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HomeMotown SoundFeatured ArtistsFunk Brothers

What would the Motown Sound have been without the Funk Brothers’ inspired accompaniments? Motown’s studio band
—dubbed the Funk Brothers by Benny Benjamin, according to legend—was comprised of multi-talented musicians who
earned their musical chops in Detroit’s jazz and blues clubs. The improvisational skills and musical virtuosity they
displayed, from 1959 through 1972, in the so-called “snake pit” in Studio A set Motown singles apart from all others.

The subject of a 2002 documentary, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” the Funk Brothers received a Lifetime
Achievement Award at the 2004 Grammy award ceremony. Although the players changed over time, key figures
included legendary bass guitarist James Jamerson, pianists and bandleaders Earl Van Dyke and Joe Hunter, and
drummer Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin.


In addition to these R&B titans, the Funk Brothers’ roster included:

Bass: Bob Babbitt, Tweed Beard, Jimmy Garrett, Clarence Isabell, Tony Newton and Eddie Watkins

Drums: Richard “Pistol” Allen, Marvin Gaye, Uriel Jones, Clifford Mack, George McGregor, Andrew Smith, Frederick Waites and Steve Wonder

Flute: Clement Barone, Thomas “Bean” Bowles and Dayna Hartwick

Guitars: Dennis Coffey, Cornelius Grant, Dave Hamilton, Joe Messina, Melvin Miller, Ray Parker, Marvin Tarplin, Larry Veeder, Melvin “Wah Wah” Watson, Robert White and Eddie Willis

Harmonica: Joe Messina, Danny Stevenson and Stevie Wonder

Keyboards: Johnny Gittens, Johnny Griffith , Dave Hamilton, Ted Sheely and Richard “Popcorn” Wylie

Percussion: Jack Ashford and Eddie “Bongo” Brown

Piano: Marvin Kaye

Piccolo: Clement Barone

Saxophones: Lanny Austin, Thomas “Beans” Bowles, Ted Buckner, Angelo Carlisi, Henry “Hank” Cosby,
“Lefty” Edwards, Eli Fontaine, Kasuka Malia, Eugene “Bee Bee” Moore, William “Wild Bill” Moore, Larry Nozero, Norris Patterson, Bernie Peacock, Ernie Rodgers, Andrew “Mike” Terry, Dan Turner, Junior Walker and Ronnie Wakefield

Strings: Gordon Staples

Trombones: George Bohanon, Bob Cousar, Ed Gooch, Bill Johnson, Patrick Lanier, Carl Raetz, Paul Riser, Dan White and Jimmy Willkins

Trumpets: Marcus Belgrave, Michael Henderson, Joe James, Leroy Taylor, Herbie Williams and Joe Williams

Vibraphone/Marimba: Jack Ashford, Jack Brokensha, Russell Conway, Maurice Davis, James Gittens, Dave Hamilton, Billy Horner, Eddie Jones, Floyd Jones, Don Slaughter, Johnny Trudell and John “Little John” Wilson