This is MY story of a time period, The Sixties. Think about all of the songs, music, singers and groups that you loved. Well this is a story about the musicians who ‘really’ recorded these songs, and unfortunately they remain unknown and anonymous for the most part today.
You will have to indulge me (Gary) on this post. I know that most of you just love the songs and singers. Well I do too, but even more, I really enjoy the people who created them.
Little did I know, but most of the recordings that I enjoyed in the sixties were really done by a very select group of recording studio session musicians from different parts of the U.S. I think the operative word to describe all of these musicians is just ‘Talented’. These people were simply very experienced and the best at what they did during that period of time.
I have listened to various comments from some of the most experienced and knowledgeable people on this subject and the majority agree that we will never again see this much concentrated talent in recording Pop Music from Four Main Areas; those areas being Nashville, Detroit, Los Angeles and Muscle Shoals.
Now for the first area, Nashville Tennessee, I will state categorically that this is the group of session musicians that I know the least about. I have heard statements made by some pretty significant musicians who always said, ‘record in Nashville’, but why was that?
Well who knows, you could get Chet Atkins or Floyd Cramer or Boots Randolph or Hank Garland, who knew, but they where the best in the recording business at that time.
There is very little written about the “A-Team”, or Motown’s “Funk Brothers”, or the West Coast’s “Wrecking Crew”, or Alabama’s “Swampers” sound, but 40 years later some people have created films that chronical how much talent was in those areas back then; it’s all amazing.
I know that the Funk Brothers played on more #1 records than the Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys combined; 91 #1 recordings. The A-Team really represented ‘Country & Country Pop’ of the day.
Nashville had the “A-Team”
Notable members of “The Nashville A-Team”
- Bass: Bob Moore, Ernie Newton, Henry Strzelecki, Junior Huskey, Floyd “Lightnin’ ” Chance[ Joe Osborne.
- Drums: Buddy Harman, Jerry Carrigan, Ferris Coursey, Larrie Londin (1970s)
- Keyboards: Floyd Cramer, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Owen Bradley
- Guitar: Grady Martin, Hank Garland, Ray Edenton (also mandolin, ukelele and banjo), Harold Bradley, Paul Yandell, Pete Wade, Jerry Kennedy, Norman Blake, Jimmy Capps, Fred Carter, Jr., Jimmy Colvard.
- Fiddle: Tommy Jackson, Johnny Gimble, Buddy Spicher, Dale Potter, Vassar Clements, Brenton Banks
- Steel Guitar: Pete Drake, Jerry Byrd, Buddy Emmons, Ralph Mooney, Lloyd Green, Buck West, Shot Jackson, Jerry Kennedy, Maurice Anderson
- Saxophone: Boots Randolph
- Harmonica: Charlie McCoy
- Harp: Mary Alice Hoepfinger
- Backup singers: The Jordanaires, The Anita Kerr Singers, The Hardin Trio
The Everly Bros. at Studio B with a Neumann U47 long body (tube) hanging in a 1950’s RCA yoke
Brenda Lee session at The Quonset Hut – Brenda, Owen Bradley, Bob Moore Buddy Harman and Floyd Cramer in rear Grady Martin, Hank Garland and unidentified in front bass mic’d with an Altec 639A “Birdcage”
The A-Team / Nashville /
Motown had the ‘Funk Brothers’.
The Funk Brothers was the nickname of Detroit, Michigan, session musicians who performed the backing to most Motown Records.
These were 13 guys, not brothers, but they just ripped up the charts for decades, but the 60’s, for me were their most significant. I own a totally instrumental Album, 12″ Vinyl, of Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers (Funk Brothers).
Funk Brothers session: Robert White and Joe Messina in Studio A at Hitsville USA.
Do You Love Me /
Earl Van Dyke, was the original leader of the Motown Group. There is very little recorded by just the “Groups”, but Earl did produce an Album in the Sixties, which I own, called Earl Van Dyke and the Soul Brothers. These are the only songs recorded by “just” the musicians that I know of.
