STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN
THE APOLLO NOVEMBER 7TH 2002
Fredag 8 november 2002, 7.23
Fredag 8 november 2002, 7.23
Motown Greats Honor Funk Brothers
By The Associated Press AP-NY-11-08-02 1901 EST
Jack Ashford Film Producer and Motown's Funk Brothers
"Standing in the Shadows of Motown"
Allan (Dr. Licks) Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford
Film Producer and Motown's Funk Brothers
Friday, Oct. 4, 2002; 3:30 p.m. ET
Back in the day, the Motown Record Corporation was called "Hitsville USA." Founder Berry Gordy and his team of homegrown talent from Detroit created a "hit machine" that cranked out pop hits by performers such as the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles among many others.
But behind the hits were the musicians who created "The Motown Sound." The men in the shadows, the unsung heroes. They worked in Studio "A" which was nicknamed the "Snakepit," at 2648 West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. This is where it all came together.
Allan (Dr. Licks) Slutsky has produced the film, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," adapted from his book of the same name. The movie tells the story of the Funk Brothers by combining interviews, archival footage, reenactments, reminiscences and new performances by the reunited Funk Brothers.
Slutsky and Funk Brothers Eddie Willis("I Was Made to Love Her," "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "Friendship Train") and Jack Ashford ("What's Going On," "Ooo Baby Baby," "Where Did Our Love Go") will be online Friday, Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. EDT, to talk about the Motown days and the new documentary film.
A transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and
choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer
Arlington, Va.: To Allan Slutsky: Tell us about the movie, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" and what does the title mean?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: Standing in the Shadows of Motown is the story of the Funk Brothers who were the legendary studio band of Motown from 1958 to 1972 and they were the musicians on every record that came out of Motown during that period. Although they've been unknown for 40 years, they're basically best friends of everyone in America. We know them intimately from their music but we just never knew their names and never knew what they looked like.
The title comes from a Four Tops song called "Standing in the Shadows of Love" and I changed that one world "love" to Motown because it seemed to tell their story because the Funk Brothers were standing in the shadows of this huge record company while others got all of the attention.
Springfield, Va.: I grew up during the late 50s and 60s -- tThe music from Motown was magic. This music will endure long after this generation and the next. What was the formula for such creativity and were the same musicians used for the Motown sound?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: JA: The room was very small that we recorded in and when we playing we could basically see each other. It just brought about a closeness that transcended into generating spontanaeity. That way we could almost feel one another.
AS: The other part to the sound was the fact that Motown was a very thickly orchestrated sound as opposed to Stax-Volt. Stax-Volt had one drummer, one bass, one keyboard, and one guitar whereas Motown had multiple people on each chair. Most times you'd have three guitarists on each record and you'd always have two keyboards. You'd also have two, maybe more percussionists. "Grapevine," for instance, was three drummers. Very thickly orchestrated sound and the band was populated by virtuoses.
EW: In the guitars, you had myself, you had Robert White, Joe Messina. Keyboards, you had Johnny Griffith, Earl Van Dyke. Drums you had Benny (Papa Zita) Benjamin and Uriel Jones and you had Pistol Allen. You had bongo percussionist Eddie Bongo.
AS: The significance of these particular musicians was that they were a collection of virtuosos, very highly skilled, not just rock and R&B musicians, but these were highly skilled jazz musicians in addition. So they brought a lot more to the table. That's the reason Motown music sounds so effortless. It was almost technically beneath them because it was so easy to play.
Alexandria, Va.: Will this be a major movie release? And when can we see it? Are there other Motown stars in it?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: AS: The film will be out nationwide Nov. 15. It will be a major theatrical release. There are Motown stars in it who help explain the story: Otis Williams from the Temptations, Martha Reeves from Martha and the Vanellas and the Holland Brothers of Holland-Dozier-Holland.
JA: This is like a celebration. The culmination of all the years we worked. So many years we were looking at the back of the head and now we're looking the other way.
AS: The guests in the movie are Chaka Khan, Montell Jordan, Gerald Levert, Joan Osborne, Meshell Ndgeocello, Bootsy Collins, Ben Harper and Tom Scott.
Washington, D.C.: Is there any particular reason why these musicians did not get the publicity they deserved? Also, can you name some of the hits I would be familiar with? Thanks.
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: EW: Some of the hits I played on were Ain't Too Proud to Beg, Standing in the Shadows of Love, Shotgun, Where Did Our Love Go, The Way You Do the Things You Do, Reach Out, and Mary Well's Two Lovers, Stevie Wonder's I Was Made to Love Her and For Once In my Life, Heatwave, Dancing in the Street, Pride and Joy.
