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FUNK BROTHERS BOOKS

 

OBITURARY

 

Standing in the Shadows of Motown released to great acclaim in 2003, gave a new lease of life to Motown's forgotten session musicians. The band toured the world and won two Grammy awards. While Motown recordings utilized many musicians, the film focused on 13 players,, currently we are lucky to still have four Funk Brothers with us.. ~ 2009

Stevie Wonder performing at NAMM's Samson's 2012 International Bassist Award Tribute Show for James Jamerson Sr.

 

Motown drummer Uriel Jones, best known for playing with the Temptations and Marvin Gaye, died aged 74 March 25, 2009. He was the last surviving drummer in the Motown session band known as the Funk Brother, and was a key component of the "psychedelic soul" foray by the Temptations, including Cloud Nine and I Can't Get Next To You. "Uriel's drum sound was the most open and laid back and he was the funkiest of the three guys we had," said Motown arranger Paul Riser.


'Funk Brother' Joe Hunter dies Sat, Feb. 03, 2007
I am so sorry to learn and post the very sad news that my friend Joe has passed away. He was an extraordinary gentlemen,very smart, and kind man.
He had many gifts, not just his musical talent, he was generous of spirit and knew how to endure life's burdens. I will miss talking with him and always feel the world has lost a great man. ~ Karen Ellis
Joe Hunter: 1927-2007
Motown's first Funk Brother dies at age 79 Susan Whitall / The Detroit News / SUMMARY:
It was a sad day for Motown fans Friday as three-time Grammy winner Joe Hunter of the Funk Brothers was found dead in his Detroit apartment. He was 79.
While the cause of death was unknown at press time, he was diabetic, and his son said it appeared he was trying to take some medicine when he died. Joe Hunter Jr., went in with Detroit police and found his father. In addition to his son, Hunter is survived by a daughter, Michelle, and three grandchildren.
Born in Jackson, Tenn., Hunter moved to Detroit just before his 12th birthday, although he never lost his Southern accent or charm. He was a raw, rootsy piano player who started out in the 1950s backing up acts such as Jackie Wilson and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, but he could play jazz or Professor Longhair and Fats Domino-style New Orleans piano as well.
Hunter was Berry Gordy Jr.'s first hire, to back up acts such as Smokey Robinson and the Miracles on piano in the late '50s, as Gordy mustered a staff for what would become Motown Records. Hunter also served as Motown's first bandleader in those very early days.
His soulful, bluesy piano is the first thing you hear on the Marvin Gaye song "Pride and Joy." That piano work was an integral part of such songs as Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave" and "Come and Get These Memories," but after Motown left Detroit in 1972, like many musicians, Hunter took what gigs he could.
When Philadelphia musician and historian Allan Slutsky set out to find all the Funk Brothers in the 1980s, he found Hunter playing for tips at the Troy Marriott.The glamour of Motown wore off quickly for Hunter after the '60s. When Philadelphia musician/historian Allan Slutsky set out to find all the Funk Brothers in the 1980s, he found Hunter playing for tips at the Troy Marriott. Hotel guests had no idea who he was. "Joe was kind of a throwback character, an English country gentleman in an R&B blues body," said Slutsky, whose book and film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" chronicled the Funk Brothers' saga. "He would come off with that backwoods thing, talking about corn 'likker'and stuff, but then he would quote Shakespeare," Slutsky added. "It makes me really happy that I got to see Joe get his place in the sun and get a little bit of his dream," said Slutsky. "In the beginning of the movie, he said when the dust settled (from Motown), it was all over for him. That proved to be wrong. He got his dream in the last part of his life."
After the documentary film "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" was released in 2002, the Funk Brothers' soundtrack album won two Grammys in 2003. In 2004, Hunter and the Funks were awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys, and the group toured for several years.
Hunter's life wasn't all about rhythm and blues and Motown. He was a longtime supporter of the late Mother Waddles. His son confirmed that up to the end of his life, Hunter was on-call to go anywhere to play for the Mother Waddles mission. - Black Women in America An Historical Encyclopedia - African American Registry Mother Waddles