Nowhere to Run, Can I get a Witness & You’re a Wonderful One
List of hit songs The “Funk Brothers” Recorded
- “Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes
- “Fingertips Pt. 2” – Stevie Wonder
- “My Guy” – Mary Wells
- “Where Did Our Love Go” – The Supremes
- “Baby Love” – The Supremes
- “Come See About Me” – The Supremes
- “My Girl” The Temptations
- “Stop! In the Name of Love” The Supremes
- “Back in My Arms Again” The Supremes
- “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – The Four Tops
- “I Hear a Symphony” – The Supremes
- “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes
- “Reach Out I’ll Be There” – The Four Tops
- “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – The Supremes
- “The Happening” – The Supremes
- “Love Child” – Diana Ross and the Supremes
- “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye
- “I Can’t Get Next to You” – The Temptations
- “Someday We’ll Be Together” – Diana Ross and the Supremes
- “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – Diana Ross
- “The Tears of a Clown” – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” – The Temptations
- “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” – The Temptations
- “Let’s Get It On” – Marvin Gaye
- “Midnight Train to Georgia” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
- “Just a Little Misunderstanding” – The Contours
- “Shop Around” – The Miracles
- “Shotgun” – Junior Walker & the All Stars
- “How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You)” – Marvin Gaye
- “The One Who Really Loves You” – Mary Wells
- “The Way You Do The Things You Do” – The Temptations
- “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
- “(I’m A) Road Runner” – Junior Walker & the All Stars
- “Ain’t too Proud to Beg” – The Temptations
- “I Wish It Would Rain” – The Temptations
- “Reflections” – Diana Ross & The Supremes
- “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” – Martha & the Vandellas
- “Hitch Hike” – Marvin Gaye
- “What’s So Good About Goodbye” – The Miracles
- “I Was Made To Love Her” – Stevie Wonder
- “It’s The Same Old Song” – The Four Tops
- “You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me” – The Miracles
- “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” – The Four Tops
- “If I Were Your Woman” – Gladys Knight and the Pips
- “Going To A Go-Go” – The Miracles
- “Heaven Must Have Sent You” – The Elgins
- “Dancing In The Street” – Martha & The Vandellas
- “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” – Marvin Gaye
- “Cloud Nine” – The Temptations
- “What’s Goin’ On” – Marvin Gaye
- “Do You Love Me” – The Contours
- “Get Ready” – The Temptations
- “Function At The Junction” – Shorty Long
- “My World Is Empty Without You” – The Supremes
- “The Tracks Of My Tears” – The Miracles
- “Can I Get A Witness” – Marvin Gaye
- “Nowhere To Run” – Martha & the Vandellas
- “Here Comes The Judge” – Shorty Long
- “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” – Stevie Wonder
- “Beachwood 4-5789” – The Marvelettes
- “Bernadette” – The Four Tops
- “Two Lovers” – Mary Wells
- “What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted” – Jimmy Ruffin
- “My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder
- “I Second That Emotion” – Smokey Robinson & the Miracles
- “(I Know) I’m Losing You” – The Temptations
- “First I Look At The Purse” – The Contours
- “Ooo Baby Baby” – The Miracles
- “25 Miles” – Edwin Starr
- “I’ll Be Doggone” – Marvin Gaye
- “Pride and Joy” – Marvin Gaye
- “Ball Of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” – The Temptations
- “It Takes Two” – Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston
- “This Old Heart Of Mine (Is Weak For You)” – The Isley Brothers
- “Uptight” – Stevie Wonder
- “Devil With A Blue Dress On” – Shorty Long
- “Jimmy Mack” – Martha & the Vandellas
- “Since I Lost My Baby” – The Temptations
- “War” – Edwin Starr
- “Stubborn Kind Of Fellow” – Marvin Gaye
- “Don’t Mess With Bill” – The Marvelettes
- “You Beat Me To The Punch” Mary Wells
- “Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)” – The Four Tops
- “Mickey’s Monkey” – The Miracles
- “Ain’t That Peculiar” – Marvin Gaye
- “Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” – Stevie Wonder
West Coast had the “Wrecking Crew”
The West Coast did not get that much respect, but there was a group of session musicians, primarily in Los Angeles, who re-defined what great musicians were; they were some of the best Rock Musicians this world will see. It is very difficult to believe that all of those songs with all of those artists, came from this group.
The name came from Drummer Hal Blaine, who heard some of the older and more stanch music people say “It looks Like these guys are going to wreck the place” [smoking in the studio, etc]. Thus the name “The Wrecking Crew“.
Members of the “The Wrecking Crew”
- guitar: Glen Campbell, Barney Kessel, Tommy Tedesco, Al Casey, Carol Kaye, Billy Strange, Don Peake, Howard Roberts, James Burton, Jerry Cole, Bill Aken, Mike Deasy, Ray Pohlman, Bill Pitman, Irv Rubins
- saxophone: Steve Douglas, Jay Migliori, Jim Horn, Plas Johnson, Nino Tempo, Gene Cipriano
- trumpet: Roy Caton (contractor), Tony Terran, Ollie Mitchell
- trombone: Lou Blackburn, Richard “Slyde” Hyde, Lew McCreary
- keyboards: Leon Russell, Mac Rebennack (aka Dr. John), Mike Melvoin, Don Randi, Larry Knechtel, Al Delory, Mike (Michel) Rubini
- bass: Carol Kaye, Joe Osborn, Max Bennett, Chuck Berghofer, Ray Pohlman, Larry Knechtel, Lyle Ritz, Jimmy Bond (007), Bill Pitman
- drums: Hal Blaine, Earl Palmer, Jim Gordon
- percussion: Julius Wechter, Gary L. Coleman, Frank Capp (contractor)
- conductor/arranger: Jack Nitzsche
- harmonica: Tommy Morgan
- The Ron Hicklin Singers often performed backup vocals on many of the same songs on which The Wrecking Crew had played instrumental tracks.
