This morning on Detroit’s WJR radio, there were several mentions of the passing of Funk Brother Bob Babbitt. It seemed a bit tardy that one of Detroit’s recently passed top studio musicians was being noted in Detroit eight days after his death. Read a surprisingly complete obit here.
I spoke with Babbitt last year for the book I am now completing, Detroit Rock City: The Uncensored History of Five Decades of Rock ‘n Roll in America’s Loudest City.
He was a terrific interview, speaking of growing up in Pittsburgh, coming to Detroit and joining Dearborn rockabilly outfit the Royaltones in 1962, playing for the Mob and finally making it as a studio musician at Motown.
“All the stuff that happened to most of the guys in Detroit, in music overall, no one thought that it would have a lasting impression,” Babbitt said. “People weren’t thinking like that then. And it was easy to think that what was happening in Detroit was happening everywhere. But it wasn’t.”
Then there was his pro wrestling career, which he was surprised to hear in a question.
“I started wrestling wrestled in the minor leagues in Pittsburgh,” he said. “Before I left I heard about Killer Kowalski in Detroit. I got there and then I heard this Kowalski guy had bit someone’s ear off, and I said ‘no, I think I’ll play music.’
Babbitt had a lot more to tell me, and everyone – Hendrix at Motown? – that will make the cut for sure.
Steve Miller is an investigative reporter with over two decades of experience in daily newspaper, Web and magazine reporting and writing. Miller has done time as a court and cops beat reporter at the Dallas Morning News and as a national reporter for the Washington Times, and as a correspondent for national publications including People magazine, High Times, Boston Magazine, Miami New Times, Houston Press, The Daily Beast and U.S. News and World Report. In 2012, he was an Edgar award finalist for his book, Girl, Wanted: The Chase for Sarah Pender. He is a recipient of the digital investigative award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. Miller was also the former vocalist in the Midwest punk rock outfit the Fix in 1980-81.
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