Joe Messina, one of the star guitarists in the front row of Motown’s studio band Funk Brothers, has confirmed that his son passed away at his son Joel Messina’s Northville home early Monday morning. He died of natural causes at the age of 93.
Together with other Funk brothers, Messina won two Grammy Awards in 2003 for the soundtrack to the documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Modown”. A year later, the Recording Academy presented him and Funk with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Modown used many musicians, but most often in those classic cuts you hear a line of three guitars, with Robert White on one side of the machine and Eddie Willis on the other (enhanced by guitarists Dennis Coffee and Wa Watson). Only Stevie Wonder recreates those three guitar attacks live, giving him a real modest sound.
As for Modown, Messina’s strength was in the pulse, and his ability to play music helped him to explain parts to other guitarists. Messina also wanted to double the bass line (when the producers allowed him), you can hear him doing it with bassist James Jammerson in Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell’s “Your Precious Love”.
Guitar figure of Diana Rose and Supremes emphasizing “one day we will be together” – Joe Messina. He also starred in Four Tops ‘”Can Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Punch)”, Martha and Vandellos’ “Dancing in the Street” and Stevie Wonder’s “For One in My Life”. The myth of Detroit in the late 40s and 1950s came to the fore in his jazz chops at nightclubs on the jazz show.
Robin Terry, president and CEO of the Mottown Museum, called Messina “an energetic talent.” Messina was with the Funk brothers from 1959 to the early 1970s.
“As one of the original Funk brothers, Joe Messina leaves a lasting legacy as one of the creators of the Modown sound,” Terry said in an email Monday. “An energetic talent, he was personally recruited by Perry Cordy and made a huge impact. During the label’s most evolving years.
Messina is also known for playing on the night jazz band of Soupy Sales, where she sponsored Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Pepper Adams on WXYZ-TV at McAfee Building Downtown during Soupy’s 11:30 adult show.
Alan Slutsky, producer of the Funk Brothers documentary “Standing in the Shadows of Modown”, called Joe a “real popper.”
“When I listened to the clip of Joe playing in the band Sapphire Sales (Jazz), he was rocking, man. It’s hard to imagine a guy playing guitar on ‘Sugar by Honey Punch’ coming out of it. He’s a very talented musician and a brain guy, he’s a music player.
“But his soul is the most beautiful thing,” Slutsky added. “He was always happy, he wanted to laugh. He and his wife (Josie) had two peas in a pod. Without her he would not go on the road, so we had to take Josie (the sick) in a wheelchair wherever we went.
Always quick with a sense of humor, his genius never left him. Once on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when a reporter went with Messina and the Funk Brothers, the spinners’ song “It’s a Shame” sounded with its catchy opening guitar riff. “Are you Joe?” He was asked. “Do you like it? Then it’s me!” (In that case, it does not).
“Joe was the musician we all loved,” said his longtime friend and jam session friend Steve Sheppard. “He could do everything, but he was also a role model as a person. Everyone from the symphony to the jazz clubs stared at Joe, but he treated other musicians like stars and rarely talked about himself. Joe was a kind.
Messina was born in 1928 in Detroit to Jasper and Mary Messina. He attended middle high school before moving to Cos Tech for music instruction, but did not finish, and wanted to start his career as a professional musician.
Throughout the 1950s and 60s, he had a day off. He played regular kicks in the 50s at the Park Lounge in Allen Park, and led the band Joe Messina on the Metropole in Windsor, Ontario, as well as playing on the nightly show of sales.
Messina was personally hired by Cordy in the early 60s after Motown boss and A&R director Mickey Stevenson caught playing jazz at a Detroit nightclub. “Perry asked me if I was interested in playing in the band. I said yes,” Messina said of “Standing in the Shadows of Modown.”
He continued to perform live, even while working all night in Modown throughout the 1960s.
According to Slutsky, like some elite players, including Jameson, Messina was paid by Corti.
Messina had a good sense of business, and bought a car wash jewelry store, which came to hand when he left for Mottown Los Angeles in 1972, and any session musicians who did not head to the West were out of work.
When Slutsky began searching for various funk brothers for his book in the late ’70s, Mottown keyboard player Earl von Dyke (died 1992) advised him that Messina was no longer involved in music and that he “washed the car and drove away. Snails in his back hall.”
Slutsky invented the Messina, but it took time to convince him to give the music business another spin. Glad to have him kicked out of the house.
In 2000, in the midst of a blizzard, Joe and the Funk Brothers reunited for a kick at the Royal Oak Theater with several singers, including Saga Khan, Bootsy Collins and John Osborne.
After the film’s soundtrack won two Grammy Awards, Messina and Funk Brothers went on the road for the first time for Messina, who did all of his recording and playing in Detroit. Messina and Funks visit the White House and meet with President George W. Bush. Met with Bush; Toured Europe; Joe also had two Grammy Awards.
In the first scene of “Standing in the Shadows of Modown” at the Birmingham Uptown Palladium, singer Martha Reeves said of the film and the machine: “They made Joe talk. Joe never spoke.
When Slutsky brought the Funk Brothers to New York for a celebration at the Apollo Theater, when Funks went to the theater in Limo Uptown, Joe admitted to the News that he had never been to New York before. Saxophone player Tom Scott could not believe it.
“I had a studio kick so I didn’t have to leave Detroit,” Joe explained.
“Well, you’re on the road now, friend,” Scott told him. “You’m a rock star now. You did it backwards.
“In any case, Joe always found a place that fit, that made the music better, without going that way,” his friend Shepard said. “His game was clean and precise, but it flowed and he always drove.”
In addition to his son Joel, Messina has a daughter, Janice Coppa. He had four grandchildren; Joel Jr., Adam, Steven and Michael and six, soon to be seven years old, adopted grandchildren: Aidan; பென்னி; Lucy; Capri; A memorial to Lucian and Stella (soon, Milo) is planned.