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Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band

Funk and rock guitarist-led band from Detroit

Armando Bellmas
Armando Bellmas
Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band

Today on Ecléctico you're listening to guitarist Dennis Coffey's one big hit. It's a funky groove of a song which has been sampled on hits by Public Enemy, Young MC, and many others. You'll go deeper with an excerpt from an article about the song by Oliver Wang on NPR.

"Scorpio" by Dennis Coffey and The Detroit Guitar Band
1971 | Funk and rock guitarist-led band from Detroit


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The song's venerability boils down to two factors. The first is [Dennis] Coffey's scorching decrescendo, which becomes the song's main motif, repeated four times at the onset and then again to bring in the bridge. Upon first listen, that riff sounds almost impossibly dense and gargantuan, which makes sense: It's not just one guitar line, but nine of them overdubbed by Coffey, spanning three octaves. Given its constant repetition throughout the song, it ultimately becomes as memorable as its counterparts in "Smoke on the Water" or "Sunshine of Your Love."

However, even the guitar takes a momentary backseat to the bridge, which brings in Eddie "Bongo" Brown on congas to join drummers Uriel Jones and Richard "Pistol" Allen — who, combined, lay down a monster drum break that eventually involves Jack Ashford on tambourine. This percussion quartet holds and molds the break for 24 bars (nearly a full minute) before Bob Babbitt joins in on bass, and even then, Coffey's guitar doesn't come screaming back in for another minute and a half. While a two-and-a-half-minute drum/bass break may not be the longest in music history, it's that generous groove that helped make "Scorpio" a massive hit in the clubs and gave Evolution new life.

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