More on James Brown

James Brown as photographed by Chet Helms

I was digging around my photo archives, trying to find a decent print from the James Brown show at the Keystone Palo Alto that I photographed, but it appears that certain items are buried deep within my archives. I can find my original 35mm black and white negatives pretty easily, but I don’t have a decent film scanner, so I decided I’ll just post a photo taken by my late friend Chet Helms, shared with the world at the website. This is from a James Brown show at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, CA on February 15, 2003. If you haven’t already checked out the Chet Helms online photographic gallery, may this be an excuse for you to check this out.

I never met Mr. James Brown, but I do have some very fond memories of his music. Back during my college days, I remember taking a friend of mine to see him at the Saddle Rack, a country western club in San Jose, CA. It was an unlikely location, but one helluva great show! When I bought my very first CD player, one of my very first purchases was a James Brown greatest hits collection.

Jack Ely, the original vocalist of the Kingsmen, shared his memories of James Brown:

I first saw James at the Portland Coliseum somewhere around the end of ’63 and I loved him. Not only that but I went with a black friend and I didn’t see another white person there and the place held around 12,000. The next time I say James was when I did a show with him at Cincinnati Graders in early ’65. That was a great thrill for me. I actually thought he stole the show, but that’s not what others told me. Somewhere in my boxes of stuff from back then are some snapshots some fan sent me., but I haven’t seen them in years. The next time I saw James was about a month later in NY City up at the talent agencies offices. We had a chat while waiting to see the agent. He said I was a good “business man,” intimating that he didn’t think much of me as a talent. I didn’t care. It was just neat talking to him. Sorry the name of the agent is escaping me right now. Oh well, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. By the way his speaking voice was as gravely as his singing voice. Really cool.

Checking out the news coverage of his death, I discovered that director Spike Lee just signed a contract with Paramount to do a film about James Brown.

There are some interesting articles I found on James Brown.

New Yorker magazine – Mr. Brown by Philip Gourevitch (posted July 2002)

Rolling Stone magazine – Being James Brown by Jonathan Lethem (posted June 2006)

Rolling Stone magazine – The Essential James Brown Playlist (with audio samples)

The New Yorker article discusses how A&R man Ralph Bass signed James Brown and the Flames to King Records for $200, and then Syd Nathan, head of King Records fired Bass because he thought “Please Please Please” was the “worst piece of shit (he’d) ever heard.” Of course, that $200 was the best investment ever made by an employee of King Records, as James Brown became the most successful artist on the label. In the course of his career, James Brown had 114 total entries on Billboard’s R&B singles charts and 94 that made the Hot 100 singles chart.

Over at my pal Phil Milstein‘s Probe site, one of my favorite sources for obscure music, he shares a scratchy transfer of an obscure James Brown b-side entitled “Tell Me That You Love Me” and a 35-minute lesson by Syd Nathan on techniques for running a successful record company.

Al Sharpton is organizing a memorial for James Brown at the Apollo Theater with public viewing of the body. I predict record crowds will show up to pay their respects to the Godfather of Soul.

For those of that won’t be able to attend this event in New York, VH1 will be running “James Brown’s Last Chance” on Friday Dec 29th at 1pm EST.

1 comment to More on James Brown

  • please get ahold of me, i am making a web site and a site on myspace to bring together the clubs again. i realized we dont have any solid info or memoribilia online for the keystones and the stone. i’d love for you to get ahold of me hopefully with some old photos from the clubs, thanks -jack from the stone and the keystone family

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