Joe Messina

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Joe Messina (born December 13, 1928 in Detroit, Michigan) 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.[1]

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.

Also while at ABC, he played on the nationally televised Soupy Sales Show alongside notable guests such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.

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"[2] (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 stopped playing guitar for 30 years after Berry Gordy took his Motown operation to Los Angeles in 1972: "I just had no interest", he said.[3]

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.[4] 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.

He is the second to last surviving member of the Funk Brothers after the death of Eddie Willis.


  • Liner notes of Messina Madness (1993)
  • "Messina Is Standing In The Shadows Of Motown - Italian Tribute" (2002) by Danny Wilson
  1. ^ "Joe Messinaartist Mantler". Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  2. ^ "The Funk Brothers - The Motown Backing Band". Retrieved July 3, 2014.
  3. ^ Interviewed for Hitsville Us Eh!, a Canadian documentary film about Motown, released in 2017.
  4. ^ "Motown's Funk Brothers get their star". /. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 3 July 2014.

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