I am greatly fond of Dennis Coffey, not only because he is an incredible guitarplayer, but his songwriting and jamming style of recording made me fall in love with everything he ever put on record. I first got acquanted with his name when Mike D of the Beastie Boys was rapping: “Like Dennis Coffey I’m a Scorpio” on “Skills to Pay the Bills”. Not knowing that “Scorpio” is an awesome breakdance classic, I never gave it much thought. When hearing Coffey’s “Black Belt Jones” soundtrack on a compilation record (Schoolyard Breaks vol. 2 – GET THIS RECORD), I was sold.
I will definitely include “Scorpio” (got that 45 in the mail just a few weeks ago) and “Black Belt Jones” (when I find it on a 45 at a reasonable price; last week a copy went away on Ebay for $100) on this blog soon. For now listen to his 1969 cover of The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” he did with some band called the Lyman Woodard Trio. Pay attention to that fatback drum in the intro, with Coffey’s wah-wah guitar riff. Heavenly!
Part of Dennis Coffey’s biography from Allmusic.com:
From the mid-to-late ’60s, Coffey was a Detroit session fixture, appearing on such mainstream hits and cult classics as Darrell Banks‘ monumental “Open the Door to Your Heart,” Carl Carlton‘s “Competition Ain’t Nothing,” and Tobi Lark‘s “Happiness Is Here.” His inventive playing is the tissue that connects an untold number of crowd favorites within Britain’s Northern soul club culture. Around 1968 Coffey also began working steadily at Motown, beginning with the Temptations‘ gritty “I Wish It Would Rain.” He went on to appear on the group’s landmark efforts “Cloud Nine” and “Ball of Confusion,” pushing the Motown sound into increasingly funky territory with his ingenious use of a wah-wah pedal, one of several technological innovations he introduced to tweak The Sound of Young America. Beginning with Jack Montgomery‘s Scepter release “Dearly Beloved,” Coffey concurrently added arranging and producing to his slate, teaming with local session drummer Mike Theodore to found their own production firm, Theo-Coff. The duo quickly hit paydirt helming a demo tape for the blue-eyed psych-soul combo the Sunliners, landing a production deal with MGM’s Maverick subsidiary. Six months later, Maverick also signed Coffey to a solo contract, releasing his psych-funk classic Hair & Thangs and scoring a Midwestern smash in 1969 with his fuzz-laden instrumental reading of the Isley Brothers‘ “It’s Your Thing.”