Have you ever heard of these fellows:
Chances are you haven’t heard their name, but you definitely have heard them play.
They are Motown’s unsung heroes. Known as The Funk Brothers, the studio band put the backbeat into hits for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, etc. They played on more #1 records than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined, but no one knew their names.
Here are some notable members’ names:
bandleader Joe Hunter
and Earl Van Dyke (piano);
James Jamerson (bass guitar);
Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen (drums);
Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar);
Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba);
Jack Brokensha (vibraphone, marimba);
Eddie “Bongo” Brown (percussion).
Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.
In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin “Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin, who introduced the wah-wah pedal that defined Motown’s psychedelic soul records, joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recordings.
To learn more check out his documentary: Standing in the Shadows of Motown