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Feb 3 17 11:35 AM
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Apr 5 17 5:10 PM
Lord was James Brown a BULLY or what?!
don't know... after reading so much now on the history of James Brown
and the Famous Flames, the fact that James Brown seemed to muscle his
way into being the leader (though Bobby Byrd, RIP, was the original lead
singer and its founder) and the fact that King Records itself didn't
really seem to look at the other guys favorably more than they did Brown
- but that was probably because of Brown too, it just speaks volumes on
how James got inducted in the first class of inductees in the first
place. Guys don't take this as a James Brown diss because of course he
did his work.
Initially I was like everyone else thinking that James founded the
group and I also was under the impression like others that the Famous
Flames was his backing band (they weren't, but they were the group James
joined) and now their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction
this year seems to confirm a lot of things I had suspected of James even
though I knew of his ego tripping a lot: that basically James bullied
his way to being a front man and despite Bobby's words on how he went
autopilot for James, he actually did leave him - angrily - over money
issues THREE TIMES (!), I think Bobby had to have had harbored some
bitterness over how James treated him, including the other members but
both Bobby and Bobby Bennett both say that they still respected James
(though Bennett made it clear that James "was just one of the Famous
I don't know... James had a lot of emotional scars and he wanted to
be the boss, the alpha male, it's just crazy that most of us were
ignoring that band - with the exception of a few (like LBC for instance)
but if James was the "hardest-working man in show business" as they
say, so was the Famous Flames that stayed with him and Bobby Byrd more
than anything because he co-wrote a lot of songs with Brown (most of
which were uncredited), he formed production companies to HELP James
sell his records, he formed People Records or at least co-formed it, he
got Bootsy Collins and practically formed the JB's.
Then when HE left (along with a few other integral band members),
James' career seemed to slowly take a nosedive. I don't know, is it just
me that notices now HOW much of a bully he was? I mean I knew he was on
his ego trip but I didn't know it was to this extent. And also the
issue with not paying the Famous Flames or the JB's or any of the
singers who sung on hit recordings James is credited with writing (and
even that's started to be questioned), causing them to abruptly walk out
on him especially since THEY were the ones who had to pay James money
for messing up.
Apr 5 17 6:20 PM
I used to think James was a cool, chill guy as he would pull
himself off that way. But i read horror stories of his band... his band
was tight & as good as it was cause he was on that ass every sec. I
mean from what i hear total Ike turner style on his band putting fear in
them if they mess up .
James was indeed a bully and it sucks because we all love his music but in real life like many great musicians... he was not the best person.
Not to bring Little Richard into this but he inspired "Please Please Please"
as you said so i can see why Little had so much anger towards JB &
everyone else for ''stealing'' from him , I heard that wasn't the only song James got ideas from or nearly copied from Richard but look how true that is.
Either way James was a great musician but a sad mess of a person
Apr 5 17 6:22 PM
Was James a bully or was he driven? He was no angel but what
would have become of the Famous Flames if he did not take control?
Chances are that without his ambition they would never have had any
success at all.
There was kind of a similar situation with Chuck Berry when he took
over Johnnie Johnson's band. Sure, you could argue that Chuck stole his
band but at the same time without Chuck would they have been successful?
Like it or not someone needs to be the one making the decisions and having a drive to succeed, James was that guy.
Apr 5 17 6:24 PM
^ If James Brown was so driven, what did that make Bobby Byrd,
Johnny Terry, Bobby Bennett and Lloyd Stallworth then? It seem James was
jealous of the attention given to those who he was inspired by - Ray
Charles, Little Richard, Little Willie John, Jackie Wilson and didn't
wanna be just seen as a "member of a group". That's why he was allowed
to rename the group (with HIS name upfront-Bill) as he started to want first dibs which probably goes
back to his own childhood.
I think history revisionists have made it so that it seems only James
Brown needs to be mentioned when he was really just a group member and
front man but for some reason made sure that his name was bigger than
that of his vocal group.
I don't know if that's drive or ego... I think the same when I read
about Hank Ballard and his control of the Midnighters. Or even Ike
Turner and the Kings of Rhythm.
