Ramblin' Rhodes: James Brown anticipated thrill of live album

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, greets fans at a ceremony honoring him on Sept. 8, 1994, outside the Apollo Theater in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. The stretch of West 125th Street in front of the theater had been renamed James Brown Boulevard.

It was 50 years ago on the freezing night of Oct. 24, 1962, in the Harlem section of New York City that 1,500 people stood in two lines to get into the historic Apollo theater.


They thought they were just going to see just another electrifying performance by James Brown and The Famous Flames.

What they didn’t find out until later is that Brown had rented the theater himself to record a “live” album that would become one of the greatest albums in recording history.

Syd Nathan, the owner of the King/Federal Records label that Brown was recording for at the time, was against it. He 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.

Brown knew his fans and knew differently. He knew that only a live album could really let music fans worldwide know what an exciting show he did every night on the road.

So the then-29-year-old Brown rented the Apollo and paid for the recording costs to prove Nathan wrong.

Fats Gonder, whom Brown had come to know in Toccoa, Ga., when Gonder was the road manager for Little Richard, was the emcee who announced Brown and The Famous Flames that night.

Many Brown fans hearing his introduction at the start of the album mistakenly assume it was Danny Ray, especially since Gonder wasn’t credited on the original album.

And the Famous Flames that night were Bobby Byrd, Bobby Bennett and Lloyd Stallworth.

Byrd not only was there at the start of JB’s illustrious career – forming the Famous Flames with him in Toccoa – but would be there at the end; singing at JB’s funeral at James Brown Arena. That was Byrd’s last performance. He would die a few months later.

The 78 rpm vinyl release originally was titled The Apollo Theatre Presents In Person The James Brown Show. It later would be simply called Live at the Apollo.

It was released in May of 1963 and remained on Billboard magazine’s music charts for 66 weeks, peaking at No 2.

Rolling Stone magazine ranked the album No. 24 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Library of Congress in 2004 added it to its National Recording Registry of significantly important recordings.


DAILEY & VINCENT FRIDAY NIGHT: Don’t forget about the hot bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent (Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent) performing with their band at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19, at the Imperial Theatre for the Morris Museum of Art’s Budweiser True Music Southern Soul & Song series.

Tickets are $24, $19 and $13. Call (706) 722-8341 or order online at imperialtheatre.com.

A few years ago on the same day that the duo had called me to talk about an earlier appearance, I had just had received in the mail Dierks Bentley’s new greatest hits CD.

There Bentley was on the back cover of the CD booklet wearing a grimy-looking, white T-shirt with his tussled hair looking like he just had climbed out of bed.

And also there before me was Dailey & Vincent’s debut CD showing them on the cover wearing matching dark red, pin-striped shirts with black lines and matching dark red and black ties with their hair perfectly combed like they had just gotten back from a hair stylist.

So I had to ask Dailey and Vincent why most bluegrass record companies and management agencies marketed their acts as conservative, middle-of-America, go-to-church-dressed looking artists while country music record companies and management agencies marketed their acts as more casually dressed, don’t-care-how-I-look artists.

“I’m afraid to answer that,” Dailey said. “Darrin and I sell out shows with the way we look and play. We have all ages including younger people in our crowds. We do have matching shirts and ties and suits, but our fans are still buying our CDS.”


SIGNING BOOKS AT PAINEFEST: If you’re looking for something really fun to do Saturday, Oct. 20, drop by the 2012 annual PaineFest Literary Arts and Music Festival at the courtyard area of Paine College.

Admission is free and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. there will be a Children’s Village, lots of non-stop music and dancing, a barbecue cook-off and a Corvette Car Show. It was a blast last year.

I’ll be joining other writers selling our books from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

You can read the whole list of activities at paine.edu/painefest.