Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars

Dennis Coffey
Inside stories of the pop-music scenes of the 60s and 70s from one of the fathers of the Motown sound


Under Berry Gordy, Motown was a place where studio musicians usually stood in the shadows, unlike the solo stars whose names appeared on the albums. Gordy held a tight rein on his musicians, forbidding them from playing for other record companies and denying them credit on his records.

In Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars, author and guitarist Dennis Coffey tells how he slipped Gordy's draconian rules and went on to success as both a Motown musician and a million-selling solo artist. He offers a fascinating backstage look at the Detroit, L.A., and New York music scenes in the '60s and '70s, with side trips to the smoky clubs and funky studios where the Motown sound was born.

Coffey is credited with creating a lot of that sound, including the famous guitar intro to the Temptations' classic "Cloud Nine." He played on hundreds of Motown albums, and introduced such innovations as the Wah Wah pedal into the Motown recording studio.

Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars is an entertaining and amusing memoir of one of the most dynamic and influential periods in contemporary pop culture, and a unique insight into the ups and downs of the studio guitar-for-hire. It's also a look at the dizzying rags-to-riches-and-back-again career of a rock musician who went from million-seller with a house in the Hollywood Hills, and ultimately back to his roots in the Detroit area. A must for fans of Motown, rock, and you-are-there pop-culture history.

From "rock & roll kid" to honorary member of Motown's elite rhythm section the Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey was one of Detroit's most in-demand session guitarists. After leaving Motown, Coffey became a regular at Hitsville USA, playing on records for Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Junior Walker. Most recently he appeared in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

Praise / Awards

  • "Guitarist Dennis Coffey was in that elite band of musicians who helped to create the Motown Sound."
    —Edwin Starr

  • "There can never be enough stories told from the vantage point of Motown's fabled Snake Pit, from one of the journeyman musicians working behind the scenes. Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars also shows just how frenetic and creative the Detroit music scene was in the 50s and 60s. But it's Dennis Coffey's personal story that's most gripping: the journey from Motown, to Billboard's Top Ten, to working the line at Chevrolet."
    —Susan Whitall, Detroit News

  • ". . . guitarist Dennis Coffey tells how he escaped [Barry] Gordy's tight hold on music to become a success as both a Motown musician and solo artist—and his backstage look at the Motown experience provides quite a different perspective than most. This is no fly-by-night artist: Coffey was one of Detroit's most important session guitarists in the 1960s and 80s and played for many superstars: his insights are a 'must' for any enthusiast of the Motown scene."

  • "If you like the 'Detroit Sound' and listen to oldies radio, you won't be able to put this book down."
    —Art Vuolo, Daily Oakland Press

  • "Coffey's book Guitars, Bars and Motown Superstars highlights his career and many of the big names with whom he's worked. . . . Coffey's was a career that began decades ago, before Motown burst onto the scene. Back then, he was a fresh-faced eighth-grader at Detroit's Post Middle School, playing in a doo-wop band. . . . Coffey is credited with helping bring a funkier, psychedelic sound to Motown through the use of his wah-wah pedal. That pedal was one of a number of innovations Coffey used to create unique sounds. . . ."
    Detroit Free Press

  • ". . . a true account of what it was like for Coffey to have a 'catbird seat' to some of the most incredible music to sweep the nation and the world in the 1960s and 1970s."
    —Stacy Jenkins, Farmington Observer

News, Reviews, Interviews

About the Author | The Telegraph | 6/18/2010

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 208pp.
  • 19 B&W photographs.
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Sales Restrictions

Our edition is available in Canada, United States


  • Paper
  • 2009
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03410-9

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  • $20.95 U.S.



  • Motown, Funk Guitar, Funk Brother, Northern Soul, Studio Guitarist, Session Musician, Scorpio, Taurus, Black Belt Jones