Mike Terry, born in 1940 in Detroit, Michigan, was a prolific saxophonist, composer, and arranger whose influential sound has left a lasting mark on the landscape of R&B and Northern Soul. His innovative work, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, has greatly influenced the saxophone music community.
Terry grew up in a musical family and was introduced to the saxophone at an early age. His talent quickly became apparent, and by the time he was a teenager, he was already playing with local bands in Detroit. This was just the beginning of a career that would see him become one of the most sought-after saxophonists in the industry.
Perhaps most famously, Terry was a key member of the Funk Brothers, the legendary studio band for Motown Records. His work with the Funk Brothers during the golden age of Motown in the 1960s is iconic. His baritone saxophone underpinned many of the label’s hits, providing a sonic signature that helped define the Motown Sound. His horn lines can be heard on classics like “Heat Wave” by Martha and the Vandellas and “Going to a Go-Go” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, among others.
However, Terry’s influence extended beyond Motown. He left the label in 1966 to explore other musical avenues. He became a founder of the Pied Piper production company, where his writing, arranging, and production skills came to the fore. His distinctive baritone saxophone sound, along with his innovative production techniques, made him a favorite in the Northern Soul scene.
Terry was not just a great saxophonist but also a talented composer and arranger. His pre-production work was highly regarded, and his knack for creating catchy hooks and driving rhythms was instrumental in crafting hit records. The records he worked on had a distinctive sound, characterized by their driving bass lines, punchy horn sections, and intricate arrangements.
In 2008, Mike Terry passed away, leaving behind a rich legacy of music. His unique sound, both as a saxophonist and a producer, made a significant contribution to the soul music genre. He was a dedicated and gifted musician who played an instrumental role in shaping the Motown sound and later the Northern Soul scene. For saxophonists and fans of soul music, his work continues to resonate, demonstrating the powerful role of the saxophone in popular music.
Page last updated 7/7/2023.