Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) Movie Script

Berry Gordy started Tamla Records- later
known as the Motown Record Corporation-
with an $800 loan from
a family co-operative in january 1959.
Berry Gordy relied on joe Hunter
to bring talent to Motown.
At the time of filming,
Joe was indeed still playing...
albeit in obscurity, in a Marriott
Hotel lobby in Troy, Michigan.
The music heard is The Funk Brothers'
stage theme song, "The Flick. "
They recorded several versions
in the fall of 1965.
The Hula Hoop was introduced
by Wham-O Manufacturing in 1958.
Rightfielder Al Kaline was the Detroit
Tigers premiere player in the '50s.
Singer Billie Holiday was known as "Lady
Day," a great favorite of Berry Gordy.
He would later produce a film on her
life starring Motown artist Diana Ross.
Before Motown, Berry Gordy was a
successful songwriter forjackie Wilson.
Gerald Levert performs
"Reach Out I'll Be There,"
originally a number one
hit for the Four Tops.
The Funk Brothers recorded the
original backing track on july 8, 1966.
An astounding track, "Reach Out"
illustrates james jamerson's...
fully developed 16th-note
syncopated bass style.
Jamerson took a standard, root-fifth,
cocktail approach to his bass part...
and ran it through
countless rhythmic variations.
Gerald Levert is the son of
Eddie Levert, lead singer of the O'jays.
He was born the year
"Reach Out" was a hit.
The song's percussion
hook was played by a Funk
Brother thumping the head of
a "bell-less" tambourine...
while its memorable
piccolo part is re-created
on stage by its
originator, Dayna Hartwick.
This sequence was filmed at
the Encore record store on
the University of Michigan
campus in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The people interviewed are
actual store customers, not actors.
Paul Riser was classically
trained. He is best known
as an arranger of hits like
"My Girl," among others.
Grammy winner Stevejordan
worked with Bootsy Collins in the film.
He got his break as the drummer
on Late Night with David Letterman.
Songwriter Edward Holland
began his career as
a singer, best known for
his 1962 hit, "jamie. "
Detroit native Don Was
covered the Temptations' "Papa
Was A Rollin' Stone" with
the group, Was (Not Was).
As a young musician, he gigged
with Funk Brother "Pistol" Allen.
In 1962, Martha Reeves was
discovered at the 20 Grand
nightclub by Motown's A&R
head, Mickey Stevenson.
She worked as his secretary
before signing as a singer.
Therefore, she was one of the few Motown
artists to interact with the musicians.
Photo: Motown producer Hank Cosby,
pretending to bejack Ashford...
stands between Robert White
(guitar) and james jamerson (bass).
Joan Osborne sings
"(Love Is Like A) Heatwave... "
originally a number four hit for Martha
& The Vandellas in the summer of 1963.
The Funk Brothers recorded its
original backing track with producers...
Brian Holland and Lamont Dozier
on june 20, 1963.
Joan Osborne released
How Sweet It Is, an
entire album of R&B classics, in 2002.
Tom Scott plays here; Mike Terry, who blew
many such classic sax breaks for Motown...
played on the original recording.
By '63, Motown's chief
technician Mike McLean
had installed a handmade,
three-track tape deck.
Now, lead vocals were
overdubbed, and the Funks would
record not knowing for whom
their tracks were intended.
For "Heatwave," the Vandellas
recorded vocals on the
same day as the Funks, but
at a session later in the day.
In 1955, Black Detroiters
had the highest per
capita income among African
Americans nationwide.
Yet at that time,
African Americans earned
about 33 cents to every
dollar earned by whites.
The Bel-Aire was
the most popular Chevy in the 1950s.
Joe Hunter worked a drill press
at Chevrolet outside Detroit...
after an Army stint with Earl Van
Dyke at the Lockburn base in Ohio.
Baker's, located at the intersection of
8 Mile Road and Livernois...
has been a Detroit jazz institution
for over 50 years.
