Joe Messina (born in Detroit, Michigan on 13 December 1928) is an American guitarist. Dubbed the "white brother with soul", Messina was one of the most prolific guitarists in Motown Records' in-house studio band, the Funk Brothers.
Messina started playing guitar as an adolescent. By his mid-twenties, Messina was playing in the ABC Television studio band, accompanying guests that included Sonny Stitt, Charlie Parker, Stan Getz, Jack Teagarden, Lee Konitz, Jimmy Giuffre, Pepper Adams, Donald Byrd, Eddie (LockJaw) Davis, Frank Rosolino and Dizzy Gillespie, among others.
In 1958, Motown Records founder Berry Gordy recruited Messina for his Hitsville U.S.A. studio musicians group, known as the Funk Brothers. In the 1960s and early 1970s, they recorded the instrumentals for hundreds of Motown hit records. During this time, Messina worked with performers such as Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. Among Messina's most notable performances are his turns on hits such as "Dancing in the Street" (Martha & the Vandellas, 1964), "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" (Four Tops, 1965), and "Your Precious Love" (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell, 1967).
Messina is the creator of an alternative music technique known as The Interval Study Method, which uses the chromatic and diatonic scales to create music. He still resides in Detroit, where he performs as a jazz musician. On March 21, 2013, the Funk Brothers were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. The Funk Brothers were also the subject of the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
Among Messina's influences are Charlie Parker, Les Paul, and George Barnes. In his early days, Messina played a Gibson L5 guitar, and later moved over to an early 1960s Fender Telecaster with a Jazzmaster neck strung with flatwound strings.
- Liner notes of Messina Madness (1993)
- "Messina Is Standing In The Shadows Of Motown - Italian Tribute" (2002) by Danny Wilson
- Standing in the Shadows of Motown at the Internet Movie Database
- Partial discography on Discogs
- Danny Wilson's tribute to Joe Messina
- Joe Messina offers a personal message and interview