Chasing The Shadow Of The Funk Machine

This is a short version of an upcoming feature. To support this incredible documentary please visit here

Shortly before James Jamerson died, his legendary Precision bass, known as the Funk Machine, was stolen. A bass that had played on dozens of hits and hundreds of iconic Motown songs disappeared into the ether and despite efforts to locate it the instrument has failed to surface, leading to it being regarded as something of a Holy Grail among the low end community.
But now the hunt for James Jamerson’s P-Bass with a sky high action is back on, and as documentary maker Paul Crutcher explains, he’s doing more than chasing shadows.

What prompted you to undertake a documentary about James Jamerson, and The Funk Machine in particular?
I’ve been interested in Motown and James Jamerson for many years. About 15 years ago I had a blog, the hosting company for which no longer exists, and on that I wrote extensively about the topic. When Allan Slutsky’s book Standing In The Shadows of Motown Came Out I loved the book but I found the documentary focused more on the Funk Brothers than just Jamerson. Those guys definitely needed to be recognised which was great, but myself and Tom, my co-producer, had was why don’t we take what Allan started and go deeper on Jamerson. James and Benny Benjamin were really the heart of Motown.
Even if you don’t successfully locate the Funk Machine what do you hope to achieve with the documentary?
We have a responsibility while all these guys involved in Motown are still with us to do our job as journalists, film makers and music lovers to record what happened, because don’t forget most of these guys are 70 plus so the clock is ticking.
I think the bass is out there but even if we don’t find it at least we’ve told the story to pass on to future generations and told them who James Jamerson is and how much he contributed to music.
Do you have any leads to go on?
I now have an eyewitness account from a reputable source about seeing the instrument at a vintage guitar show in 1993 in California. I’m in contact with the people who put that show on and I’m going through the booth and vendors list and trying to track down people who were at the show on that day. I’m talking to people and we’re following up every lead we get.
Why do you think such a myth has sprung up around the bass?
I believe that James could have played a mop handle with a piece of twine on it and made it sound good. And of course James had other basses, he had other basses stolen in fact, and he used his upright too but we think that the Funk Machine features on 200 million records sold. That’s a lot! And the sound of that bass was so important because it was part of the soundtrack of a generation.
To find out more about the James Jamerson and the Legend of The Funk Machine and to lend your support please click here
Ben Cooper

Posted in Artists, News

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