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November 15, 2002 - Image 104

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts Entertainment

`SHADOWS' from page 69

Left to right:

Producer/Director
Paul Justman on
the stage of the
Royal Oak Music
Theatre giving
instructions to the
film crew in
"Standing in the
Shadows of
Motown."

Funk Brothers Joe
Messina, Johnny
Griffith (who
passed away on
Sunday), Joe
Hunter, Bob
Babbitt and
Richard "Pistol"
-Allen perform at
Baker's Keyboard
Lounge in
"Standing in the
Shadows of
Motown."

the Funk Brothers through archival
footage, interviews, narration and live
performances — with contemporary
musicians from Ben Harper to Joan
Osborne — in a reunion concert held in
Detroit in 2000.
The Jewish News recently spoke with
author/producer/music supervisor Allan
Slutsky about his dedication to the proj-
ect, his partnership with
producer/director Paul Justman and
producer Sandy Passman, his own
musical experience and his Jewish
background.

JN: What first sparked your interest
in Motown music?
AS: This has been a 35-year odyssey.
I'm 50 now. In the '60s, when I was
15 years old, I was in a group called
The Majestics. I was the lone white,
Jewish guy in an all-black band,
which was kind of crazy at the time
because all my friends were into rock,
you know, Hendrix and The Who.
And I was a soul man. I used to
play these clubs deep in the heart of
Philly's black neighborhoods.
[Motown] is the music that I played.
This was the music of my youth.

these to a publisher named Hal Leonard.
I decided to write a book called The Art
of Playing Rhythm and Blues. It was a sur-
vey of the most famous R&B scenes of
the '60s; Chicago, New Orleans, Philly,
Motown.
When I started researching [the
Motown section of the book], and started
transcribing in particular James Jamerson,

JN: At that point, did you realize what
a big project it would turn into?
AS: Well, I thought, "Man, there's a lit-
tle bit more here than a book." Also, I
had- never written- a real book. I had
always written technical books. But I
got obsessed with the story.
And next thing I knew — three years
later — I had spent about 10,000 hours
and $60,000-some writing the book.
The book came with two CDs. And
on the CDs I had enticed everyone from
Paul McCartney on down — every
major bass player in the world — into
playing excerpts from James Jamerson
and talking about him and the influence
that he had on their careers.

Stevie Wonder, center, with producer Clarence Paul,
behind. Musicians, from left to right: Larry Veeder
on guitar, Benny Benjamin on drums, James
Jamerson on bass, Mike Terry on sax.

IN: Most people have never heard of
the Funk Brothers. What initially
drew you to their story? How were
you first introduced to these virtually
anonymous musicians?
AS: I'm a professional musician. I went to
Berklee [College of Music] in Boston and I
had a company called Dr. Licks
Publications, which I started in the early
`80s. I transcribed guitar solos note for note
from famous guitarists and I would sell

11/15

2002

72

idea to try to find Jamerson's widow since
Chicago's right next to Detroit.
So I went to Detroit and called the
musicians union. They gave me her num-
ber. I hooked up with her to discuss the
possibility of doing a book. She started
taking me around to all the other mem-
bers of the Funk Brothers who were
telling me all these incredible stories
about James.

the [Motown] bass player — those bass
lines! — I went out of my mind. Listen to
this stuff. I had never listened to it with
that critical of an ear when I was younger.
The book [Standing in the Shadows of
Motown] started when I was in Chicago at
[a music industry trade show]. I had the

JN: Did you suspect at that point that
this would be an important contribu-
tion to music history?
AS: I didn't know what I had done. It
was like an act of desperation. It was
crazy. I was totally dead.
And the next thing I know, the book
wins the Rolling Stone-Ralph J. Gleason
Award for Book of the Year in 1989. I was
floored.
There's an old saying: "A little bit of suc-
cess can be a dangerous thing." I guess I got
a swelled head. I hadn't taken myself seri-

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