JW: Motown was a special company. It dealt mainly in releasing singles and they didn't put all that information on the label. They wouldn't support it. Between Norman Whitfield and Marvin Gaye ... they were more into giving the musicians the credit. The musicians made Marvin. He depended on the musicians to give him his ideas to convey what he wanted. Norman a lot of time worked with each musician separately and came in and stacked them one at a time.
JW: I played on just about all of Marvin's stuff. Mercy Mercy Me, What's Going On, Got To Give It Up, Signed, Sealed, Delivered, Where Did Our Love Go, Dancing in the Street, War by Edwin Star.
Inwood, W.Va.: Mr. Ashford, any relation to Nick?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: JA: They say we are. He looks like my uncle. My family and his family are from South Carolina.
Rockville, Md.: Did these same musicians also perform as the backing band when the Motown acts would tour?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: AS: The didn't want the Funk Brothers to go out on tour because when they did the studio production ground to a halt. The only significant tours were the 1964 and 1965 Motor Town Revue that went to England. Even then, they only let a few of the musicians go. That tour they let Earl Van Dyke go, Bobby White and Jack Ashford. But James Jamerson, Benny Benjamin and the rest of the Funk Brothers stayed home in Detroit so they could cut records.
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: The main live band guy on the road for Motown was Choker Campbell and he had his own musicians.
Vienna, Va.: Do you know of a group named the Andantes who were the in-house background singers? They, like you guys, were in the shadows too weren't they?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: EW: Louvain Demps, Jackie Hicks and Arlene were the Andantes and they never got any attention either. It's rumored that on quite a few of the Supremess hits that's them.
Washington, D.C.: When can we hope to see your film in the D.C. area?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: Nov. 15 it'll be in the D.C. area. Not sure of what theater yet. Probably one of the art house theaters.
Herndon, Va.: Gentlemen: Please help me remember the name of the bass player who laid down so many of the classic licks on Motown tunes, such as "My Girl." I believe he passed a couple of years back.
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: AS: James Jamerson who died in 1983 and he was the first virtuoso of the Fender electric bass. It was a new instrument then and for the first almost decade or so they didn't know what to do with it. Most converted it to an upright bass. Jamerson was the first bass player to play it as a unique new instrument. He basically invented the vocabulary of the Fender bass.
Lyme, Conn.: In retrospect, what are your feelings toward Berry Gordy?
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: JA: If it hadn't have been for Berry, you wouldn't be talking to us. He had a big job to do. He was breaking new ground and making hits at the same time. He had a good relationship with us.
AS: In this movie there are 30 Motown songs that were licensed for this movie. That's unheard of because Motown only allows a couple of songs to be licensed at a time. Berry interceded and basically said, here's the entire catalog. Take what you need. Without him there wouldn't have been a movie.
Allan Slutsky, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford: EW: If it hadn't have been for Berry, none of us would be here doing what we're doing. I'm thankful for him.
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN
by Don R. Lewis
2002, Rated PG, 116 Minutes, Rimshot LLC
Let me count the ways in which this film is just plain terrific. First off, I consider myself a big music fan but I had never heard of "The Funk Brothers." Have you? If not, maybe you've heard some of the Motown hits they wrote the music for. Little songs like "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," "Heat wave," "What's Going On," "Ain't too Proud to Beg," "Shotgun," and "Ain't no Mountain High Enough." I'm stopping there merely for concern of word count. The songs these men wrote were countless and classic.
Movie spotlights unsung Motown heroes
Motown greats the Funk Brothers jam for a movie about their careers.
By Christopher Currie
A film crew goes into a record store and starts asking customers and clerks if they have ever heard of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson or the Temptations. For these questions, they all get affirmative responses. But when the crew starts asking people about The Funk Brothers, everyone seems to be at a loss. "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," due in theatres Nov. 15, hopes to change that.<snip>
Motown's music machine
Soundtrack honors Funk Brothers: Hitsville's hot house band
October 6, 2002
BY BRIAN McCOLLUM
FREE PRESS POP MUSIC CRITIC
It's official: The Funk Brothers can still cut a mean groove.
Episode 327 - Jimmie Walker
Jimmie Walker brings comedy history into the garage. Before there was J.J. on Good Times, Jimmie tells Marc about his experiences in the early days of the comedy boom and his interaction with up-and-comers like The (Chitlin Circuit late 60's) Apollo Theater late 60's Motown Review Show at the 20 Grand Club in Detroit & Jimmie Walker & Funk Brothers starts @30:00, Barry Gordy first big riots when Detroit is on Fire @ 36:00 Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Jay Leno, David Letterman and many more.