Tony Newton was a teenager in the 1960’s when he played saxophone and electric bass for John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, and T-Bone Walker to name a few. “There weren’t many electric bass players at the time and I got into it because it was the instrument my favorite bassist, James Jamerson played,” he said. (Jamerson was a Motown bassist who played on several successful singles and albums, who was known for his creative technique). Newton said he would listen to Motown albums in his bedroom and said he specifically studied the musical notes Jamerson played.
Newton joined the 1965 Motown Review European tour, and also joined the “Ready Steady Go” British TV show. (According to Newton, he was selected to perform on the tour as a bass player, because Jamerson was asked by Motown to stay in Detroit to play on upcoming recordings). While touring, one of Newton’s musical memories took place in 1966, when he was performing in New York with The Miracles. While there, Newton said Smokey Robinson wrote “My Girl” for the Temptations. “Smokey wrote ‘My Girl’ on the piano,” he said. “He wrote the song while at the Apollo Theater and then presented it to The Temptations there, and said, ‘We’re going to record this when we get home.'” Since Motown was creating new music on a constant basis, Newton said it wasn’t long before he was approached to tour with other Motown artists.
He also toured with all of the Motown artists such as: Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Four Tops, Temptations, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, Spinners, and others. While at Motown from time to time, playing with the “Funk Brothers” he left his trademark of solid, hard driving, and deftly clever grooves on such timeless hits as “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Baby Love,” “Stop In The Name Of Love,” and “Nowhere to Run” on the east coast, and on the west coast, “ABC,” “Never Can Say Goodbye,” “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and many others. Also a little unknown fact is that Newton and James Jamerson played together as 2 basses on the above Motown Hits. Newton was also the bassist for the famed 1965 European Motown Review tour, mentioned in the film, “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.”
When Barry Gordy expanded Motown to California, Tony moved to LA. He was a studio session player and worked on multiple projects, both related and unrelated to Motown. A lot of his first California Motown involvement went on Jackson 5 albums.