In an article published by Grammy Magazine on 6th February 2004, Smokey Robinson commented that:
“One of the illustrations of the important role the Funk Brothers played in the famous Motown sound was the simple but now immortalized intro to “My Girl,” the song I wrote for the Temptations and one of the biggest hits I was ever involved in. We went in to cut the track and began with that little bass intro by James Jamerson and the guitarist Robert White just started in with this guitar riff. It was a spontaneous creative moment, and it’s since gone down in history.”
In Smokey Robinson’s view “The Funk Brothers were not just Motown Records’ backing band, they were a living part of the Motown family, and they were as much a part of creating the Detroit sound as any of the other artists and songwriters who put Motown on the map in the 1960s.”
He went on to explain how the band had been created: “The Funk Brothers were all local Detroit musicians. Our A&R Director, Mickey Stevenson, went around Detroit and gathered the Funk Brothers from little clubs and brought them in to record at the studio. They were hand-picked musicians who came together to form this family. If our artists happened to be on the road somewhere, and we needed to record them, we were recording them in those places. And we always got the Motown sound, because it was the people – bassist James Jamerson, guitarist Robert White, drummers Benny Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen, pianist Johnny Griffith and the others who were part of this family who created that sound. And I defy anyone to tell me which records were recorded where. The Funk Brothers helped create one of the most influential sounds in pop music history. There was a magic at Motown, and these were some of the magicians, and the success we created had never happened before and will probably never happen again to that magnitude.”
The secret of the Signature Sound of Motown isn’t really much of a secret. The Funk Brothers were special. They certainly had brilliant emotional intelligence and they had great respect for each others’ technical skills and abilities. They played on hit after hit, for all the Motown stars, and they made them all shine that bit brighter.
Photo: By Jeff Albert Mandeville, LA – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffalbert/327234829/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5106569