Between Takes: The Brief, Mysterious Life of Bassist James Jamerson

In Episode 010 of Between Takes, Dennis Coffey talks about influential bassist, James Jamerson

Welcome to Between Takes; where artists and musicians tell stories about what happens behind the scenes.

WDET’s Sam Beaubien has been dedicated to making music in Detroit for 20 years, and this series connects you with the stories he has heard on gigs and at recording sessions.

Get a look into Stevie Wonders audition for Motown Records, sessions with funk master George Clinton, renowned hip-hop producer J Dilla’s first days with a drum machine, and many more stories about what shaped the legacy of this musical city. 

Episode 009

Becoming one of the Funk Brothers was a dream for working musicians in Detroit. You got steady work and pay, a chance to record on hit records, and you performed with some of the best musicians in town. The backing musicians at Motown played a huge part in the sound that was taking over young America. And the low-end foundation of that sound was James Jamerson.

Doug Coombe
Doug Coombe

Known as one of the best and most influential bassists, James Jamerson was a powerhouse. His command and control over the bass were amazing, and the fact he did it all with one finger (nicknamed “The Hook”) was mind-blowing. His style and technique are still imitated today and remain a standard for all professional bass players.

Jamerson’s life was short and tragic. A lot of mystery surrounds him and musicians and fans today desperately look for any clues on how he did what he did. Very little video footage of him performing exists. But one person who knew him well was Funk Brother, Dennis Coffey. They were close friends, and Jamerson helped get Dennis his first job at Motown.

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  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.