Morgan's Blogs
Who Are the Funk Brothers?
Article by Morgan Chambers
If you like Motown, then the answer is yes! In fact, if you are a baby boomer, you have loved them for literally decades. In what may be the best-kept musical secret on the planet, they were the band behind more number-one records than Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones combined. You may be asking yourself why you don’t recognize the band name. That’s because beginning way back in the early 50s, most hit records were made by singing groups and they all needed a backup band. Oddly, they all found one. This was the Funk Brothers.

The Funk Brothers were studio musicians. What you may not know is that studio musicians work within the structure of the musicians union and rarely break away to form their own bands. That is unless you are the famously unknown Funk Brothers. There was one other outstanding group of studio musicians to break out into their own band and this, of course, was the fabulous Toto. (Story to follow)

The story of The Funk Brothers begins with Berry Gordy. Born in 1929, Berry Gordy Jr. was the seventh of Berry Gordy Sr. and Bertha Fuller Gordy’s eight children. He tried many careers such as boxing, record store ownership, assembly line work, and even a tour in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. As his story goes, he then found his niche in the ostentatious world of entertainment.

With a tenacity that reflects his former training as a boxer, Berry Gordy possessed a drive to succeed that matched the lessons he learned from his parents. With his attention to detail, quality, and uniqueness of every element of the Motown experience, Berry built the growing Motown empire on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit called Motown Records.

After Berry purchased the two-family flat on West Grand, he moved his wife and young son into the upper unit and began to build his record company on the first floor. His energy and drive to reach his goal were infectious to the ever-expanding Motown Records family. Hit after hit emerged from his Studio A, housed in a converted photography studio at the back of the house he soon dubbed Hitsville USA!

Motown Records Corporation was established in April of 1960, a year that produced Barret Strong’s biggest hit, “Money,” for which Barry shared writing credits with Janie Bradford. The Miracles’ hit “Shop Around,” written by lead singer Smokey Robinson, was also released that year and reached #1 and 2 respectively, on the R&B national and Billboard pop charts.

Berry Gordy had a very keen eye for talent and a list of his earliest discoveries reads like a who’s who of the golden age of rhythm & blues. Beginning with The Matadors (soon to become The Miracles), Mary Wells, The Marvelettes, and the Primes and Primettes, later to be known as The Temptations and The Supremes, respectively, to name only a few.

Here is a timeline of Berry Gordy’s marvelous achievements: The Funk Brothers are the Motown Sound helping to create, “The Sound of Young America,” in the basement of Hitsville U.S.A. They are the unsung heroes until the 21st. century.

High Points of the Funk Brothers: In the end, The Funk Brothers are eternal and the Berry Gordy empire known as Motown endured forever because everyone loves nostalgia and everyone loves to dance.
Refs:  1.   2.