Originally created 10/25/02

Ramblin' Rhodes: Live gigs made Brown legendary



One of the most historic moments in music happened 40 years ago this week when James Brown recorded his spine-tingling live album in New York.

It was an album that his recording company didn't want to make, yet Mr. Brown - then 29 years old - believed in it so much that he paid to rent the Apollo Theater on Harlem's 125th Street, promoted the shows and paid for the recording sessions.

Originally titled The Apollo Theatre Presents In Person The James Brown Show, the 78 rpm record became a benchmark in recording history, usually listed by rock music authorities as one of the best live albums ever. It remained on Billboard magazine's music charts for a then-unprecedented 66 weeks, peaking at No 2.

It established Mr. Brown as one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

By the time Mr. Brown recorded his Apollo album in 1962, he already had hits on the soul music radio stations with his King/Federal Records singles Please, Please, Please (1956), Try Me (1958) and Night Train (1962).

In 1960, Mr. Brown had moved to New York and had been tearing up the stage with his pulsating sounds and energetic performances. He wanted to try a live album, but King/Federal Records owner Syd Nathan was against it. Mr. Nathan contended that no one would buy re-issued songs or would want a live recording of a show being performed virtually every night on the road.

  JAMES BROWN
Live at the Apollo
"Try Me"
  FORMATS

The night of Oct. 24, 1962, was freezing in Harlem, but 1,500 people stood in two lines to get into the show. Mr. Brown's staff handed out free cups of coffee to people waiting outside. Lucky fans who bought tickets were not told the event was being recorded until they got into the theater.

Between the time of the album's recording and the time of its release June 30, 1963, Mr. Brown had another hit soul single with (I'm Just A) Prisoner of Love.

One year after the release of the Apollo album, Mr. Brown took part in the now historic Teenage Awards Music International show filmed Oct. 28-29, 1964, in the Santa Monica, Calif., auditorium, along with The Supremes, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Lesley Gore, Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles. A film of the event, known as The T.A.M.I. Show, became a teen sensation in worldwide movie theaters with Mr. Brown, by all accounts, stealing the film and permanently cementing his nickname as "the hardest working man in show business."

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 31 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at ramblin@morris.com.