Berry Gordy hung the sign
"Hitsville U.S.A." on his house...
at 2648 West Grand Boulevard
before Motown had any hits.
Motown used to store master tapes
in Smokey's basement...
until flooding forced Motown
to set up a tape library at Hitsville.
Jamerson was told to play the bass
because he had big hands.
Jamerson got his first
and only upright bass
for about $200 after
graduating from high school.
Jamerson switched to
electric Fender bass in 1961.
Jamerson jr. had a hit band
on his own, Chanson...
whose "Don't Hold Back"
was a Top 10 R&B smash in 1978.
Jamerson only changed his strings if
they broke. He used LaBella flat wounds-
a "dead" sound with a heavy bottom,
a challenge for Motown's engineers.
Jamerson's bass and all the
guitarists were plugged directly
into the mix board via the
gray box with meters on it.
It is located just to the lower left
of the control booth window.
Hitsville U.S.A. is now the
site of the Motown Historical
Museum, run by Ms. Esther
Edwards, Berry Gordy's sister.
Though thought of as a basement, Hitsville's
studio was actually a converted garage.
The actual underground basement
was home to the engineering staff.
The studio's nickname,
"Snakepit," derived from
the microphone cables
suspended from the ceiling.
The control room, seen
behind the glass, had
six monitors blasting
both day and night.
The cabinets were custom-built
by the Gordy family's construction crew.
Everyone pitched in at
Motown: In the early days,
Smokey Robinson was responsible
for cleaning Studio A.
A key to the Motown Sound was nothing
ever moved, especially the drums.
The vibes arejack Ashford's original
Deegan Imperial Nocturne model.
The real piano, however,
is in Berry Gordy's house.
Meshell performs The Miracles'
"You've Really Got A Hold On Me. "
The original track was cut October 16,
1962, and hit the Top 10 a few months later.
None of the musicians used headphones
during their original sessions.
The guitarists crowded
around a monitor (seen behind
Eddie Willis) and were
responsible for their own volume.
Smokey wrote
"You Really Got A Hold On Me"...
a homage to Sam Cooke's
"Bring It On Home To Me. "
The horns are playing live
they're just off camera, in
Motown's original isolation booth.
Meshell was the first woman to be
honored as "Bassist of the Year," in 1994.
Jack Ashford stands 6'
5", but he still gets
teased for having the
world's largest tambourine.
Marvin Gaye started singing with
The Rainbows in Washington D.C....
and Harvey Fuqua's Moonglows in the "50s.
He first worked at Motown as a drummer.
Joe had been retired for
30 years but was convinced,
for this film, to take
out his guitar again.
Riser is being modest here:
he was a terrific trombone player.
Quick look: a rare
shot of the Temptations'
David Ruffin without his
trademark black glasses.
Benny Benjamin and joe
Hunter were in their
mid-thirties when they
started the Motown band.
The Funks recorded the session
Joe's referring to on june 3, 1962.
Berry Gordy sang the demo
for The Contours.
"Do You Love Me?"
originally hit number three in '62...
and returned to the charts when featured
in the hit film Dirty Dancing in 1988.
Bootsy is an influential
and innovative bassist
who was heavily influenced
byjames jamerson.
Bootsy admits he could
never play likejamerson, so
he developed his own unique,
"liquid funk" style...
as heard on james Brown's "Sex Machine,"
several P-Funk classics
and with his own band.
Berry Gordy originally turned down The
Contours. jackie Wilson
spoke up on their behalf.
Wilson was shot by his girlfriend in front
of his NYC apartment February 15, 1961.
Because of his injuries,
Wilson could only handle
three shows a week. The
Funks made $25 per show.
However, their expenses were
$60 a week, leaving them with
only $15 profit. They were
better off in the "Snakepit. "
On the road,james jamerson
spent the better part of his
time searching for soul food.
