My Mom used to tell me that whenever someone played Licking Stick by James Brown, I’d stand up in my crib and jam it out. I guess this is start of all things funky (cuz whatever I do, It’s got to be funky).
Cut to 1986, and I’m at the Living In America tour, my one and only time seeing James Brown live. With my parents. I was 18. Way past the age of wanting to be seen with my parents in public, but this was The James Brown. The Godfather of Soul. The Hardest Working Man in Showbiz. Plus, they paid for the tickets.
Now, if James was the Hardest Working Man in Showbiz, his back up were the Hardest Working Bands in Showbiz. The incarnation I’m talking about today are The J.B.’s. If you look at interviews from anyone talking about the J.B.’s, the one repeated word is “tight“. Their shit was always in the pocket, and not just because James would make them practice for hours, repeating one section of a groove until it was perfect. Nah, they were tight because they were the top men of their profession. Some of the members were: Bobby Byrd, Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, Maceo Parker, Phelps “Catfish” Collins and some cat named William Collins. Hell, later on, about half of the J.B.’s left to join up with George Clinton to form Parliament/Funkadelic. (We already know about their aquatic skills. More from them later.)
James and the J.B.’s were like ham and burger, that shit just went together. James squealed and improvised instructions to the band, and they did what he asked almost before he said it. You could throw the J.B.’s in front of any halfway capable singer and you could count on a hit. Hell, any halfway capable rapper at that. One million samples can’t be wrong.
Our next song has been sampled no less than 90 rap songs. One time, I was driving my Dad to somewhere, and I was playing Public Enemy’s Rebel Without a Pause, and he said they sounded like a pig being slaughtered. A few weeks later,(this is all *B.I.), I found out the main sample was from the J.B.’s. Now, of course he took an interest then, and I found myself hearing him play his own tape of It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (he was down with their message).
Ladies and Gentleman:
The Grunt- The J.B.’S
* Before Internet