-- Paul B Allen III: August 17, 2019


The music of Motown swept the globe and produced the hit records that became the soundtrack to the lives of millions of music lovers everywhere. Much of that great music is still around and being covered by various artists today. 

There were many components to the “Motown Sound,” and one of the major ones was the stellar group of musicians used by Motown on their recordings. That group of musicians came to be known as “the Funk Brothers,” and they were responsible for more hits than any single Motown artist because they played on fairly all of the Motown hits from 1959 – 1972.

Wikipedia, quoting another source says, "the Funk Brothers have played on more number-one hits than the Beatles, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys combined."

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences recognizes 13 musicians as official "Funk Brothers," but the name is often casually used as a catch-all designation to cover any musician who played on a Motown record. 

The 13 are: 

KEYBOARDISTS: Joe Hunter (bandleader, 1959–1964)* Earl Van Dyke (bandleader, 1964–1972)* Richard "Popcorn" Wylie (1959–1962) and Johnny Griffith (1963–1972)* 

GUITARISTS: Robert White (1959–1972)* Eddie "Chank" Willis (1959–1972)* and Joe Messina (1959–1972)* 

BASSISTS: James Jamerson (1959–1972)* and Bob Babbitt (1967–1972)* 

DRUMS: William "Benny" Benjamin (1959–1969)* Richard "Pistol" Allen (1959–1972)* Marvin Gaye (1961–1962) and Uriel Jones (1963–1972)* 

PERCUSSION: Jack Ashford (1959–1972, tambourine)* and Eddie "Bongo" Brown (1959–1972, various)* 

You may have noticed I said there were 13 musicians recognized, but I actually listed 14 names. I got a kick out of the fact that some guy named MARVIN GAYE was a drummer in the band from 1961-1962. Short tenure. Gee, I wonder whatever happened to him? 

Here is a PARTIAL list compiled by Wikipedia of the hits songs on which the Funk Brothers were the musicians: 

"Please Mr. Postman" – The Marvelettes * "Fingertips Pt. 2" – Stevie Wonder * "The Girl's Alright with Me" - The Temptations * "My Guy" – Mary Wells * "Come and Get These Memories” - Martha and the Vandellas * "Where Did Our Love Go" – The Supremes * "Baby I Need Your Loving" - The Four Tops * "Baby Love" – The Supremes * "Come See About Me" – The Supremes * "My Girl" – The Temptations * "Stop! In the Name of Love" – The Supremes * "Back in My Arms Again" – The Supremes * "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" – The Four Tops * "I Hear a Symphony" – The Supremes * "Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart" - The Supremes * "You Can't Hurry Love" – The Supremes * "Reach Out I'll Be There" – The Four Tops * "You Keep Me Hangin' On" – The Supremes * "Forever Came Today" – The Supremes * "Love Child" – Diana Ross and the Supremes * "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" – Marvin Gaye * "I Can't Get Next to You" – The Temptations * "Someday We'll Be Together" – Diana Ross and the Supremes * "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" – Diana Ross * "The Tears of a Clown" – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles * "Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)" – The Temptations * "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" – The Temptations * "Let's Get It On" – Marvin Gaye * "You Sure Love to Ball" - Marvin Gaye * "Come Get to This" - Marvin Gaye * "Just a Little Misunderstanding" – The Contours * "Shop Around" – The Miracles * "Shotgun" – Junior Walker & the All Stars * "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)" – Marvin Gaye * "The One Who Really Loves You" – Mary Wells * "The Way You Do the Things You Do" – The Temptations * "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell * "(I'm a) Road Runner" – Junior Walker & the All Stars * "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" – The Temptations * "I Wish It Would Rain" – The Temptations * "Reflections" – Diana Ross & the Supremes * "That's the Way Love Is" - Marvin Gaye * "Heat Wave" – Martha & the Vandellas * "Hitch Hike" – Marvin Gaye * "Who's Lovin' You" - The Jackson 5 * "What's So Good About Goodbye" – The Miracles * "I Was Made to Love Her" – Stevie Wonder * "It's the Same Old Song" – The Four Tops * "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" – The Miracles * "Standing in the Shadows of Love" – The Four Tops * "If I Were Your Woman" – Gladys Knight & the Pips * "I'm Livin' in Shame - The Supremes * "Going to a Go-Go" – The Miracles * "Heaven Must Have Sent You" – The Elgins * "Dancing in the Street" – Martha & the Vandellas * "Runaway Child, Running Wild" - The Temptations * "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" – Marvin Gaye * "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" - Marvin Gaye * "Cloud Nine" – The Temptations * "What's Goin' On" – Marvin Gaye * "Do You Love Me" – The Contours * "Get Ready" – The Temptations * "Function at the Junction" – Shorty Long * "My World Is Empty Without You" – The Supremes * "The Tracks of My Tears" – The Miracles * "Can I Get a Witness" – Marvin Gaye * "Nowhere to Run" – Martha & the Vandellas * "Here Comes the Judge" – Shorty Long * "Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)" – Stevie Wonder * "Beachwood 4-5789" – The Marvelettes * "Bernadette" – The Four Tops * "Two Lovers" – Mary Wells * "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" – Jimmy Ruffin * "My Cherie Amour" – Stevie Wonder * "I Second That Emotion" – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles * "(I Know) I'm Losing You" – The Temptations * "First I Look at the Purse" – The Contours * "Ooo Baby Baby" – The Miracles * "25 Miles" – Edwin Starr * "I'll Be Doggone" – Marvin Gaye * "Pride and Joy" – Marvin Gaye * "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" – The Temptations * "It Takes Two" – Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston * "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)" – The Isley Brothers * "Uptight" – Stevie Wonder * "Devil with a Blue Dress On" – Shorty Long * "Jimmy Mack" – Martha & the Vandellas * "Since I Lost My Baby" – The Temptations * "War" – Edwin Starr * "Stubborn Kind of Fellow" – Marvin Gaye * "Don't Mess with Bill" – The Marvelettes * "You Beat Me to the Punch" – Mary Wells * "Shake Me, Wake Me (When It's Over)" – The Four Tops * "Walk Away Renee" – The Four Tops * "Mickey's Monkey" – The Miracles * "Ain't That Peculiar" – Marvin Gaye * "Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day" – Stevie Wonder 

I’ll bet you’ve heard one or two of these songs before, haven’t you? 

Who in the world would have ever imagined that the same musicians played on all of these records, and thousands more? 

If you would like to learn more about the Funk Brothers, and their incredible story, there is a musical documentary,  one of the best I think that has ever been produced, called “Standing in The Shadows of Motown."  It can be rented or purchased through Amazon Prime or YouTube. However, there is a 7-minute clip from this documentary masterpiece now on YouTube. and you can find it directly below this article. Enjoy. 

Now, as impressive as the list of songs above is, there is another list I will share with you next week that will probably shock you, just as it did me. Join us for the next Saturday Morning Song Chronicles which will feature "THE FUNK BROTHERS – PART 2." In the meantime, enjoy this clip from "Standing in The Shadows of Motown."

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