JAMES BROWN SHOWS
Posted on 11/20/2011at 0:45 AM
Yesterday I asked the Twitter world for very specific info on James Brown live shows between November 1969 and March 1970, and any recorded shows from 1972.
Why such specific dates?
Well, at this point, do I really need to explain that I have been a junior James Brown authority for quite sometime? Believe me, I know about almost every bootleg recording (audio and video) that's ever hit the market - both legitimate and black. There's probably not one James Brown bootleg you can mention that I don't have. When someone innocently asked on Twitter if I'd heard James Brown Live at Newport 1969, they might as well have asked me if I had "Kind Of Blue". I knew about the Newport concert before it was released. Through my inside sources deep within James Brown land (Brown's family included), I'm covered on almost everything. So, with that being said....
A little history......
1969 could, in some aspects, be considered James Brown's apex. Not only was he at the peak of his popularity and influence, but so was his BAND. Brown's band at that time (known as the James Brown Orchestra) featured the names we all know and love - Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, Clyde Stubblefield, John "Jabo" Starks, Jimmy Nolen and many, many more. In '69 alone, the hits were in abundance: "Mother Popcorn", "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing", "Ain't It Funky Now", "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" (which was actually recorded in '68, but released in '69), "Let A Man Come In (And Do The Popcorn)".....the hits just kept coming. Besides the hits, he was also featured on the cover of LOOK Magazine with the words: "JAMES BROWN: Is he the most important black man in America?"
If you're a collector, you know that JB was all OVER American TV that year. Most notably, he co-hosted The Mike Douglas Show for a week in June, of which parts are all over YouTube. Arguably, the greatest single James Brown video clip of all time - from ANY period of his career (other than the TAMI Show) - is from a short-lived ABC-TV show called "Music Scene" where JB and the band absolutely BLOW THE ROOF off of the studio with a damn near lethal version of "Mother Popcorn". That's easy to find on YouTube. Hope you're strapped in when you watch it.
Let me get to why I specifically asked for November '69 - March '70.
While JB was burning up stages all over the world and racking up the hit singles in '69, he was also working with a jazz trio on the side. He sometimes worked with the Dee Felice Trio, a jazz group out of Cincinnati, where both King Records and James Brown's offices were based. As the year was coming to a close, JB's band found it just a bit odd, maybe, that at the peak of their powers, Brown was working this jazz angle more and more. When he appeared on The David Frost Show in the fall, he took the Dee Felice Trio with him - as "Mother Popcorn" and "Ain't It Funky Now" were still on the top ten. As far as I know, there is no video footage of the classic JB Orchestra playing together after that "Music Scene" performance (which was recorded during the summer and aired in November). The last recordings of the classic '69 band are the "Sex Machine" album, which was recorded in October (more on that in a second) and the took-20-years-to-become-a-smash-hit classic, "Funky Drummer".
All James Brown fans know all about the infamous 1970 walkout. Ok, if you don't know....
During the last days of '69 into the early days of '70, JB's band was fed up. They believed JB was working them far beyond the call of duty. While JB got to fly all over the country on his private plane, the band drudged on the bus for hours on end for little pay, no royalties, or writer credits. On top of it all, as mentioned earlier, JB was now doing most of his TV appearances with the Dee Felice Trio.
As the old saying goes, "cut off the head and the body soon dies..." Well, just as the summer was approaching, bandleader Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis jumped ship. He'd had enough of Brown's gargantuan ego trips. Pee Wee was the band's glue. In case you don't know, HE was the co-creator of the "modern" James Brown sound. With his departure, the band took a massive morale hit of which, possibly, they never fully recovered. But even without Pee Wee, they still were the funkiest band in the land, just not the happiest. For all intents and purposes, the swan song for the "classic" James Brown Orchestra was "Funky Drummer", which was recorded in November. Between November and March of '70, there was major upheaval - even before the walkout. Fred Wesley and Clyde Stubblefield both left in December. Now without Fred and Pee Wee, the horn section was getting smaller in size AND sound. Bet you don't know this - Clyde Stubblefield was briefly replaced by a drummer from Cincinnati named Ron Grayson. Not much is known about him other than he wasn't in JB's band for much longer than two to three months. Melvin Parker was JB's primary drummer during that time, anyway. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, Brown recorded the very last hit single with what was left of the classic band, "It's A New Day (So Let A Man Come In And Do The Popcorn)".
I am personally fascinated with this period of upheaval. I'm dying to know what "It's A New Day", "Funky Drummer" and "Ain't It Funky Now" sounded like live during this period. As we all know, the only known live versions of these songs were done with James Brown's next band. Speaking of that next band...
One night in March of 1970, James Brown's band called a private team meeting and decided that they all had enough. They were now going to follow Pee Wee, Fred and Clyde en masse if Brown didn't agree to their demands. No one really knows what those demands were, but I can't imagine that they were unreasonable demands. They just wanted some days off, a raise and some recognition. Fair enough. Ultimately, Brown didn't budge. The band quit, then Brown fired them. (LOL!) And just like that, it was the end of an era. The "stand-by" band that Brown had been grooming were flown in from Cincinnati. Y'all know the story - it was Bootsy, Catfish and them. Fortunately, bootleggers were very smart - there's LOADS of bootlegs of the Bootsy-era James Brown band. (Officially christened THE NEW BREED BAND, then very soon afterwards, THE J.B.'s)
Now you know why I'm curious to hear what the band sounded like between November and March. It was the not-so-calm before the storm.
There's a lot of video clips of Brown between November of '69 and March of '70. Most notably from The David Frost Show, The Flip Wilson Show and The Mike Douglas Show. He doesn't sing with his band in any of those appearances.
Now to 1972.
Basically, I'm looking for bootlegs from '72 because of two songs: "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing" and "I'm A Greedy Man". Those were two of Brown's biggest hits that year, along with "There It Is". Eventually, "Get On The Good Foot" became his runaway smash later that fall.
Of the handful of bootlegs I have from 1973, conspicuously missing are live versions of "Talking Loud..." and "...Greedy Man". On the '73 bootlegs, "There It Is" is performed, and of course, "Good Foot." Even music from the "Black Caesar" soundtrack was briefly in the show. So was "I Got Ants In My Pants." I can't help but wonder why "Talking Loud...." and "...Greedy Man", which were not only big hits for him in '72, but also seemed tailor-made for Brown's live act, didn't stay in the show long. Logic tells me that he HAD to have performed those songs immediately after they were released. Brown never missed a chance to push a new single. I've seen one interesting video clip of a '72 Nashville show, but there's no audio with the video. What a tease, right? I also know that there's video footage of Brown performing at Rikers Island Prison in New York, but I believe that video is from an NBC newsreel, so I don't know if the entire concert was recorded. Only "Make It Funky" seems to have survived.
If you are a true James Brown collector, go to the contact page on this website and give me a shout. Believe me, these shows won't be on dimeadozen or rutracker or lossless legs. :-)