Hotel food made him grouchy.
Jamerson liked odd food concoctions
like raccoon and possum gumbo.
Pig's feet are considered a Chinese
delicacy and are eaten for good luck.
The music heard here is,
"The Way You Do The Things You Do. "
Smokey Robinson and
fellow Miracle Bobby Rogers
wrote it in a similar
station wagon while on tour.
Blues singerjoe Weaver
was Benny's first cousin.
Pre-Motown, The Funk Brothers
often backed him live.
Corn liquor, aka "moonshine,"
is also called "panther's breath... "
"ruckus juice," "hillbilly pop"
and "white lightning. "
The "Hitch Hike" session was on September
16, 1962. The producer was Mickey Stevenson.
Uriel's nickname was "Possum. "
"Pistol" is sitting at
his original drum set,
still in that exact spot
at the Motown Museum.
At that time, "Funk" is lowdown, nasty
- a word not used in everyday conversation.
When the band had
an album released in '64...
Berry Gordy changed the name of the group
to Earl Van Dyke & The Soul Brothers.
Jr. Walker & The All Stars' original
"Shotgun" was recorded December 15, 1964.
While the song stemmed from
Jr. 's regular club dates...
The Funk Brothers, not The All Stars,
recorded his Motown hit.
It reached number four
on the Pop charts.
Jr. Walker played a Selmer saxophone,
but retired the original in the '80s.
His style influenced dozens
of later players like Tom Scott.
The original version's
signature intro resulted
from Eddie Willis accidentally
kicking a reverb tank.
Johnny Griffith recorded for Motown's
short-lived Workshopjazz label.
His album, "jazz," received a four-star
review from Downbeat in May 1963.
Mickey Stevenson is
surrounded by Jamerson (left),
his wife and singer Kim
Weston and jack Ashford.
"Pride And joy" features some ofjoe
Hunter's best piano playing at Motown.
The session they're discussing was
recorded midweek, September 12, 1962.
Joe had been gigging
with Hank Ballard & The Midnighters...
when he took a gamble to go with
Berry Gordy's new record venture in '58.
Joe describes himself as a "down-home
boogie woogie" piano player.
Ethel Waters first popularized "Stormy
Weather" in 1933, when
joe was a very young boy.
Lottie was originally a Lindy Hop dancer
in New York in the late "40s.
Soul singer Solomon Burke says she
was "the first naked woman I ever saw
- with a snake. "
The two versions of
"I Heard It Through The
Grapevine," inspired
by Lottie's rhythms...
were recorded four months apart
in 1967- Marvin Gaye's was cut first.
They're standing on 12th
Street, where the '67
riots began. It's now known
as Rosa Parks Boulevard.
Martha jean "The Queen" Steinberg,
a blues Dj on Wj LB...
would routinely broadcast
The Funk Brothers' jam sessions...
at the Chit Chat during
the glory days of the 1960s.
Motown producerjohnny Bristol said
The Funk Brothers "breathed together. "
He once recalled a session
where one of the guys went
out to get a sandwich, came
back five minutes later...
and fell back into the groove
as if he'd never left.
The Funk Brothers are
re-creating the original
session recorded at Hitsville
on September 28, 1965.
Producer Norman Whitfield
had written it as "Please
Don't Leave Me Girl" and
intended it for Marvin Gaye.
With new lyrics by Eddie
Holland, "Ain't Too Proud To
Beg" by the Temptations
reached number four in 1966.
Kasuku Mafia, an original
member of the Motown
horn section, re-creates
his solo from the record.
Ben Harper also covered Marvin Gaye's
only non-Motown hit, "Sexual Healing. "
Motown engineering graduated
to eight-track recording
in january 1965, using
hand-built machines that opened...
the sonic spectrum and allowed room for
the sophisticated arrangements cited.
Earl Van Dyke joined in '63 and evolved
into the bandleader a year later.
