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Recently released Marvin Gaye album features guitarist who's been playing for decades in Toronto

Last month, a 1972 Marvin Gaye Album was finally released, and Leroy Emmanuel has guitar credits on the title track. Emmanuel's band, LMT Connection, has been performing almost every Wednesday for the last two decades at a small bar in Toronto's Little Italy.

Leroy Emmanuel says he's thrilled the previously never-released album is out

Leroy Emmanuel's band LMT Connection has been playing at a small bar in Toronto's Little Italy almost every Wednesday for 21 years. (Talia Ricci/CBC)

Every other Wednesday at a quaint bar in Toronto's Little Italy, a mixed crowd dances to a funk and soul trio.

Some have been to see the group many times — for the last 21 years to be exact. For others, it's their first time catching LMT Connection at The Orbit Room.

At the simple College Street space free of screens and bar games, the focus has always been music.

One of the first things music lovers often note when they walk up the stairs to catch the Niagara Falls based band, is the sparkly green '71 Gibson played by the group's lead vocalist and guitarist Leroy Emmanuel.

It's the same guitar the 73-year-old recorded with alongside Marvin Gaye. And he's just now getting the credit for it.

"It was kind of like, surprise!" Emmanuel said. "I'm thrilled...I hear it and all I remember is Marvin telling me 'do that thing you do man,' and I went for it."

Leroy Emmanuel says he feels fortunate that he and his little guitar have had the opportunity to 'weave through history.' (Darek Zdzienicki/CBC)

In celebration of Marvin Gaye's 80th birthday on April 2, Motown/UMe released Gaye's never-issued 1972 album, 'You're The Man.' It's that title track that Emmanuel played guitar for.

According to Universal Music, shortly after Gaye released his universally acclaimed album 'What's Going On,' he released the single, 'You're The Man.' It was a sarcastic riff on political non-action and came out as the U.S. presidential campaign was kicking off.

Emmanuel says hearing the recording now, it doesn't sound like it was written in the 70's.

"As far as where music is at, it's right on time."

You’re The Man features all of Gaye’s solo and non-soundtrack recordings from 1972, with most of the album’s tracks making their vinyl release debuts. (Motown/UMe )

It may have been nearly 50 years ago, but many of the memories of Emmanuel's time in Detroit jamming with Gaye among other legends, remain fresh.

"Marvin was the type of guy where every day he was a different guy," Emmanuel recalls.

"One day he wanted to be a football player and he'd go workout with the Detroit Lions...the next day, no kidding, he wants to be a fighter. He left the studio and went to box somebody."

Emmanuel believes Gaye had many different talents, adding "no one would know he was a good drummer."

It was also Gaye who taught the musician how to sing; but conversation wasn't always flowing, and didn't need to be.

"We didn't talk too much, it was kind of like he knew me."

Leroy Emmanuel speaks with reporter Talia Ricci about what it was like working alongside Marvin Gaye in the 70s. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Emmanuel enjoyed improvising together, and there was a mutual respect.

"I like that he just trusted me to figure out what I needed to do in the few songs we recorded together."

Emmanuel smiles as he reflects on these memories, and almost as if he's speaking to his old friend, says "Hey Marvin there you are bailing me out again, this time, you're not here."

30 years together

Emmanuel has also performed with Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Al Green and Sly and the Family Stone — just to name a few.

Despite recording and rubbing shoulders with legendary musicians, Emmanuel says LMT Connection — which has been together for 30 years — will continue to play at The Orbit Room for the simple reason of "fun." The trio includes John Irvine on bass and Mark Rogers on drums.

"Orbit Room has been our centre," the musician said.

LMT Connection has played 13 tours in Europe and 6 tours in China. (LMT Connection/Submitted)

The band has recorded six albums and played more than 6,500 shows including tours in Europe and China, but something about the Orbit Room feels like coming home.

"It's not the greatest gig we play or anything, not the best paying, it's not even about that. It's about meeting people and friends."

You can watch the full interview with Leroy Emmanuel on Our Toronto Saturday and Sunday at 12 p.m. ET, Monday at 11:am ET on CBC TV.

About the Author

Talia Ricci is a CBC reporter based in Toronto. She's from Guelph and has also reported in London and Winnipeg. From the Middle East to West Africa, Talia has travelled around the globe volunteering and photographing. She enjoys covering offbeat human interest stories and exposing social justice issues. When she's not reporting, you can find Talia creating recipes for her plant based food blog.

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