Members of James Brown’s backing band were fired today (March 9, 1970), after they threatened to quit on the godfather of soul over back wages.
The dispute began after a performance the night before, in Jacksonville, Florida.
Members of the band, as well as Brown’s backing group The Famous Flames, were tired of being on the road, and presented James Brown with an ultimatum. They refused to perform the next night in Columbus, Georgia unless their demands for higher pay were met.
James Brown immediately called his office in Cincinnati, Ohio, to track down a local band he had been working with.
That original band was known as The Pacemakers, which featured group members Bootsy Collins, his brother/guitarist Phelps Collins, horn players Daryl Jamison and Clayton Gunnels and drummer Frank Waddy.
When the new group arrived, they found James Brown’s old band with instruments in hand, refusing to play.
The new members of the group, eventually dubbed “The J.B.’s,” replaced veterans of the old group, like Maceo Parker. Jimmy Nolen and others, under the direction of James Brown’s longtime friend and associate, Bobby Byrd.
“It was quite scary at first,” Byrd said. “They basically new James’ licks but it wasn’t the way it’s supposed to be done. I wondered whether they’d ever be able to do it.”
Bootsy Collins rose to the occasion; his bass became the centerpiece of James Brown’s new sound, and the 18-year-old soon earned a rare, coveted solo spot in James Brown’s live show.
The new replacement band also ushered in a new sound for James Brown, who began a run of hits with songs like “Get Up I Feel Like Being A Sex Machine,” “Superbad,” “Soul Power,” and “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing.”
Just 11 months later, Bootsy Collins and “The J.B.’s” parted ways with James Brown, due to monetary disputes, as well as Bootsy’s use of LSD.
Bootsy ended up going back to Cincinnati, but shortly later wound up in Detroit, where he was introduced to George Clinton and eventually joined Funkadelic.
As for James Brown, he signed a deal with Polydor Records and launched his Peoples imprint, where many of his musicians began recording for the label.