Motown is gearing up for some major 50th anniversary celebrations in the coming year, but the Funk Brothers — the session musicians who stood in the “shadows” of the label's more visible artists — aren’t waiting for those.
The Funks, who have gotten their due thanks to the 2002 documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” will observe their 50th by doing what they do best — playing, on Sunday (March 9) at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre in Detroit’s Eastern Market. Three of the surviving members — guitarist Eddie “Chank” Willis, drummer Uriel Jones and bassist Bob Babbitt — will perform with their regular 13-piece ensemble that tours the country, showcasing Motown hits that the Funk Brothers recorded in the ‘60s and early ‘70s at the company's Detroit studios.
“We want to catch them while they’re still here and enjoy them as many times as we can,” says Harold Bowles, director of operations at Bert’s and the son of the late saxophonist Thomas “Beans” Bowles, one of the Funk Brothers’ cofounders.
“We want this to be something people go away and five years later say, ‘Remember that Funk Brothers show we went to at Bert’s? Boy I’m glad we saw that...’”
Bowles says that Sunday’s 50th anniversary party will pay particular tribute to the late pianist Earl Van Dyke, who was considered the leader of the Funk Brothers. The night will also include special testimonials honoring the Funk Brothers from city and state officials.
The Funk Brothers 50th anniversary celebration takes place at 7 p.m. Sunday (March 9) at Bert’s Warehouse Theatre, 2727 Russell St., Detroit. Willie Jones & the Royal Jokers will open. Admission is $25. Call (313) 393-3233 or visit www.bertsentertainment.com.