DETROIT, MICHIGAN’S MUSIC HISTORY OF R&B / CROSSOVER MUSIC – FROM RAY PARKER JR. & WAH WAH WATSON
Let’s take it back to Detroit Michigan, 1968, Wah Wah Watson a/k/a Melvin Ragin is the musical director for Bobby Taylor and the Vancouver’s who did a tour of 75 one-nighters, opening for the Temptations. When he wasn’t on tour with Bobby Taylor, Melvin was sitting in at The Twenty Grand Club on 14th Street and Warren Avenue in Detroit, as the guitar player with the house band headed up by Hamilton Bohannon. The house band was comprised of musicians who also became music icons to be reckoned with from Bohannon and Michael Henderson to James Jamerson. The horn players that went on to became jazz greats included; Eli Fontane, Marcus Belgraves, Tim Conway, Hooks, Maurice White, Beans Bowes and Danny. Knowing talent when he saw it, Bohannon spotted a then 15 year-old guitar player, Ray Parker Jr. playing in another band at the historic Latin Quarter (on East Grand Blvd. between Woodward Ave. and John R.) and asked him to join his house band at The Twenty Grand club. Both Wah Wah and Ray agree that back in the day, Hamilton Bohannon played his part in giving both of them their start in the music business.
Bohannon’s band was backing up all the Motown acts performing at the club. The Spinners with GC Cameron, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye, Philippé Wynne and many other R&B grets. Even though Bohannon invited Ray Parker Jr. into the band, it was no walk in the park. Ray recalled, “I was youngest, I was the Johnny come lately, so every wrong note that was played I got hit with a giant drumstick, if Gladys Knight sang the wrong note or a horn player played the wrong part it was my fault and everyone looked at me, and I got hit with a drumstick, that’s why I play perfectly now, that’s why I don’t make mistakes!”
Motown producer and songwriter Norman Whitfield would see Ray onstage at The Twenty Grand and say “what-chall got this young boy up in here?”, no matter how hard Ray would try to blend in with the carpet. Whitfield simply felt Ray was just too young to be in the band. Norman Whitfield and Ray Parker Jr. wound up becoming good buddies and as Ray also says “I love Norman Whitfield!”
After playing at The Twenty Grand they would hit Esquires delicatessen on the corner of Fullerton and Dexter in Detroit. Even though they were not part of the original funk brothers, the company they kept was certainly A-list far as musicians went in Detroit.
The young musical genius was no novice before joining Bohannon’s band. The first professional band Ray toured with were The Spinners with GC Cameron. As Ray remembers “the band would come over to my house because they had to ask my mom for permission to go on tour, and Rays mom would reply, ” ‘as long as he’s at school Monday morning!”
Then the Detroit recording sessions commenced. Wah Wah did most of the Motown sessions because he was working with Norman Whitfield (Holland Dozier Holland, Marvin Gaye, etc) and of course Norman still thought Ray was too young. Although Ray missed recording on Papa Was a Rolling Stone and Cloud Nine because he was too young, he expresses that “Wah Wah was my hero” and in fact, Ray later had the opportunity to do some Motown sessions with Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Holland Dozier Holland.
Holland-Dozier-Holland eventually left Motown and started a label called Invictus Records. At the newly formed label, Ray was able to secure his position at the new Holland-Dozier-Holland label and every record that came out Ray played an integral part in the creation of the Invictus sound style. Also helping to establish the Invictus sound and style with Holland-Dozier-Holland, Ray Parker Jr. and periodically moonlighting Wah Wah Watson was trombone player /producer /arranger McKinley Jackson. This was the nucleus of the team responsible for hit records from The Honey Cone, Freda Payne, and Chairman of the Board.
The important thing to understand is that when you ran a label like Motown or Invictus and you had an established sound you wouldn’t let your musicians play on records that were being produced and released by your completion. That’s how music labels like Motown and Invictus were able to brand their name, sound and their styles while simultaneously securing their music markets!
So you have Ray Parker Jr. with over forty million records sold including the #1 smash, Ghostbusters (which every year is inBillboard's Top 10 Halloween Songs and ranks amongst the most-played Halloween-themed songs, as determined by total plays on all Nielsen BDS-monitored U.S. terrestrial and network stations) and Wah Wah Watson whose played on some of the greatest rhythm and blues records of all time –
About Wah Wah Watson Music
Wah Wah Watson has proven time after time that there ain’t a mountain high enough! From the early days in Detroit as a primary sculptor of the Motown Sound to the hit records you hear today. His “Wah Wah” signature can be heard on over one-hundred and fifty number one records from Marvin Gaye, Bobby Taylor and the Vancouver’s, The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Diana Ross, Rose Royce, Smokey Robinson, Rare Earth, Barry White, John Lee Hooker, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Blondie, to Herbie Hancock, Michael Jackson, Maxwell, Alicia Keys and Quincy Jones.
“It’s good to be with my friends Rainy and Pete, I’m f------ free! – You should try it, you might like it! – saysWah Wah Watson –CEO, of Wah Wah Watson Music”
About RainySongs Entertainment
Major label digital distribution services that empower the independent artist and music label professionals. A-la Carte’ services include: International digital distribution with multi label management software, website design radio and retail marketing, online advertising, digital music consulting, digital download cards, press release services, USB press kits, music and video delivery to radio stations and broadcasters throughout North America.
“I’m so excited to empower Wah Wah with the tools that allow him the freedom to release his work globally at a push of a button. I first met Wah Wah in the late 80’s when he co-wrote the title track and played on my album “Ouch”. He is a great friend and collaborator. I look forward to hearing more music from his label and his star-studded network of friends. WWW Music’s new release is so hot! Wah Wah Watson and Ray Parker Jr. on a track together, as artists, real R&B, in 2013, how cool is that, saysRainy Davis -CEO, Rainysongs Entertainment.”