Earl Van Dyke Biography

8 July 1930, Detroit, Michigan, USA, d. 18 September 1992, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Van Dyke, an accomplished keyboard player, was a session player at the Motown Records studios from 1961-71. In 1964, he replaced Joe Hunter as leader of Tamla/Motown’s studio house band. The new group, affectionately dubbed the Funk Brothers, also included James Jamerson (bass) and Benny Benjamin (drums), but was known formally as the Earl Van Dyke Six when touring in support of the label’s vocal acts. For several years this unit was the bedrock of the Tamla/Motown sound, contributing to singles by the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye and Martha And The Vandellas, while their live appearances included Tamla’s first, groundbreaking UK tour. However, Motown policy ensured their work remain uncredited on album sleeves and contemporary interviews.

Viewed as a ‘musician’ rather than an ‘artist’, Van Dyke was obliged to use considerable persuasion to secure releases under his own name. That Motown Sound comprised simple organ figures overdubbed upon the original rhythm tracks of recent hits and although subsequent recordings offered a jazz perspective, the potential of his unit was never fully exploited.


Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.


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