Johnny Griffith - Keyboards died 11/10/02
DETROIT - Johnny Griffith, a keyboardist in the studio band that played on numerous Motown hits, died 11/10/02. He was 66. Griffith, of Detroit, was to have attended yesterday's premiere of "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," a movie recognizing his Funk Brothers studio band. The movie opens on Friday. Griffith toured with Sarah Vaughn, Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin. He also played on "Stop in the Name of Love" and "I Heard it Through the Grapevine."
- Motown mourns pianist at service By Susan Whitall / The Detroit News Summary:
http://www.detnews.com/2002/metro/0211/18/c01-13209.htm
DETROIT -- Laughter mixed with tears and some hot playing Sunday at the funeral service for Motown piano player Johnny Griffith. Griffith, 66, died 11/10/02, just hours before the film he appears in, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," premiered.
Before Griffith, a Detroit native, joined Motown he played piano on the road with Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin. His were the deft hands that played keyboard on such Motown hits as "Stop in the Name of Love," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and "Wonderful One."
Funk Brother Joe Messina recalled Griffith's laid-back quality: "He once said he'd jump over the guitar section to get to another keyboard; (producer) Norman Whitfield said, 'Don't do it, you'll fall asleep in mid-air!'

Pistol” Allen, legendary Motown drummer" by Eric S. LeBlanc
Richard “Pistol” Allen, a major Motown Records drummer during 1961-1972, died June 30, 2002, in the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. He was much loved and respected, as portrayed in Allan Slutsky's recent film, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, documenting the Motown studio band The Funk Brothers. Adopted by his aunt and uncle Ellen and Willie Allen, Howard Richard Allen was born Aug. 12, 1932, in Memphis, Tenn., where he attended Manassap High.
In the mid-1950s, Allen moved to Flint, Mich., to work at the AC-Delco automotive parts plant, then moved to Detroit in the late 1950s, working with jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt and legendary bandleader, saxophonist and future Motown arranger Maurice King in clubs such as The Flame Showbar, The Bluebird, Watts Mozambique and others. He also toured in the famous Idlewild, Mich., summer “Revues” with R&B great Jackie Wilson and The Four Tops. In 1959, he recorded for Riverside Records with Memphis pianist Evans Bradshaw Jr., whom he had befriended in Flint. He was influenced by drummers Max Roach and Buddy Rich and his mentor, Motown drummer Benny Benjamin.
Allen can be heard on hundreds of Motown hits, including The Four Tops' “Bernadette,” Martha & The Vandellas' “Heat Wave,” The Supremes' “Baby Love,” Marvin Gaye's “How Sweet It Is” and many Holland-Dozier-Holland productions.Allen also recorded with jazz pianist Jaki Byard and R&B performers The Dramatics, Amos Milburn, Leslie Uggams, Johnnie Taylor and others.
The service, held July 5 at the Swanson Funeral Home, Detroit, was attended by many Motowners, including Esther Gordy Edwards, Martha Reeves, and Stevie Wonder (who sang “The Lord's Prayer”).
Survivors include his first wife, Barbara Ann Williams, four sons and six daughters. He was preceeded in death by friend Marsha A. McNeil (1949-1999) and fellow Funk Brothers Benny Benjamin, Eddie “Bongo” Brown, James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke, and Robert White.

Johnny Griffith - Motown mourns pianist at service By Susan Whitall detnews.com/
Summary: DETROIT -- Laughter mixed with tears and some hot playing Sunday at the funeral service for Motown piano player Johnny Griffith.
Griffith, 66, died a week ago Sunday, just as the film he appears in, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," premiered.
Before Griffith, a Detroit native, joined Motown he played piano on the road with Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin.
His were the deft hands that played keyboard on such Motown hits as "Stop in the Name of Love," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and "Wonderful One."
Funk Brother Joe Messina recalled Griffith's laid-back quality: "He once said he'd jump over the guitar section to get to another keyboard; (producer) Norman Whitfield said, 'Don't do it, you'll fall asleep in mid-air!' "