Apr 8 17 12:47 AM
I think one of em' did
From what I read, had JB by the collar, up against the wall
Apr 8 17 12:55 AM
I'll try to sort out the confusion with the history of James Brown and the Famous Flames...
It was Bobby Byrd's original group. In the late 1940s, Bobby Byrd and
James Brown were on two directly different paths: orphaned James Brown
(due to his parents ditching him when he was still barely in his
diapers) was heading to a life of crime in Augusta, Georgia while Bobby
Byrd was a good son and member of his family's local Baptist church in
Toccoa, Georgia. When James was sentenced to a detention center for
armed robbery in 1949, Bobby Byrd was the lead singer of his first
group, the gospel group the Zioneers.
That group eventually changed their name to the Gospel Starlighters.
Sarah Byrd, Bobby's sister, was a member initially. In 1952, Bobby Byrd
and his baseball team met up with James' baseball team from James'
reform center where they played against each other. Later, Bobby heard
James sing with his own gospel group that he formed in prison. While in
jail, James had created some instrument and impressed folks that people
called him "Music Box".
Anyway, Bobby was so taken by James' voice - and his candor
(apparently Bobby felt bad for James after James told him of his rough
upbringing, first in Elko, South Carolina (where he was born) and then
in Augusta, just 40 miles away. Bobby told his family about James' issue
and they agreed to be his sponsor for an early prison release. James'
prison guard let Bobby's parents release him from jail on the condition
James didn't return to Augusta. James moved in Bobby's parents' home in
Toccoa and worked as a dishwasher while also pursuing stints in baseball
(cut from a leg injury) and boxing. However, he got the move to become a
musician after seeing some other musician perform so well that girls
were screaming. He decided this was the key to success and soon around
either 1954 or 1955 (I'm going with '55) because Bobby had already
formed his group already, James joined Bobby's group but I think Bobby
or another guy was lead singer so James settled as a drummer:
The original group that became the Flames were Bobby Byrd (pianist),
the Scott brothers Roy and Nafloyd (who were bass guitarist and lead
guitarist respectively), Sylvester Keels (vocals), Fred Pulliam (vocals)
and Derek Oglesby (vocals). James filled in for a drummer (I'm guessing
one of the vocalists). James decided to muscle in on vocals with Byrd
in competition for the audience. Bobby settled the matter by letting
James lead the group, which caused a friction but Byrd had insisted.
Around this time Derek Oglesby and Fred Pulliam pulled out and Nash Knox
and Johnny Terry (who once shared James' cell in the Toccoa prison)
Eventually this lineup would sign with Federal Records in 1956 (not
King Records at first) and record "Please Please Please" as a GROUP, not
JAMES BROWN and his backing group. In fact, by the time "Please Please
Please" and "Try Me" were hits James wasn't even a solo artist. He was
just the front man of the Flames.
In 1956, after three sessions, it was Nafloyd Scott and Roy Scott who
left the group first. The remaining group recorded several more
recordings but failed to get another hit. By this time they began
arguing over songwriting credit as Bobby Byrd and some of the members
noticed their names not listed on the credits as this song kept the
group performing at the chitlin' circuit. Due to this and Ralph Bass'
backing of Brown (and whoever was his manager, I think it was Ralph
Bass), Bobby Byrd walked out as did Johnny Terry and Sylvester Keels
leading James to hire members of J. C. Davis' band and its own backing
vocalists to be "interim Famous Flames" as James struggled to find
another hit, finally scoring in 1959 with "Try Me", which is not a James
Brown hit but a Famous Flames hit, the group's first number-one hit and
their first top 50 hit. On that lineup, much prominently was Bobby
Bennett, who had joined the group in 1958 replacing another member who
was getting married.
After "Try Me" came out, James decided to fire most of the interim
Famous Flames (with the exception of Bennett) and asked for the
"originals" including Sylvester Keels, Nash Knox, Johnny Terry, the
Scott brothers and Bobby Byrd to rejoin him. Sylvester, Nash and Roy
declined but Bobby Byrd, Johnny Terry and Nafloyd Scott returned.
