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The Funk Brothers





To Motown's stars, the four wooden steps leading down to Hitsville's basement were a bridge to a land of dreams. But to the studio musicians who shaped the Motown sound, the stairs were a gateway to a workplace, a cramped, smoke stained, dimly lit room they affectionately dubbed "The Snakepit." For almost fourteen years on a daily and nightly basis, the musicians transformed that basement into a hit factory. They rolled masterpieces off the production line in an hour or less, trading friendly insults as they worked. Known as "Funk Brothers", they were utterly unknown. Berry Gordy demanded assembly-line efficiency. Sessions started at 10 o'clock and were over in the afternoon. Most of the time they were three-hour sessions. Since they could call for a session seven days a week the Funk Brothers were always on call. They were paid $10 a song until everything was right. In some of those three hour sessions there might be two or three producers depending on the number of songs. The Union rule was that you could cut no more than four songs at a session. However because the Funk Brothers were an in-house band the Union was never around. So they cut whatever needed to be done. When they weren't working at Studio A they could often times be found jamming at Millie's Chit Chat Lounge on 12th Street.

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