Surviving Funk Brothers Eddie Willis (dressed in red) and Jack Ashford (seated) listen to Stevie Wonder sing their praises at the ceremony. (Joe Klamar / Getty Images)
Motown's legendary studio band the Funk Brothers were honored with a star on Hollywood Boulevard on Thursday, and Stevie Wonder was among the notables to pay tribute to the musicians whose instrumental work was the lynchpin of the Motown sound.
Their names were read aloud: Richard "Pistol Allen, Bob Babbitt, William "Benny" Benjamin, Eddie "Bongo" Brown, Johnnie Griffith, Joe Hunter, James Jamerson, Uriel Jones, Joe Messina, Robert White, Earl Van Dyke, Eddie Willis and Jack Ashford.
Wonder was particularly close to the Funks, and he spoke about the worldly musicians who let a young boy run around the studio as a child and taught him to play drums, keyboards and other instruments.
Playing a few bars of "Fingertips" on the harmonica, Wonder said: "I thank every single one of the musicians you mentioned, as well as the producers and arrangers."
He used the occasion to call for more music education in schools.
"We must continue the legacy by allowing the world to hear even more great musicians who need to be out there," Wonder said.
Mickey Stevenson, Motown's A&R director, said: "The Funk Brothers were just magic, the gifts came from upstairs, but the touch, they formed together. I thank God for us being at the right place at the right time, to make some of the best music of all time."
Tom Schoenith, owner of the Roostertail, was at the ceremony and reports that there were several hundred onlookers.
"I've been here for a bunch of these ceremonies, and this is a big crowd," Schoenith said.
Also in attendance were many family members of Funk Brothers who have passed on: James Jamerson Jr. and mother Annie Jamerson; Joe Hunter Jr., and June Jones, among others.
Contrary to some reports, guitarist Messina is in fine health but enjoys a low profile. He watched the ceremony via a livestream from his Metro Detroit home.
Messina did quip that he has room on his driveway for a star, should it be provided.