November 1st, 2014

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Jack Ashford was another Funk Brother. He played a gospel tambourine and has a sound all his own. He got that sound by shaking the tambourine and slapping the face of it with his hand to the groove. Jack also could play vibes but once the arrangers and producers at Motown heard him play tambourine that became his job. Jack Ashford and Bongo stood next to each other when we recorded in at Motown in Studio A. They really created a lot of poly rhythms that added to the drum sounds. I used them to play on “Scorpio” and it is Jack and Bongo’s voices you hear in the background bleeding through an overhead studio room mic on the percussion break.

Uriel Jones

Uriel Jones on the drums

Uriel Jones was a Funk Brother and one of the drummers at Motown. He played on many hit records. He used one drum fill on a so many hit records, they started calling it the “pass the biscuit fill” because it really delivered the goods. Uriel played the snare and kick drum on Scorpio and many Motown hits. He was a nice guy and funky drummer.







Richard "Pistol" Allen

Richard “Pistol” Allen playing his drums

Richard “Pistol” Allen was a Funk Brother and the other half of the drum sound at Motown. “Pistol” had plenty of drum technique and fast hands so I always assumed that is why they called him “Pistol” but never asked him. He played the drum high hat and cymbal parts at Motown and on Scorpio. Eddie “Bongo” Brown, Jack Ashford, “Pistol” Allen, and Uriel Jones provided that fantastic percussion sound for the dancers on “Scorpio”. The groove they provided in the breakdown provided the perfect funky rhythms for Bob Babbitt”s bass solo. I was playing a guitar part on strings that I muted with my hands across the guitar fret board to get a percussive sound as well. This breakdown in Scorpio was widely sampled by hip hop artists.







Earl Van Dyke

Earl Van Dyke

Earl was a great keyboard player. He could read any music chart and when he sat at the Grand Piano in Studio A at Motown he laid down the heavy piano chords that were the glue for the harmonic structure at Motown. Earl played on many Motown hits. That is Earl playing piano on the funky intro to “I Can’t Get Next to You” by the Temptations. Earl was also a great jazz player. I used to see him play at the Detroit Jazz Festival. Most of the Funk Brothers were great jazz players who played in clubs such as the “Chit Chat” in Detroit at night and sessions at Motown during the day. Does anyone else have stories about working with these Funkbrothers?


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Dennis Coffey