Funk Brothers Tickets for Sale

The Funk Brothers were the house band at Detroit's Motown Records from 1959 to 1972, when the company moved to Los Angeles. Their story was told in Paul Justman's 2002 documentary film Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Early members included bandleader Joe Hunter and Earl Van Dyke (piano); James Jamerson (bass guitar); William 'Benny' Benjamin and Richard 'Pistol' Allen (drums); Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar); Jack Ashford (tambourine); and Eddie 'Bongo' Brown (percussion). Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Around the same time Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.

In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Wah Wah Watson joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recording dates.

The group was dismissed from Motown's service in 1972, when Berry Gordy moved Motown to Los Angeles.

Jamerson died in 1983, Brown in 1984, Van Dyke in 1992, White in 1994, and Allen and Griffith in 2002.
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It should be noted that the Funk Brothers were an integrated band; though most members were black, Joe Messina and Bob Babbitt were white.

Although the Funk Brothers have lately been accorded long-overdue recognition for their crucial contributions to the Motown sound, it is interesting to note that the backing tracks for a number of significant Motown hits (e.g. Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made To Love Her") were in fact recorded by session musicians based in Los Angeles, including Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine, who were part of the famous 'clique' of first-call session players known as "The Wrecking Crew".

The Funk Brothers were the brilliant but anonymous studio band responsible for the instrumental backing on countless Motown records from 1959 up to the company's move to Los Angeles in 1972. Woefully underappreciated as architects of the fabled "Motown sound," the individual musicians were rarely credited on the records that relied upon their performances, which downplayed their importance to the label. Motown's sophisticated, urbane brand of R&B certainly would have been difficult to achieve without the extensive jazz training that many of the Funk Brothers brought to the table. In order to keep that sound a distinctive brand name, Motown signed most of the group to exclusive, highly restrictive contracts during their tenure, although a few peripheral members were able to moonlight on sessions for other companies from time to time. In more recent years, the Funk Brothers' legacy has begun to receive proper attention, most notably in Allen Slutsky's 1989 book Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which focused on bass genius James Jamerson, and the 2002 documentary film of the same name, which covered the group as a whole.
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