7 February 2012
191 pages, Hal Leonard (May 1, 1989)
"James Lee Jamerson" was THE bass player.
He was the uncredited bassist on most of Motown Records' hits in the 1960s and early 1970s (Motown did not list session musician credits on their releases until 1971), and he is now regarded as one of the most influential bass players in modern music history.
Starting in 1959 he found steady work at Berry Gordy's Hitsville U.S.A. Studio, home of the "Motown Records" label.
There he became a member of a core of studio musicians who informally called themselves "The Funk Brothers". This small, close-knit group of musicians performed on the vast majority of Motown recordings during most of the 1960s.
"James Jamerson"'s earliest Motown sessions were performed on double bass, but in the early 1960s he switched to mostly playing electric bass - a "Fender Precision".
Like "James Jamerson", most of the other "Funk Brothers" were Jazz musicians who had been recruited by Gordy.
For many years, they maintained a typical schedule of recording during the day at Motown's small garage "Studio A" (which they nicknamed "The Snakepit"), then playing gigs in the Jazz clubs at night.
They also occasionally toured the U.S. with Motown artists. However for most of their career, the members of "The Funk Brothers" went uncredited on Motown singles and albums, and their pay was considerably less than the artists or the label received.
Eventually "James Jamerson" was put on retainer with Motown for one thousand dollars a week, which afforded him and his ever-expanding family a comfortable lifestyle.
He is reported to have played on some 95% of Motown recordings between 1962 and 1968. He eventually performed on nearly 30 No. 1 Pop hits—surpassing the record commonly attributed to "The Beatles".
On the R&B charts, nearly 70 of his performances went to the top.
The book contains photos, interviews of "The Funk Brothers", Motown singers, arrangers and composers, and transcriptions of some of his bass lines.
The Grammy Award winning documentary, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown", (based on this book) has narration written by "Ntosake Shange" and includes performances by "Chaka Kahn", "Gerald Levert", "Meshell Ndegeocello", "Michael Harper", "Joan Osborne", "Bootsie Collins", "Montell Jordan" and "The Funk Brothers".
It is also wonderful.