"Pistol Allen", legendary Motown drummer by Eric S. LeBlanc
collect.com

Richard "Pistol: Allen, a major Motown Records drummer during 1961-1972, died June 30, 2002, in the William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. He was much loved and respected, as portrayed in Allan Slutsky's recent film, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown, documenting the Motown studio band The Funk Brothers. Adopted by his aunt and uncle Ellen and Willie Allen, Howard Richard Allen was born Aug. 12, 1932, in Memphis, Tenn., where he attended Manassap High.
In the mid-1950s, Allen moved to Flint, Mich., to work at the AC-Delco automotive parts plant, then moved to Detroit in the late 1950s, working with jazz saxophonist Sonny Stitt and legendary bandleader, saxophonist and future Motown arranger Maurice King in clubs such as The Flame Showbar, The Bluebird, Watts Mozambique and others. He also toured in the famous Idlewild, Mich., summer “Revues” with R&B great Jackie Wilson and The Four Tops. In 1959, he recorded for Riverside Records with Memphis pianist Evans Bradshaw Jr., whom he had befriended in Flint. He was influenced by drummers Max Roach and Buddy Rich and his mentor, Motown drummer Benny Benjamin.
Allen can be heard on hundreds of Motown hits, including The Four Tops' "Bernadette," Martha & The Vandellas' "Heat Wave," The Supremes' :Baby Love," Marvin Gaye's “How Sweet It Is” and many Holland-Dozier-Holland productions.Allen also recorded with jazz pianist Jaki Byard and R&B performers The Dramatics, Amos Milburn, Leslie Uggams, Johnnie Taylor and others.
The service, held July 5 at the Swanson Funeral Home, Detroit, was attended by many Motowners, including Esther Gordy Edwards, Martha Reeves, and Stevie Wonder (who sang "The Lord's Prayer").
Survivors include his first wife, Barbara Ann Williams, four sons and six daughters. He was preceeded in death by friend Marsha A. McNeil (1949-1999) and fellow Funk Brothers Benny Benjamin, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, James Jamerson, Earl Van Dyke, and Robert White.

 

James Jamerson - Bass

Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin - Drums died in 1969.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - Side-men and Non-Performer categories was one of the most accomplished session drummers in rock and roll and was a member of the Funk Brothers, a group of session musicians who served as Motown's house band. As a session player with the Funk Brothers, Benjamin played drums on numerous Motown recordings with The Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and countless others. Benny Benjamin, whose career dates back to the 1940's, had a fantastic technique and drive and was known for his thunderous tom tom fills and the slap of his snare drum.

Eddie "Bongo" Brown - Congas

Robert White - Guitar

Earl Van Dyke - Keyboards Motown mourns pianist at service
By Susan Whitall / The Detroit News
http://www.detnews.com/2002/metro/0211/18/c01-13209.htm
Summary:
DETROIT -- Laughter mixed with tears and some hot playing Sunday at the funeral service for Motown piano player Johnny Griffith. Griffith, 66, died a week ago Sunday, just as the film he appears in, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," premiered.  Before Griffith, a Detroit native, joined Motown he played piano on the road with Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Aretha Franklin.  His were the deft hands that played keyboard on such Motown hits as "Stop in the Name of Love," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and "Wonderful One."
Funk Brother Joe Messina recalled Griffith's laid-back quality: "He once said he'd jump over the guitar section to get to another keyboard; (producer) Norman Whitfield said, 'Don't do it, you'll fall asleep in mid-air!' "

 

7/16/12 Motown bass player Bob Babbitt dies at age 74
Remembering Bob Babbitt
Babbitt had been diagnosed in early 2011 with an inoperable brain tumor. He was recently readmitted to the hospital after a year of home hospice care. Like many studio musicians of the era, Babbitt wasn’t always publicly acknowledged for his work. It wasn’t uncommon for Babbitt’s role to be omitted — or even actively hidden — on record credits.

 

 

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