He was called not only "Big Funk,"
but "Ookie" and "Chunk of Funk. "
Earl's exceptional
jazz-soul organ chops...
can be heard on saxophonist
Fred jackson's rare
Blue Note album from
1963, Hootin' 'N Tootin.
Berry Gordy instructed
The Funk Brothers to teach
young Stevie Wonder how
to play piano and drums.
The lessons would often
turn comical, leaving Stevie
locked in a closet after
a game of Hide-And-Seek.
Earl died of prostate cancer
on September 19, 1992.
Uriel, like Berry Gordy,
was a young boxer.
Elsewhere in the Snakepit, Robert White
was an expert martial artist.
PAC-3, United and Golden
World were all Detroit
studios located within a
few minutes of Hitsville.
The "few bucks" Eddie mentions rose from
an initial $5 per track in late "59...
to the union scale of $52.50
per three-hour session in 1964.
Johnny's extra $100 a week then translates
to more than $500 a week in 2002 dollars.
Most of the Funks were
salaried employees earning a
steady income they could
augment with outside gigs.
Jamerson eventually made close to
$100,000 a year in the late '60s.
Bootsy performs "Cooljerk,"
originally a hit for Detroit
group The Capitols. It was a
Top 10 smash in spring 1966.
The original "Cooljerk" session
was one of the last cut at
Golden World Studios, just before
its purchase by Berry Gordy.
Golden World was to
become Motown's "Studio B."
Johnny Griffith, Eddie
Willis and Bob Babbitt
re-create their original
parts from the record.
The original session also
included saxophonist Mike
Terry and future Motown
guitarist Dennis Coffey.
Between 1962 and 1975, 75 percent of
all Motown releases made the Pop charts.
In December '68, Motown held
the top three spots for four weeks.
The Tamla-Motown UK tour ran
from March 20 through April 12, 1965.
The Funks not only
backed the stars, they
were billed as "The
Earl Van Dyke Sextet"...
and had two instrumental singles already in
the market: "All For You" and "Soul Stomp. "
The Beatles also paid Motown homage by
having Mary Wells open their '64 UK tour.
Motown's Brenda Holloway
opened dates on their '65 U.S. tour.
Earl Van Dyke remembers
Smokey pushing for more than 40
takes of"The Tears Of A Clown.
" Take nine became the hit.
The Funks created the hit track for
"Standing In The Shadows
Of Love" in 14 takes.
The vocal overdubs by the Four Tops,
however, required 52 takes.
Jack Ashford played dozens of percussion
instruments. Some were his own invention...
like the "hotel sheet," which he used
on Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up. "
Neither drummer, Pistol nor Uriel,
let on during filming that they were ill.
Uriel required quintuple bypass surgery
soon after production closed.
Pistol was diagnosed
with terminal cancer and
died june 30, 2002,
before the film's release.
Pistol, with tongue-in-cheek,
describes a basic pop-rock beat.
Pistol Allen was the
master of the "Beale Street"
shuffle and the Motown
"four on the floor"' groove.
The "Beale Street" shuffle
originated in Memphis, Tennessee.
Pistol describes the session with producer
Norman Whitfield on February 3, 1967.
It was a track
intended for the Temptations.
Instead, Marvin Gaye overdubbed "I Heard
It Through The Grapevine" a few days later.
Ben Harper sings Marvin's version,
which at that time, sat in the can.
Gladys Knight & The
Pips' faster version was
recorded, issued and
eventually hit number two.
Producer Whitfield fought with Berry
Gordy for the release
of Marvin's version.
It was stuck on an album
more than a year later.
Radio found it and forced its release
as a single in November 1968...
when it became Motown's
most successful record to that point.
Marvin's "Grapevine" was number one
in the U.S. and the UK...
staying on top the U.S. R&B chart
for nearly two months.
Benny's substance abuse
led to chronic heart disease.
