Bohannon & The Motown Sound were a group who provided backing to many Motown artists on tour. They were led by musician and producer Hamilton Bohannon, often known simply as Bohannon.
Born in Georgia, Bohannon learned to play the drums from a young age, and joined various local bands as a teenager. He graduated with a degree in music while continuing to perform with a number of groups. While touring he met a thirteen-year-old Stevie Wonder and the two became friends. In 1964, he was recruited as a drummer in Stevie’s touring band. Bohannon signed a contract with Motown Records and for two and a half years and joined the likes of producer Clarence Paul in the young star’s inner circle.
Stevie, being only a teenager, was unable to perform in certain venues, so Bohannon stayed busy backing other Motown acts like Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. After Motown’s in-house bandleader Choker Campbell left, Bohannon assembled a band of Atlanta locals and travelled to Detroit to audition as his replacement. Winning the job, Bohannon & The Motown Sound (a few personnel changes later) became the permanent backing band for Motown artists on tour.
The group, a sixteen-piece band, included horn player Jerry Hey and guitarists Ray Parker, Melvin Ragin, and Dennis Coffey. Bassists and vocalists Michael Henderson, Rod Lumpkin, Lorenzo Brown, Fernando Saunders and Eddie Watkins were all part of the group at one point or another. They toured behind many of Motown’s top acts on tour; they backed the likes of The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes and Smokey Robinson & The Miracles.
With the help of Smokey Robinson, Bohannon also signed a short-term artist contract. A few tracks were recorded, but the project was shelved.
He chose to stay in Detroit when the company relocated to Los Angeles in 1972. He then formed his own ensemble group and signed with the Dakar label. There he released several albums, and although several of his tracks were club hits, he had limited chart success (and found more success in the UK). Bohannon signed to Mercury Records in 1976 and two years later had one of his biggest successes with “Let’s Start The Dance”, which featured former Motown singer Carolyn Crawford, whose two Mercury albums he also produced.
Bohannon continued to record in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Much of his music has since been sampled, and he remains active today.