Nafloyd settled as a backing guitarist for James' band (don't know how
long his stay was) while Bobby Byrd and Johnny Terry returned to sing
with James. They were joined in 1959 by 17-year-old "Baby" Lloyd
Stallworth. Johnny Terry would come in and out of the group and these
guys: Byrd, Stallworth and Bennett, remained with Brown until 1968:
(to read the entire blog, go to this site
These guys would be with him when the Apollo album was released (they
were all over that album and introduced), would be with him when he
performed on "Ed Sullivan", "American Bandstand", The T.A.M.I. Show,
"Ski Party", when the records started hitting overseas (particularly
James' solo recordings) and they would be mobbed by fans, according to
James' actual solo career didn't start until "Night Train" in 1962
and "Prisoner of Love" in 1963 but the Famous Flames still attracted the
audiences. In the meantime, Bobby Byrd continued to help his friend try
to get far, even going so far to create a production deal with James
titled Fair Deal to get James to a crossover audience. Who knows what he
may have contributed in helping songs like "Papa's Got a Brand New
Bag", "I Got You (or I Feel Good)", "It's a Man's World" and songs like
that getting released due to issues with King Records.
Johnny Terry, Bobby Byrd, Bobby Bennett and Lloyd Stallworth each
practiced their choreography while Brown would work with his
instrumental band and made up their own harmonies and came up with
lyrics (they were sometimes credited and sometimes not credited by King
staff and sometimes foolishly by Brown). Bobby Bennett was the one seen
draping the cape on James when he walked out from "fake exhaustion" at
the T.A.M.I. Show to "Please Please Please" and was actually the
comedian of the JB Revue. Bobby Byrd would open the show with his own
solo recordings and sometimes he and Bobby Bennett would introduce James
before Danny Ray started doing it in 1966 or 1967. Despite their
efforts, James didn't treat them fairly at all: he didn't pay them,
fined them if they messed up (which Bobby Bennett says they rarely ever
did but when they did it was costly), and when he got a Learjet
(probably as a result of his groundbreaking solo success in the
mid-1960s post-Apollo album), the other guys either rode by bus or car.
In the early days, they each took turns (Brown included) riding a custom
Eventually money and James' increasing ego trip and addiction to
controlling every aspect of anyone working with him led to the Famous
Flames walking out before another sold out tour in 1968, in which by
this point James Brown's impact had made the Famous Flames close to a
passing memory. Still, however, King confused people by billing some
records as "James Brown and the Famous Flames" recordings when they
There were two different groups in James' entourage:
The Famous Flames (simply a vocal group after 1959)
The James Brown Band (later the James Brown Orchestra, formed in 1959)
The Famous Flames left him in 1968. The James Brown Orchestra
followed two years later. Thankfully for James, his old friend Bobby
Byrd had returned to the group and hired Bootsy Collins' and Catfish
Collins' band to back Brown up on tour and on recording "Sex Machine"
immediately afterwards. Bobby Byrd also played a part in shaping the
career of Lyn Collins there, signing her to People/Polydor in 1972.
Bobby had been recording solo numbers since the Famous Flames days and
continued after 1970. Bobby Bennett and Lloyd Stallworth also had solo
recordings with Brown producing (I think; LBC posted a thread about it.
When I find the thread, I'll post the link).
As much as we love to talk about how Diana Ross "muscled" her way to
be lead singer of the Supremes (technically she already was), James
Brown's way in how he handled the Famous Flames and the reason why some
of them waited until THIS YEAR to get inducted has to be a crime almost.
Him and Hank Ballard. Not sure about Smokey since he was pissed the
Miracles weren't included or even the late Gene Vincent, the late Bill
Haley or the late Buddy Holly in why the Blue Caps, Comets and Crickets
weren't inducted with their front men. But the Famous Flames being
dismissed as some backing group of James Brown, who did have star
quality (don't get me wrong, I'm just stating), is real sad to me.
Thankfully Bobby Bennett is alive to see that being corrected:
Apr 9 17 2:05 PM
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