Obituary For Pistol Allen Feb 24, 2005 19:30:26 GMT -5
Post by Emerald City on Feb 24, 2005 19:30:26 GMT -5
Monday, July 1, 2002
Motown drummer Pistol Allen dies
Funk Brothers member put backbeat to most of classics
By Susan Whitall / The Detroit News
DETROIT -- The Motown sound has a little less backbeat today. Drummer Pistol Allen, 69, a member of the band that supplied the instrumentals to nearly every classic Motown record ever recorded, died Sunday after a long battle with cancer.
That was Howard Richard "Pistol" Allen's lazy Memphis shuffle on the Supremes' "Baby Love," his frenetic, in-the-pocket groove on Martha and the Vandellas' "Heat Wave," and his swinging funk on Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)."
"You couldn't fall behind, you couldn't fall anywhere but in the pocket with him," said his band mate, Motown guitarist Eddie Willis, from his home in Mississippi. The little-known band that helped make Motown famous was called the Funk Brothers. Motown founder Berry Gordy never gave the band credit on the records to keep other music companies from stealing his talent.
By the time Gordy hired Allen at Motown in 1962, the drummer was a seasoned jazz pro. But on the advice of his mentor, Motown drummer Benny Benjamin, Allen put aside the jazz when recording in Motown's "Snakepit" studio.
New Jersey-based filmmaker Allan Slutsky's upcoming documentary, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," tells the Funk Brothers' story as the uncredited musicians behind Motown's greatest singers. Then picture will be released nationally in November. Slutsky got to know Allen well over the course of filming.
"This was a guy who burned with music all day long, his whole life," said Slutsky. "It wasn't music that was borne out of wanting to be a star, he just wanted to play, he felt the spirit of music moving through him his whole life. When you have something that strong, I don't think death can separate that."
"And Pistol knows he's preserved now because of the film. If I did one decent thing in my life, it was making sure his story, and the Funk Brothers' story, was told on film." Allen's oldest son, Harold Allen, saw how his ailing father was transformed by the power of music.