Thomas “Beans” Bowles played saxophone and flute on several Motown hits by big-name artists including as Marvin Gaye and the Supremes. Bowles composed the harmonica solo for Stevie Wonder’s first hit, “Fingertips Part I” and arranged his “Fingertips Part II.”
Bowles was born on May 7, 1926, in South Bend Indiana. He arrived in Detroit in 1944 to attend Wayne State University. Shortly afterward, he left college to play with a U.S. Navy band both nationally and internationally. He later worked in a number of Detroit jazz bars, playing with Billie Holiday and Billy Eckstine, among others.
Bowles worked with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. to help train his artists to appear more professional when on stage. It was also Bowles who suggested that Gordy put all his young artists on a bus to tour as the Motown Revue. Working with Gordy’s sister, Ester Gordy Edwards, Bowles organized the tour. It was Bowles, the seasoned veteran, who conducted bed checks for the underage female singers and lectured the whole group on how to behave on the road, particularly in the South during the volatile 1960s civil rights era. Bowles died in 2000.