Motown logs indicate
only two, brief sessions
for April 20, 1969, the day Benny died
- and none the day after.
Joe Messina was considered the best
music reader of all The Funk Brothers.
He played
the complicated written parts.
Berry Gordy produced and released Marv
johnson's hit "Come To Me," in 1959...
the first record
on his independent Tamla label.
Joe was a staff guitarist at
WXYZ-TV. More than 10 years
after he played for Soupy
Sales' nighttime TV band...
Soupy became a national comic sensation and
released a novelty album on Motown in 1969.
Eddie "Bongo" Brown started
his career as Marvin Gaye's valet.
Respect for Eddie's contributions
shows in the Motown recording set-up:
unlike the three guitars,
which were combined on one
track, his congas were usually
given their own track...
so his sound wouldn't be
buried by the other instruments.
Joan and jack are at
the Parkwood Diner in Oak, Michigan...
talking about the single,
"Soul 35022," released june 1966.
The Funks re-create the
original track recorded for
"What Becomes Of The
Brokenhearted" on August 3, 1965.
The original single byjimmy Ruffin
- brother
ofTemptation David Ruffin
- hit the Top 10 in summer "66.
The track was originally given different
lyrics and sung by the Isley Brothers.
When rewritten,jimmy "took"
the song from the Spinners.
Paul Riser, seen in this film, wrote the
song's sublime arrangement
and is its co-author.
Additional keyboardist
Rudy Robinson, seen here
in the top hat, was a
good friend to the Funks...
and did many gigs with them
after Motown.
He died shortly after
the film was completed.
Seth justman, a member of thej. Geils Band
and the brother of director Pauljustman...
arranged this dramatic breakdown
for the film.
Robert White recorded his famous guitar line
to "My Girl" with the rest of the Funks...
on a Friday at Hitsville,
September 25, 1964.
Smokey Robinson wrote
and produced "My Girl"...
then taught it to the Temptations
while backstage at NY's Apollo Theater.
During Robert's fallow L.A. period, he
sold his beloved black Gibson L-5 guitar.
He returned to performing
and recording in the early 1990s...
before he died unexpectedly in '94 of
complications after heart surgery.
Also in the mix on the
local scene: The Parliaments,
led by former Motown staff
writer, George Clinton...
whose outrageous funk
- often augmented by a few
ofThe Funk Brothers
- caught Whitfield's ears.
Dennis describes a short-lived
Motown "Producer's Workshop"...
created by the Motown brass
in the summer-fall of 1968.
Uriel plays his original
drum part while Pistol
re-creates the part originally
played by "Spider" Webb.
"Cloud Nine" was originally recorded
in 16 takes on October 1, 1968.
Carla Benson was a renowned Philadelphia
International session singer
for more than a decade.
"Cloud Nine" was a Top 10 hit
and Motown's first Grammy Award winner.
John Ingram was singer
and road drummer for Patti LaBelle.
"Cloud Nine" was the first Temptations
hit to feature multiple lead singers.
Nate and Ralphe are speaking about
Bob Babbitt's bass solo in "Scorpio"...
the Top 10 hit by Dennis Coffey
& The Detroit Guitar Band from 1971.
Babbitt is depicted in the
famed Roostertail club on
the Detroit River, home of
the "Motown Monday" shows.
Babbitt is shown here
with his teen band The Counts.
This was Babbitt's band The Royal Tones
- that's Dennis Coffey at left.
He joined Stevie Wonder's
road band in '66. His first
recordings at Hitsville were
album tracks for Stevie in '67.
Albums sessions for "What's Going On"
were done in 10 frantic days.
Songs were cut in the sequence
they were eventually released.
Jamerson recorded the first half
of the album.
Babbitt handled the second half
- "Mercy Mercy Me" through
"Inner City Blues. "
This rare performance footage is from
a benefit for Rev. jessejackson's...
Operation PUSH in Chicago,
October 1, 1972.
