Motown's resounding success was a powerful magnet to Detroit's local jazz and club players, who brought with them a musical sophistication missing in the earliest recordings. Robert White's and Eddie Willis' signature guitar licks, the backbeat cooked up by guitarist Joe Messina and percussionist Jack Ashford, the heart stopping rhythmic locks by drummer Benny Benjamin and virtuoso bassist James Jamerson, the deft direction by bandleader and keyboardist Earl Van Dyke, provided the unshakeable foundation for Motown's stars.

pete_allen.jpg (52648 bytes)
Richard "Pistol" Allen

babbitt.jpg (8240 bytes)
Bob Babbitt

funk_willis.jpg (139228 bytes)
Eddie Willis

HankCosbyNice2017.jpg (21790 bytes)
Hank Cosby

Keyboards - Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith, Johnny Gittens, Ted Sheely
Guitars - Robert White, Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Marv Tarplin, Cornelius Grant
Bass -James Jamerson, Tony Newton
Drums - Benny Benjamin, Richard "Pistol" Allen, Uriel Jones, Frederick Waites
Percussion - Jack Ashford, Eddie "Bongo" Brown
Vibes- Jack Ashford, Jack Brokensha
Trumpet - Johnny Trudel, Herbie Williams, Floyd Jones, Maurice Davis, Billy Horner, Jon "Little John" Wilson, Russell Conway, Marcus Belgrave, Don Slaughter.
Trombone - George Bohanon, Jimmy Wilkens, Bob Cousar, Paul Riser, Don White, Carl Raetz, Patrick Lanier, Bill Johnson
Saxophone - Hank Crosby, Andrew "Mike" Terry, Thomas Beans" Bowles, Kasuka Malia, Teddy Buckner, Lefty Edwards, Eugene "BeeBee" Moore, William "Wild Bill" Moore, Angelo Carlisi, Ernie Rodgers, Dan Turner, Bernie Peacock, Larry Nozero
Flute - Dayna Hartwick
Strings - Gordon Staples (concertmaster) and the Detroit Symphony Strings.


During this era there was a new catalyst for change in the Motown sound. Producer Norman Whitfield's psychedelic soul revolution ushered in the arrival of guitarist Dennis Coffey and Wah Wah Watson. Motown's recording schedule increased bringing in other new players. The death of Benny Benjamin, along with James Jefferson's advancing alcoholism, pushed talents like Uriel Jones and Bob Babbitt to the front. Still at Motowns core was the classic band led by Earl Van Dyke.

Ater a decade of hit making the Funk Brothers performed like a championship team; they thought their dynasty would last forever. But as Motown began to seek new horizons in Los Angeles, the musicians sensed the coming of an end to an era. Digging deep into their lifeblood, the many strains of Detroit's rich musical traditions, they redefined the boundaries of pop music one last time with the historic Marvin Gaye What:s Going On sessions.

Within a year after the release of Gaye's album, Motown moved permanently to Los Angeles, and the most prolific studio band in recording history closed shop.

bongo.jpg (5480 bytes)
Eddie  "Bongo" Brown

funk_coffey.jpg (192973 bytes)
Dennis Coffey

funk_jones.jpg (160934 bytes)
Uriel Jones

Earl_Van_Dyke.jpg (21709 bytes)
Earl Van Dyke

Keyboards - Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith
Guitars  Robert White, Eddie Willis, Joe Messina, Dennis Coffey, Wah Wah Watson
Bass - James Jamerson,  Bob Babbit, Eddie Watkins
Drums - Richard "Pistol" Allen, Uriel Jones, Andrew Smith
Percussion - Jack Ashford, Eddie "Bongo" Brown
Vibes - Jack Ashford, Jack Brokensha
Trumpet - John Trudell, Russell Conway, Herbie Williams, Floyd Jones, John "Little John" Wilson, Maurice Davis, Marcus Belgrave, Billy Horner, Don Slaughter, Eddie Jones
Trombone -  Jimmy Wilkins, Bob Cousar, Paul Riser, Don White, Carl Raetz, Patricl Lanier, Paul Johnson
Saxophones - Hank Crosby, Kasuka Mafia,Teddy Buckner, Lefty Edwards,  Bernie Peacock, Thomas "Beans" Bowles,  Eugene "BeeBee"  Mooore, William "Wild Bill" Moore, Angelo Carlisi, Ernie Rodgers, Dan Turner, Eli Fontaine, Larry Nozero, Lanny Austin
Flute - Dayna Hartwick
Strings - Gordon Staples (concertmaster) and the Detroit Symphony Strings

Arrangers and producers throughout the Detroit era -  Paul Riser, Willie Shorter, Dave Van DePitte,  Wade Marcus, Johnny Allen, Gil Askey, Ernie Wilkins, Jerry Long, Hank Crosby, Slide Hampton, H.B. Barnum

Motown's West Coast Studio Band.

During the mid-Sixties Motown augmented its overwhelming Detroit recording schedule with a few west Coast sessions. In addition to accommodate complex touring schedules the company often flew tapes between Los Angeles and Detroit. The majority of the hits were still being recorded in Detroit, but by the late 60s the Los Angeles operation played an increasingly important role. The Jackson 5 sessions, in fact, were recorded almost entirely in Los Angeles.

Keyboards - Mike Rubini, Joe Sample, Clarence McDonald, Don Randi, Larry Knechtel
Guitars - Arthur Wright, David T. Walker, Thomas Tedesco, Louie Shelton, Adolph Green, Weldon T. Parks
Bass - Wilson Felder, Carol Kaye, Bill Pitman, Ron Brown
Drums - Earl Palmer, Ed Greene, Gene Pello, Paul Humphreys
Percussion - Gary Coleman, Bobbye Porter, King Errisson, Joe Clayton, Sandra Crouch, Jerry  Steinholtz, Emil Richards
Arrangers - Gene Page, James Carmichael, Arthur Wright, Gil Ashley

courtesy  Allan (Dr. Licks) Slutsky

James Jamerson was inducted in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000
Benny Benjamin was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in   2003

Standing In the Shadows of Motown: The Story of the Funk Brothers

home.gif (2894 bytes)