Uriel said to Stevie, “Man, we don’t hear it, you need to play it”. Uriel then handed his drum sticks to Stevie and Stevie did play it and the record was a big hit. That is an example of his tremendous talent. I saw Stevie get on stage at Motown night at the Motown Musical and take turns singing with the actor who played him.

Stevie Wonder Motown

Stevie Wonder

 

 

 

 

 

 
DIANA ROSS
I first saw Diana Ross at a session I was doing at Motown Studio A. I was in the overdub room used for Vibes. I had my Fender Bassman amp and was wailing out some feedback and distortion on that Fender amp. I happened to look up and saw Diana Ross and Berry Gordy both looking at me through the window in the overdub room. They were probably wondering what in the world I was doing with my guitar and amp in that room that made everything so loud. The next time I saw Diana Ross in the studio was at Mowest on Santa Monica Blvd in LA. I think Diana was producing a session and Berry was helping her. She seemed like nice person – soft spoken and a little shy. We completed the session and they left. Diana started at Motown when she was still a teenager and had a very young sounding voice that the teenagers could identify with. With the help of Berry Gordy, The Motown Funk Brothers, writers and producers, she became a world-wide superstar.

Diana Ross Motowm

Diana Ross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“THE TEMPTATIONS”
“The Temptations” were the first group I recorded for at Motown. I remember when Norman Whitfield brought in an arrangement to a song called “Cloud Nine” he wanted to record on ‘The Temptations”. Norman had been listening to Sly Stone and George Clinton and other groups that were writing songs that reflected the sounds and social issues of day. When he heard me and my Wah Wah pedal on the intro to “Cloud Nine”, he had me at Motown recording that song with the Funk Brothers two weeks later.
Norman loved the way I played and the guitar effects I used on his records. I was playing with Lyman Woodard on organ and Melvin Davis on drums at concerts and clubs around town using strobe lights, fuzz, and a Wah Wah pedal in our shows. We once opened up for the MC Five at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit and Ted Nugent at the State Fair. We were playing Psychedelic, Funk, and R&B. Norman let me stretch out on the Temptation records creating intros for “Ball of Confusion” to “Just my Imagination”. Once Norman started using me on all of his sessions and getting hits, the other producers started using me as well. Norman Whitfield and ‘The Temptations” got me in the door at Motown and I became a Funk Brother because I was there almost every day making Motown hits.

'The Temptations" Motown

“The Temptations”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Temptations” were a Motown Super group before I came to Motown and Norman helped them make the transition from love songs to social protest songs such as “Cloud Nine” and then back again with the love song “Just my Imagination”. When I moved to LA and was doing sessions at Mowest, I got a call to back up The Temptations on a TV show called “In Concert”. We had a lot of technical problems taping that show live and it took all day but we got it done. I was surprised two weeks after the show to get a letter from The Temptations that said “Dear Dennis”- In the face of Adverse Conditions, you were a foundation of solid rock for us, and we will never forget it !!!!!! Please allow us to humbly sat “Thank you” With Deep Appreciation, “The Temptations”. It was signed by members of “The Temptations” Melvin Franklin, Otis Williams, Glenn C. Leonard, Dennis Edwards, and Richard Street. I was really blown away. In all the years of playing on hits for recording artists and backing them up live, I never got a thank you note. Not only were “The Temptations” Super Stars, they were a class act and I never forgot that letter. Does anyone else have stories of encounters with Motown artists?

5 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *