New Year’s Eve with James Brown


January 1, 2014

If you every read the House of Blues book of radio interviews, you’ll come across one with the late, great James Brown.  It may be credited as a conversation between Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues, but that was done in post-production.  The interview was recorded at the Fairmont Hotel on a New Year’s Eve in the mid-’90s when James Brown and his band played the ballroom.  As Director of Production, I had been sent to record the interview with James Brown.  We had to rent a separate hotel room.  First James Brown’s Security chief came in the room, and went through drawers, in the bathroom, looked under the bed to make sure it was safe.  James Brown came in afterwards, wearing black leather gloves and shook my hand, and that of Juan, one of our crew at BMP, the company that produces the House of Blues radio shows.  Before we could record, his handlers told me that we had to guarantee that we’d play his daughter’s new record on the shows, or no interview.  They then produced a contract and asked me to sign.  They were serious.  I said; “Mr. Brown (I was coached to address him as Mr. Brown), I’ll sign the contract but I don’t have the authority to guarantee that she’ll get played.  I can only give you my word I’ll do everything I can to make it happen.”  James Brown smiled at me and said; “That’s OK. You don’t have to sign it.  The fact that you were willing to is good enough for me.”, and he waived off his handlers.  I started the interview, first telling him to address me as Elwood in his answers, and broke the ice by telling him that one of my prized possessions was the 45 I bought as a young teenager of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” on the King Label.  He told me that I had the good one, then.  He had many labels release the song, with bad pressings and recordings.  Mr. Brown wasn’t too fussy about what he signed…and it was one of the best interviews I’d every had the pleasure of doing. His show that night was in the groove.

 

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