Between Takes: Dennis Coffey Takes “Scorpio” to “Soul Train”

In Episode 021 of Between Takes, Dennis Coffey tells the story of recording his hit song, Scorpio.

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 020

Dennis Coffey is widely known for his work as a studio musician. He was part of the backing band at Motown called the Funk Brothers and worked with many other record labels around the country. His approach to guitar was something new in R&B and soul music. He was known for using effects to add distortion and other psychedelic sounds that were prominent in other genres of music but hadn’t been used at Motown yet.

Coffey went from being a session musician to a solo artist, releasing a series of albums on record labels Maverick, Sussex, and Westbound. Taking his iconic approach to playing the guitar and making use of psychedelic effects, Coffey was able to create his own voice in music and released a series of solo albums that focused on that sound.

During that time, he recorded the song, “Scorpio.” Initially, it didn’t sell well or get radio play, but after a slow start, it got picked up by the underground dance scene and Coffey was invited to perform on the TV show “Soul Train.” He was the first white artist to be invited to perform on the show. The song became a hit and its iconic drum break has been sampled by many hip-hop songs, including the hit song “Bust A Move” by Young MC.

Coffey is one of the most sampled artists in hip-hop because of his unique approach to producing records.

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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.