THE FUNK BROTHERS
The musicians Berry Gordy Jr selected to back the up-and-coming acts on his Motown label were amongst the finest players on the local jazz, blues and R&B circuit. ‘The Funk Brothers’ worked tirelessly in Hitsville’s Studio A, cranking out hit after hit. Central to the Motown sound were three of the funkiest drummers of all time, William ‘Benny’ Benjamin, Richard ‘Pistol’ Allen and Uriel Jones, who provided the driving eighth-note grooves, heavy backbeats and infectious fills.
AL JACKSON Jr
Meanwhile in Memphis, the Stax record label were making their own contribution to the sound of modern soul and funk. Their session musicians – including Al Jackson Jr, drummer with the Stax house band Booker T & The MGs – worked tirelessly recording tracks for artists such as Otis Redding and Sam & Dave.
Chicago-born Joseph was drummer of choice for the Chi-Lites, Tyrone Davis, Patti LaBelle, Curtis Mayfield and more. A studio ace for legendary Chicago soul label Brunswick Records, Joseph knew how to fill floors with his beats on classics like Davis’ ‘Can I Change My Mind’, and could also lay it down sweetly on gospelstyle numbers like The Chi-Lites’ ‘Have You Seen Her’.
When Chad joined the Chili Peppers for 1989’s Mother’s
Milk, here was a drummer whose funky kick could match Flea’s busy, funk-inspired basslines – thus creating one of rock’s finest and funkiest ever rhythm sections. Packing power and pocket in equal measure, check out Chad’s grooves on ‘Funky Monks’, ‘Give It Away’ and other funk-rock Chilis classics, as well as with his fully funky Bombastic Meatbats project.
JOHN BLACKWELL JR
Blackwell, who sadly passed away in 2017 at the tragically young age of 43, was best known as part of Prince’s New Power Generation, playing on Prince’s ‘renaissance’ album Musicology, where it was Blackwell’s nasty (in a good way) funk beats that pushed the Purple One’s music into funk overdrive. He owned the pocket like few other drummers of his generation, and was a fantastic showman whose playing style was both musically and visually spectacular.
Since launching New Orleans funk band Galactic in the early ’90s, Moore has emerged as one of the leading funk drummers today. Firmly rooted in the New Orleans tradition, Moore has brought hip-hop and r’n’b into his playing, leading his own small groups and trios, playing heavy metal with Corrosion Of Conformity, recording jazz albums and most recently a tribute to New Orleans songwriter Allen Toussaint. An excellent educator, Moore has released a string of acclaimed instructional books and DVDs exploring the unique rhythms of New Orleans, including Groove Alchemy and Take It To The Streets.
Brighton-born Steve Ferrone joined Scotland’s The Average White Band, and his deep pocket made him perfect for funk classics like ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ (originally played by the late Robbie Macintosh). But Ferrone’s slick feel has also made him the go-to for soul sessions, and he has been behind the kit for Chaka Khan and Roberta Flack. Guns N’ Roses’ guitar hero Slash, who called upon Ferrone for duties on a solo album, described Ferrone’s playing as “sex on skins”.