November 8th, 2014

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There were 12 Funk Brothers in the Motown rhythm section including me. There were usually three guitarists on each session out of the four. The producer and arranger were the ones who conducted the session. We would come in each morning at 10:00am or 11:00am and play a three hour session. We would take an hour off for lunch and come back and do another three hour session. We would sit down in Motown Studio A in front of a music stand and one of the arrangers such as Paul Riser or Dave Van DePitte would pass out the music arrangements which we called the road map. Most of these arrangements were on two or three pages and were titled Master Rhythm Arrangement.

All the rhythm and melody parts for each song were written on the Master Rhythm Arrangement. We were expected to read the music written on the chart and record at least three songs every three hours and make them hits. Sometimes we recorded four songs in three hours. We were all friends and worked together as a team to make hit records. Eddie Willis and I were the guitars that created fills and funky guitar parts. We got real good at creating these fills and parts so they didn’t interfere with the vocals. I also had the chance to create introductions to songs such as “Ball of Confusion and solos such as “Cloud Nine”. You can hear me playing the low guitar part intro on ”Just my Imagination” with Eddie Willis answering me with his guitar fill. We created those parts.
The Funk Brothers laid down the music tracks for every Motown hit. After we did the basic tracks which established the groove and flavor for each song, the producer and arranger would add the lead singer, background singers, horns, and strings on overdub sessions. If any one of us made a mistake during those rhythm sessions, the recording engineer stopped the tape and we had to play the song over again until we got it right. We were being paid union scale and were on the clock so you did not want to be the guy who stopped the tape too often. We got very good at reading charts and making great records.
James Jamerson – Bass

Stevie Wonder wedding

Dennis Coffey and James Jamerson

James Jamerson Motown Funk Brother

James Jamerson Motown Funk Brother









Eddie Willis and Joe Messina – Guitars

Motown Funk Brothers Eddie Willis and Joe Messina

Eddie Willis and Joe Messina








Robert White and Joe Messina – Guitars

Funk Brothers in Motown guitar section

Robert White and Joe Messina








Johnny Griffith – Organ

Motown Funk Brother Johnny Griffith

Johnny Griffith







Jack Brokensha – Vibes

Motown musician Jack Brokensha

Jack Brokensha









Jack Ashford – Tambourine

Motown Funk Brothers Earl Van Dyke and Jack Ashford

Earl Van Dyke and Jack Ashford.








The next four Motown Funk Brothers are pictured in the Musicians Who Played on Scorpio blog.

Earl Van Dyke – Piano
Uriel Jones – Drums
Richard “Pistol” Allen – Drums
“Bongo” Eddie Brown – Congas

Does anyone else have stories about working with or meeting The Funk Brothers?


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Dennis Coffey