Racial confrontations
also escalated into urban
riots in Newark, Nj; New
York City; Cleveland, OH;
Washington, D.C.; Chicago, I L
and Atlanta, GA, in the summer of'67.
The Funks had been recording
"Ain't Nothing Like The
Real Thing" a few hours
before the riots broke out.
Sessions were cancelled for
the next 10 days.
Before the National Guard ended
the Detroit riots on july 25...
43 African Americans were killed, 1,189
were injured and 7,231 were arrested.
During these sessions
Marvin was like a Funk Brother...
playing piano
and percussion alongside them.
Chaka Khan sings the
song Marvin created after
his family was scarred
by the Vietnam War.
His cousin died in the war, and his brother
Frankie returned home with horror stories.
For the album's sessions, Marvin hired
Chet Forest, a local jazz drummer.
Pistol is re-creating Marvin's original
percussion part played on a "box drum. "
This arrangement is based on
David Van De Pitte's original score.
Tom Scott transposed Eli Fontaine's
original alto sax part to his soprano sax.
Berry Gordy at first rejected
"What's Going On. "
He not only didn't want
a protest song, he didn't
like the "Dizzy Gillespie
scatting" in the middle.
Original background
singers on the record were
Lem Barney and Mel Farr
of the Detroit Lions...
The Miracles' Bobby Rogers
and Motown's other unsung heroes...
The Andantes: Louvain Demps,
Marlene Barrow and jackie Hicks.
Eddie Willis stands on the
bridge to Detroit's Belle
Isle, where many Motown
company picnics took place...
and wherejamerson drove with friends,
despondent over Motown's move west.
The "hits to come" in Detroit
after "What's Going On"...
included The Temptations' "Papa Was A
Rolling Stone" and The Supremes' "Floyjoy. "
Motown had been recording
in Los Angeles since the mid-"60s...
and set up corporate offices in
Los Angeles in 1968.
Upon officially leaving
Detroit in '72, Motown left
behind a skeletal staff to
oversee occasional studio dates.
Jamerson's West Coast sessions
included The Sylvers' "Boogie Fever"...
The Hues Corp. 's "Rock
The Boat" and Marilyn McCoo
& Billy Davis's "You
Don't Have To Be A Star. "
Motown 25: Yesterday, Today & Foreverwas
filmed at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.
Jamerson died at the age of 47,
August 2, 1983.
Jamerson's obituary in Rolling Stone by
singer/ Detroit native Marshall Crenshaw...
inspired Allan Slutsky to write the book
Standing In The Shadows Of Motown.
After Motown's L.A. move, Uriel and
Pistol stayed in Detroit to play gigs.
Jack became a producer,
then gave up music until
this film. "Bongo" played
until his death in 1983.
Eddie went on tour
with the Four Tops for 20 years...
Joe retired to open a chain
of car washes and jewelry stores...
while Robert slipped
in and out of music.
Joe kept playing after
"63. Earl toured with Freda
Payne and taught at
Detroit's public schools...
as did johnny, between his gigs.
Babbitt became a premier session bassist
in New York, Philadelphia and Nashville...
creating tracks for The Spinners, Elton
john, Alice Cooper and many others.
Montell and Chaka perform
Marvin Gaye and Tammi
Terrell's version of"Ain't
No Mountain High Enough"...
a Top 20 hit in spring 1967.
"Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
was originally recorded in Studio B...
as a solo track for Tammi
on December 20, 1966.
Standing 6'8", Montell is the only one
on stage taller than jack Ashford.
Chaka and her group Rufus got their
break when Motown's Stevie Wonder...
wrote their first hit,
"Tell Me Something Good. "
Uriel played with Benny
on the original version.
He played with Andrew Smith on
the 1970 remake by Diana Ross.
Postscript: johnny
Griffith died hours before
the film's Detroit
premiere, Nov. 10, 2002.