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The final performance of the tour was at a Detroit dinner club. It was a big event, a homecoming for Reeves; everyone involved with Motown was there. Among them were two of the so-called Funk Brothers, James Jamerson (guitar) and Benny Benjamin (drums). The Funk Brothers was the name for a group of session musicians who played on most of the great Motown hits from the company’s inception in 1959 until it moved to Los Angeles in 1972. It was their sound that sold a number of hits for over a decade, from "My Girl", "I Heard It Through the Grapevine", "Baby Love", "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."
Speaking of Jamerson and Benjamin Jon said, “It was amazing to play with those two legends. They had a simple, no-nonsense way of playing and a right-on-the-money groove. Their style was tasteful but solid. It was easy to see why that magic combination of talent was on virtually every Motown hit in that era.”
There was also that time when the band played for a week at a club in Memphis. For three nights in a row Buddy Miles came in and jammed with them. The drummer, guitarist, and singer had been a member of Jimi Hendrix’ trio and was highly respected in blues circles. They played all of his hits, including “Them Changes,” “We’ve Got to Live Together,” and “Texas.”
Miles always gave it a hundred percent when he performed. Exuberant, he energized both the band and the audience. Said Jon, “He was one of the most solid, groovacious—is that a word?—drummers I have ever performed with. He was so in the pocket. His groove was just locked. And he made the snare drum dance off the stage. It was just a really fun experience.”
Miles knew how to get the maximum volume out of the drums without losing anything in musicality. “He played with an extraordinary amount of power without losing the tone, and knew how to invoke a unique, get-up-and-dance feel. He really brought life, energy, and resonance into the drums, just as Segovia could take any guitar and make it sound like the most heavenly instrument,” said Jon.
“That reminds me of a story Paul, a guitar repairman and technician for Chet Atkins, once told me,” Jon added in one of those asides that immediately promise to be excellent. “Paul attended a Segovia concert. At a post-event party at the home of a Nashville Symphony sponsor, the host brought out a guitar and asked Segovia to give his opinion on it. Segovia proceeded to give an impromptu 30-minute performance. It wasn’t until the maestro handed the guitar back that the host remembered that it was his guitar Segovia had used. The man was astounded that Segovia had managed to turn his relatively humble instrument into the equivalent of a Stradivarius.”
“That taught me that it really doesn’t matter what instruments or technology you have to work with,” said Jon. “It is truly how much of yourself you put into it—soul, mind, and heart—that makes your art special. And sometimes, as in the case of Segovia, extraordinary.”
Jon’s connection with artists in the Contemporary Christian genre began with Amy Grant and her first album, My Father’s Eyes. After working on several other albums with Amy, Jon joined a two-week concert tour on the West Coast and Alaska.
“Amy was very laid back in the studio, really easy to work with,” said Jon. He recalled that four of the albums were recorded at Caribou Ranch, a 4,000 acre property high in the Rockies near Boulder. The owner was James Guercio, manager of the band Chicago. A number of big names had come through the mountain studio, and stories abounded of their creative adventures and personal antics.
Such artists ranged from The Beach Boys, Phil Collins, and Michael Jackson to Rod Stewart, U2, and Frank Zappa. Elton John recorded three albums there, titling the first Caribou after the studio. One of the lesser known, but no less impressive, sometime residents who patrolled the premises was Cool Cat Frank, a huge feline creature with the look of an alley cat and the wild spirit of a mountain lion. Frank had survived numerous run-ins with coyotes, and no mere domesticated dog dared to come close.
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