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Uriel Jones 3/2009

Uriel JonesMarch 24, 2009 – Uriel Jones (the Funk Brothers) was born on June 13th 1934 in Detroit. He began playing music in high school. But his first instrument was the trombone and wanted to box also. But 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.

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. Jones joined the Funk Brothers around 1963 after touring with Marvin Gaye and he moved up the line as recordings increased and principal drummer Benny Benjamin’s drug addicted health deteriorated fast. Around 1963 Jones and another player, Richard Allen, known as Pistol, started gradually taken over drumming his duties and Benjamin died of a stroke in 1969.

Jones joined the Funk Brothers  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.

He had a hard-hitting, funky sound, best heard on the tracks for the hits “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” – both versions, by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell in 1967 and the 1970 remake by Diana Ross, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, “Cloud Nine” by the Temptations, Jr. Walker’s “Home Cookin’,” “I Second That Emotion” by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, “For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder, and many more.

Uriel Jones could kick-start a surefire hit with a couple strokes on a tom, a crack of his snare, and not much else.According to longtime Four Tops keyboardist George Rountree, “Uriel had a style that made you think, Oh, that’s Uriel. You can listen to a track and hear whether it was [Motown house drummers] Benny Benjamin, Uriel Jones, or Pistol Allen playing on it. Uriel truly made you feel the pocket. When you played live with Uriel, it felt like you were in the studio.” Many said that he was the architect behind the Motown sound.

After Motown left in 1972, Jones (as well as many of the other Motown involved musicians) remained in Detroit and continued to play in local clubs with other Funk Brothers alumni, including keyboardist Earl Van Dyke, who died in 1992. Uriel became better known to worldwide music fans through his memorable appearance in the 2002 feature documentary film, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. After “Standing in the Shadows” during the last years of his life, he toured widely with other surviving Funk Brothers.

Uriel Jones sadly died of complications after suffering a heart attack at age 74 in Dearborn Michigan.

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