Uriel Jones, a Motown Drummer, Dies at 74

March 26, 2009

Uriel Jones, a drummer with the Funk Brothers, the studio musicians at Motown Records who played without credit on virtually every hit during that label’s heyday in the 1960s, died on Tuesday in Dearborn, Mich. He was 74.

The cause was complications of a recent heart attack, his sister-in-law Leslie Coleman said.

Drawn from the ranks of Detroit jazz players by Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown, the Funk Brothers were the label’s regular studio backup band from 1959 to 1972, when Motown moved to Los Angeles and left most of them behind.

The players appeared on songs by Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Temptations, Martha and the Vandellas and many others, and “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” a 2002 documentary, opens with the claim that they “played on more No. 1 records than the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, Elvis and the Beatles combined.” Yet the group remained largely unknown until that film’s release.

The band’s main drummer was the formidable Benny Benjamin, but as he became sidelined by drug addiction, Mr. Jones and another player, Richard Allen, known as Pistol, gradually took over drumming duties. Mr. Benjamin died of a stroke in 1969, and Mr. Allen died in 2002, shortly before the release of the film.

Mr. Jones joined the Funk Brothers around 1963 after touring with Marvin Gaye, and plays on Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears,” Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” and Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” among many other songs.

Born in Detroit, Mr. Jones began playing music in high school. But his first instrument was the trombone, said his wife, June. She survives him, along with three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“He wanted to box also,” Ms. Jones said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “When he went to band classes his lip was swollen and he couldn’t play the trombone, so he had to switch to the drums.”

Mr. Jones remained in Detroit after Motown left, and continued to play in local clubs with other Funk Brothers alumni, including Earl Van Dyke, the keyboardist, who died in 1992. After “Standing in the Shadows of Motown,” Mr. Jones toured widely with other surviving Funk Brothers.

In interviews later, he said he regretted being underpaid, but held no grudges against Motown.

“We know now that we didn’t get the money that we was supposed to,” he told The Call and Post, a Cleveland newspaper, in 2002, “but the way I look at it is, ‘What would my life had been like without Motown?’ I’d rather it had been with Motown.”

Source Link: NY Times

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 12:14 am  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Although I don’t know Uriel J. as an individual, I know The Funk Brothers.


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