One of the last original members of the Motown Studio band, collectively known as “The Funk Brothers”, has passed away. Guitarist Eddie Willis died on August 20, 2018 at the age of 82. He died from complications from polio, which he suffered with since childhood.
I had the chance to meet him backstage after a concert in 2007. Various members of the Funk Brothers were playing a show at the performing arts centre in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Mr. Willis was very kind and talked at great length about his days at Motown Records in the 1960’s. He posed for a picture with me and Motown drummer Uriel Jones, a photograph I treasure to this day.
My wife and I toured through Motown’s Studio A, the original recording studio in Detroit, back in July of 2014. This was the very spot that Eddie Willis, drummer Uriel Jones, and all the other Funk Brother musicians recorded with singers such as Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Smoky Robinson and The Miracles, The Temptations, Tammi Terrell, The Four Tops, and so many more.
Inside that little studio space, you could still feel the magic that happened all those years ago. What an amazing experience it was. If you ever need a reason to go to Detroit, visiting the Motown Museum is one that is worth every effort.
Original Funk Brother members Uriel Jones (left) and Eddie Willis (right) with Tim Sykes, back in 2007.