2004: Almost a Funk Brother

The Funk Brothers

I saw in the paper that The Funk Bros, were coming to town. This is the core band that played on all the original Motown records ! Alan Slutsky wrote a brilliant documentary about them that ran in the theaters a coupla years ago and is now out on DVD. It said special vocal guests were Phoebe Snow and Peabo Bryson. I know both of them, so I thought I’d get there early and go backstage and say hello.

Well first off, Phoebe had canceled the whole tour. Peabo wasn’t even there when I got there, but Seth Justman, keyboard man from JGeils and brother to the filmmaker who directed the above-mentioned documentary, greeted me in the dressing room. I was introduced to Slutsky who was now musical director of the aggregation. He was a huge Bloomfield disciple and was glad to meet me. He introduced me around and invited me to sit in on the encore. I was excited and flattered. To share their stage was an honor like an MBE or somethin’ !

“I assume you have a Hammond B3 organ up there” I asked rhetorically. “Naah - we couldn’t afford it on this tour.” was the unrhetorical reply. There was a synthesizer that replicated an organ up there that I was unfamiliar with, because I wont play with my band unless they put up a B3 for me. But I have a six piece band and they had about 18 people up there onstage, so I understood.

“I better not go up there and make a fool outa myself” came pouring outa my mouth. I was turning down an invite from the gods to play in heaven ? “I really don’t wanna mess anything up onstage and I don't feel confident playing an instrument I never played before” I said way too maturely. I guess I really am 60. They said that the last song was “Aint No Mountain High Enough” and to come backstage if I changed my mind for the encore of “Shotgun” if I changed my mind.

This made it even worse cause I have played Shotgun all my life and can BURN that on a B3. I was almost in tears as I stumbled to my seat for the start of the show.

And what a great show it was. They carried three singers with them, and they were all fabulous singers. They took turns singing leads and back up when they weren’t singing lead. They didn't really need Peabo Bryson or Phoebe Snow. It was all self-contained perfectly. They invited all those who wanted to come up and sing on “My Girl” and about 50 partygoers ascended the stage. They passed the microphone around and two participants sang their butts off, getting the crowd delirious. After all, the show was at Berklee, and I guessed those two were students.

When it came time for “Aint No Mountain High Enough” I embarrassedly snuck out about halfway through. I couldn’t bear to watch “Shotgun” without me playing organ. I was almost a Funk Brother for one song, but a cooler head prevailed.