Originator of Motown sound as founding Funk Brother

When pianist and producer Richard "Popcorn" Wylie joined the tiny Motown label in 1960 the only big thing about it was the ambitions of its owner, Berry Gordy Jnr, a former Detroit car worker.

Wylie, born in Detroit, had formed his first band, the Mohawks, at school, where he acquired his nickname.

He died of suspected heart failure on September 9 aged 69.

"I was making some pretty good tackles at football and I was getting to the quarterback, who started hollering, 'Man, this guy keeps popping up all over the place'," he recalled.

The band rehearsed in the garage of his home and appeared at local venues, where Wylie would front the band wearing a homemade Mohawk headdress.

They cut a record for a small local label and landed a gig at the Twenty Grand nightclub in Detroit, where they were spotted by Gordy.

Offered the chance to record for Motown, Wylie brought the Mohawks with him, including bassist James Jamerson and drummer Clifford Mack, both of whom would go on to become the nucleus of the Funk Brothers, the unheralded musicians who provided the foundation for the Motown sound.

But Popcorn and the Mohawks' first record - Custer's Last Man - was less than auspicious and the follow-up, Money, fared no better.

During the mid-1960s he recorded and produced sessions for several local labels, including Motown rival Golden World records.

In 1971 he returned to the Motown fold to cut his most successful record, Funky Rubber Band. He recorded as a solo artist for the ABC label during the mid-1970s.

Wylie remained active in the music field during the 1980s

Richard "Popcorn" Wylie, performer, keyboards player and producer, was born on June 6 1939. - The Times News Service