Though not an official member, Sonny Bono did hang out and contribute to sessions recorded by the Crew.
Alabama had the “Muscle Shoals” Sound
In my haste to get this done, I almost forgot about one other part of the U.S. that greatly contributed to the music we grew up with. When these four musicians Barry Beckett (keyboards), Roger Hawkins (drums), Jimmy Johnson (guitar) and David Hood (bass) left FAME Studios they created the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. They were later nicknamed The Swampers (per Leon Russell).
I guess my love of Bob Seger reminded me to include this group of incredible musicians.
The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, also known as The Swampers, are a group of American soul, R&B, and country studio musicians based in the city of Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They have appeared on more than 75 gold and platinum hits.
These musicians, one of the best-known groups of session musicians, crafted the “Muscle Shoals Sound.”
They were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1995 for a “Lifework Award for Non-Performing Achievement” and into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2008 (the performers inducted into the latter were the four founding Swampers–Barry Beckett, Roger Hawkins, David Hood, Jimmy Johnson–plus Pete Carr, Clayton Ivey, Randy McCormick, Will McFarlane, and Spooner Oldham).
The nickname “The Swampers” was given to the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section by singer/songwriter Leon Russell, who recorded with them.
Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records brought artists like Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin to record with the all-white group of Southern musicians after their success with Arthur Alexander and most notably on Percy Sledge‘s “When a Man Loves a Woman.”
They originally worked at Rick Hall‘s FAME Studios in Florence, AL. In 1969, Beckett, Hawkins, Hood, and Johnson left Fame and started the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
In the 1970s, the Memphis, TN based Stax Records also began bringing artists down to Alabama. Johnnie Taylor had a long run of R&B hits with the group, and The Staple Singers had their greatest crossover successes with songs like “I’ll Take You There” and “Respect Yourself.” Later, they were the sound behind Bob Seger hits such as Old Time Rock and Roll.
Other artists who recorded with the Swampers include Rod Stewart, Boz Scaggs, Elkie Brooks, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Joe Cocker, Glenn Frey, Jim Capaldi, Julian Lennon, Delbert McClinton, J.J. Cale, John Prine, Alice in Chains, Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Eddie Floyd, Clarence Carter, Little Milton, Sawyer Brown, Tony Joe White, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Staple Singers, Eddy Mitchell and many more. Roger Hawkins, David Hood, and Barry Beckett toured with Traffic for a while.
The studios in Sheffield were later bought by long-time friend Tommy Couch, owner of Jackson, MS-based Malaco Records, and the group joined other session players, such as key boardist Carson Whitsett, playing behind Bobby “Blue” Bland and other legends on the label, though Beckett left for Nashville, where he established himself as a producer.
Lynyrd Skynyrd famously mentions them in “Sweet Home Alabama“:
|Song||Artist||Date||Charting on US Pop chart ||Notes|
|3614 Jackson Highway||Cher||1969|
|“Take a Letter, Maria”||R.B. Greaves||August 19, 1969||#2|
|Muscle Shoals Nitty Gritty||Herbie Mann||(Released 1970)|
|“Brown Sugar”||The Rolling Stones||December 2-4 1969 (Released 1971)||#1|
|“Wild Horses”||The Rolling Stones||December 2-4 1969 (Released 1971)||#28|
|“I’ll Take You There”||The Staple Singers||1972||#1|
|“Loves Me Like a Rock”||Paul Simon||1973||#2|
|One More River to Cross||Canned Heat||1973|
|Atlantic Crossing||Rod Stewart||1974-1975 (Released 1975)|
|“Night Moves”||Bob Seger||1976||#8|
|“Mainstreet”||Bob Seger||1976||#24 (in 1977)|
|izitso||Cat Stevens||1976||#7 (in 1977)|
|Street Survivors||Lynyrd Skynyrd||1977|
|“Old Time Rock and Roll”||Bob Seger||1978||#28 (in 1979)|
|Skynyrd’s First: The Complete Muscle Shoals Album||Lynyrd Skynyrd||1971-1972 (Released 1978)|
|“Gotta Serve Somebody”||Bob Dylan||1979||#24||1980 Grammy winner|
|Pleasure And Pain||Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show||1978|
|Sometimes You Win||Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show||1979|
|Brothers||The Black Keys||2009 (Released 2010)||2011 Grammy winner|