Album:Big City Funk: Original Old School Breaks & Heavy Guitar Soul
Guitarist Dennis Coffey is what we call an unsung legend. Most music fans have never heard of him except maybe for the 1971 top ten hit Scorpio. But you have heard him on many Motown recordings as a member of The Funk Brothers. And he is revered by hip hop guys. They are constantly sampling his music. He was born Nov. 11, 1940 in Detroit. He learned to play guitar as a teen. And he began session work while still in high school. And that's what he did in the 60s usually for Ed Wingate's Ric-Tic label on Edwin Starr records. By 1968, Coffey was working regularly at Motown most notably for producer Norman Whitfield on Temptations hits like Cloud Nine, Ball Of Confusion and Psychedelic Shack. All the guitar solos with the wah wah effect, that's Dennis Coffey. That's his signature style. Then he forms a production company with producer Mike Theodore. Coffey releases the 1969 album Hair and Things on the small Maverick label. This leads to a deal with Clarence Avant's Sussex label and the 1971 album Evolution by Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Army. Scorpio reaches #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Not surprisingly, several Funk Brothers play on the record. Musicians are Ray Monette of Rare Earth and Joe Podorsic on guitar, Bob Babbitt on bass, Earl Van Dyke on piano, Uriel Jones and Richard "Pistol" Allen on drums, "Bongo" Eddie Brown on congas and Jack Ashford on tambourine. All but Podorsic were Funk Brothers. Today the song is considered a funk classic and is frequently sampled by hip hop guys. Meanwhile he is still playing on hits like Edwin Starr's War and Freda Payne's Band Of Gold. Coffey recorded several albums for Sussex until they closed in the late 70s. This comp covers that period. Also, Coffey scored the 1974 film Black Belt Jones. Of course Coffee is featured in the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown. And he published his autobiography in 2004. Dennis Coffey last recorded in 2011. But he still plays Detroit clubs. Here's Dennis Coffey with the Don Was Detroit All Star Revue with Luis Resto on keyboards, Terry "Thunder" Hughley on drums, Don Was on bass, Brian "Roscoe" White on guitar and Dino Lewis on congas performing Scorpio at the Detroit Concert of Colors July 17, 2010.