Probably our closest associates and influences were the late great John E. Griffith and Richard “Pitstol” Allen. Johnny (who co-founded MCB with Louis in the mid 1980s) and Pistol were jazz players from Detroit who collaborated with Berry Gordy and together with a group of jazz guys turned studio musicians, who came to be called “the Funk Brothers”, were the heartbeat and core of the Motown sound beginning in the early 1960s (Supremes, Smoky Robinson, the Tops) continuing through the mid 1970s (Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations).
We all learned a lot from Johnny and Pistol, who were equally adept at straight jazz and “funk”.
In terms of the actual music which we play, our big influences on the jazz side would include: Duke Ellington, Count Basie, singers, including Louis, Ella, Frank and Nat King Cole, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, Horace Silver, Tom Jobim and Stan Getz, Miles Davis and many more.
Our Music & Musicians
The Motor City Beat is a group of highly trained professional musicians from the Detroit area, with a broad array of experience with all types of popular music, jazz and blues. The Group features a core rhythm section made up of multi instrumentalists Louis Johnson (keyboards, saxes, flute and vocals) and Sandy Love (guitar, trumpet & vocals), backed by the solid pocket of master bass man “Motown” Larry Walton and Carl Graves on the drum kit.
Lead Vocalist Lindsey Longmire is frequently featured at MCB Gigs, together with a supporting cast of vocalists and horn men who fill out the band’s roster for larger engagements. For Jazz Gigs, Louis is joined by Bassist extraordinaire Don Mayberry and drummer Jimmy Ryan, together with other top area musicians, including Aivey Leigh on vocals. In both the Jazz and R & B realms, our main influences are the Detroit artists who we’ve worked with over the years, many of whom gained national prominence.
Band Leader Louis Johnson is joined by consortium of top Detroit area musicians to form Motor City Beat. They are highly experienced in all types of popular music, especially Motown, Jazz and Blues and have played in a wide array of settings, from large stage shows to private residences. Some of the venues which they’ve played recently include many of the top Country Clubs in South Eastern Michigan and northern Ohio, the Motor City Casino, Detroit Princess River Boat, Michigan State Fair Grounds, The Henry Ford, Detroit Zoo, and many others, as well as many private residences.
Louis (piano, keyboards, saxes, flute & vocals) is featured on all the recordings on this web site. For the Dance music he is joined by Sandy Love (Guitar, trumpet & vocals), Larry Walton (Electric Bass) and Jim Ryan or Carl Graves (drums), along with a number of vocalists, including Lindsey Longmire. The Jazz recordings feature Louis on Piano and sax, Don Mayberry (String Bass) and Jim Ryan (drums). The core R & B and Jazz Groups are frequently joined by male and female vocalists as well as trumpet, saxophone and trombone players, including Al Harelson, Marty “Saxman” Montgomery and Ron Kischuck.
Louis Johnson hails from Western Michigan and a musical family. He started playing professionally in high school and went on to obtain a degree in music performance from Kalamazoo College. He also studied at the Paris Conservatory and holds French diplomas in music and has performed and recorded around the world. While in College Louis played frequently with renowned Jazz pianist Claude Black and later toured Japan with the Brazilian organist Walter Wanderlay, and Puerto Rico with Columbian Pianist Eddie Martinez. Louis moved to the Detroit area in the mid 1980’s and co-founded “Motor City Beat” with the late, great, Motown Records session musicians, John E. Griffith and Richard “Pistol” Allen and has performed with many of the top musicians in the area, including Don Mayberry and Larry Walton, ever since.
Multi instrumentalist Sandy Love was born and raised in Detroit where he studied music from an early age, obtained degrees from Wayne State and Eastern Michigan Universities and was a music educator in the Detroit Public School system. Sandy performed with many top Motown Acts and served as music director for “The Miracles”. He is also schooled in gospel music which he performs frequently.
“Motown” Larry Walton (electric bass) hails from one of Detroit’s acclaimed musical families. His father was the legendary “Little Daddy” Walton, who produced several R & B hits in the 1960’s, and together with his brothers Larry started performing and recording at an early age in and around the City. He was music director for the acclaimed “Jeep Smith” Orchestra and played with Ray Parker Jr., Mr. Bo and Robert Lowe. Starting in the 1970’s Larry worked extensively with the aforementioned John E. Griffith and later was an original Member of the Motor City Beat.
Don Mayberry is perhaps the top acoustic bassist in Detroit, where he was born and raised. He is equally comfortable playing Jazz and Classical music. He holds degrees from The University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, where he attended after a stint with the U.S. Army Symphonic Band in Germany. His credits reflect a veritable who’s who of Jazz, including Ella Fitzgerlad, Sara Vaughn, Tommy Flanagan, Stanley Turentine. He recently played in a duo setting with Aretha Franklin (with Aretha on piano) at New York’s City’s “Tavern on the Green”.
Jimmy Ryan is also from the Detroit area and is one of the top session drummers in the City. He has a degree in music from Western Michigan University and has played with many top jazz artists, including Sara Vaughn. For years he was associated with the great Detroit saxophonist Larry Nozero. In addition to his peforming, Jim teaches and is the Jazz drum instructor at Wayne State University.
Carl Graves was born and raised in Detroit and while in high school played with Larry in the Jeep Smith Orchestra. He has peformed with many top Motown Acts, including Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, and Martha Reeves. He recorded with the acclaimed Holland-Dozer-Holland team, which lead him to the Supreme’s Sherry Payne and her sister Freed’s “Band of Gold”.