New Documentary Sets Out to Find James Jamerson’s Stolen “Funk Machine” Bass

James Jamerson (cropped)

As bass players, nearly every one of us knows the magnitude of James Jamerson’s legacy. His impeccable groove and round tone was the key to most of the hits from the ‘60s including Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on?,” “My Girl” by the Temptations, and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” by Gladys Knight and the Pips. All of those songs were recorded on Jamerson’s legendary 1962 Fender Precision Bass dubbed “The Funk Machine.” As bass players, most of us know the tragedy of the bass being stolen from Jamerson shortly before his death.

Jamerson and the mystery of the Funk Machine’s whereabouts are getting the spotlight in a new documentary entitled “James Jamerson & the Legend of the Funk Machine.” Filmmakers Paul Crutcher and Tom Neal are not only out to spread the gospel of Jamerson, but they’re on the hunt to find his treasured instrument.

“I am obsessed with finding The FUNK Machine, the Holy Grail of stolen music instruments” said producer/director Paul Crutcher. “James Jamerson used it on over thirty #1 hits and an estimated 200 million records sold worldwide. I am determined to find this guitar and have it enshrined in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”

The film will also include examination of the Motown bassist’s life with special interviews from Gene Simmons, Don Was, Victor Wooten, Pino Palladino, Steve Cropper, Michael Henderson, Edwin McCain, Chuck Rainey, Dave Schools (Widespread Panic), Verdine White (Earth, Wind & Fire), David Hood (Muscle Shoals), and Hutch Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), to name a few.

A Kickstarter campaign has been started to raise money for the film and the search for the Funk Machine. Backers will receive a copy of the film starting at the $25 Digital Download pledge level. Additional pledge levels offer specially commissioned fine art prints, a handcrafted 10″ replica of The FUNK Machine, and an opportunity to be interviewed for the film as a Jamerson mega-fan. The top $5,000 pledge level rewards a new Fender Precision Bass guitar loaded with autographs from participating celebrities.

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Share your thoughts

  1. Tom Buckman

    I owned a Fender custom shop reissue of a 62 P Funk Machine from 1994 to 2012 and it was signed by 5 Funk Brothers.

  2. “The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”
    Those words made this article and whole idea a dud. Basically the title should have read Rolling Stone milking yet another legend.

    • Travis Diffenderfer

      Why would that make it a dud? and also this project isn’t affiliated with Rolling Stone at all. It’s an independent documentary.

  3. Matt Girolami

    My girl is not by the miracles it’s by the temptations

  4. Mike

    The you beeter be on the search for two different Funk Machine P Basses. If you study the various Jamerson pictures in the Standing In the Shadows book, then you see one is a 62 era bass, and the one in California is a 65/66 era bass: totally differnt paint pattern, pickguard pattern, differnt logo fonts.

  5. Bill Grenke

    It’s is my understanding that J.J. used an upright string bass on ‘My Girl”

  6. Here’s the kickstarter link with more info. The one in the story only leads to the video-

  7. michael grayson

    my name is michael grayson I played the bass called the funk machine jamerson was a very close friend the bass always sat on the floor in dining room where his upright and a five string fender that was always missing a string the house was on holt street la I have a lot of stories about jamerson joey was my best friend and we went to Hamilton high together. I am the son of Miles Grayson record producer