Dennis Coffey

As a guitarist in legendary Motown studio band the Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey played on several of the label’s hits and landed a few of his own in the process. Born in Detroit on November 11, 1940, Coffey started playing on studio sessions as a teenager and worked his way up to a spot in the Funk Brothers from 1967-1972. Coffey brought a different sound to Motown, one that featured hard rock distortion and the wah-wah pedal, which hinted towards the coming sounds of the ‘70s. Some of his most noteworthy Motown contributions include the Temptations’ journey into psychedelic soul on the 1969 album Psychedelic Shack, Edwin Starr’s classic “War”, Freda Payne’s Number 3 hit “Band of Gold” (on which he played electric sitar), and “Someday We’ll Be Together”, the final Number 1 hit credited to Diana Ross & the Supremes, but essentially Ross’ debut solo single. In 1970, Coffey took a studio gig playing guitar on the album Cold Fact by an unknown Detroit musician who recorded as Rodriguez. The album was unnoticed in the United States but earned the mysterious Rodriguez a devoted international following, which was explored in the 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man. Coffey appeared in the film to discuss his work on Rodriguez’ debut. Coffey made his own success in 1971 with his instrumental single “Scorpio”, which hit Number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned him the honor of being the first white performer to appear on the American television series Soul Train. The accompanying LP, Evolution, credited to Dennis Coffey and the Detroit Guitar Army, was comprised of originals and a take on Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love”, and made it to Number 13 on the R&B album chart. A follow-up single, “Taurus”, failed to make the impact of its predecessor. The hits dried up by the mid-’70s, but Coffey continued to perform and record, including his work scoring the 1974 blaxploitation film Black Belt Jones and a 2011 self-titled album that reworked some of his classic tunes and showed off his still-sharp sense for playing and composition.

Related Artists

Please enable Javascript to view this page competely.