Well, it’s been about a year-and-a-third since James Brown—Soul Brother Number One, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business—rose up from his hospital bed, yelled, “I’m on ﬁre,” to his friend Mr. Bobbit, then laid back down for the last time.
Now a judge has instructed representatives of Brown’s estate to sell 394 lots of Brown’s belongings no later than August 1. Christie’s auction house in New York City will do the selling.
I didn’t know James Brown well. In fact, I barely brushed up against him. I played in the house band at his ’70s night club, The Third World. I shook his hand a few times. I called him “Mr. Brown” because he expected me to. I played guitar like he told me to, and I envied that anti-gravity thing he could do with his feet. And because I worked seven nights a week at The Third World, I got to watch James Brown interact with his musicians and his entourage.
The Third World Club, which was located in Augusta, Ga., told a lot about Brown’s management style. In the front of the building, there was a one-sliding-window takeout restaurant that sold only chicken wings. In the back of the building, there was an expansive parking lot. The lot was not paved. Mr. Brown’s club had uniformed doormen, but their shoes and pants were covered with mud. There were gold-plated faucets in The Third World’s dressing rooms, but the drain pipes leaked and smelled, well, funky. As the situation at the club deteriorated, employees’ paychecks started bouncing. It was during this spell that a percussionist from New York said to me, “If my check bounces, I’ll burn this place to the ground.” The next day, The Third World burned down.
From just that little bit of experience almost 30 years ago, I’m pretty sure that the dividing-up and selling of James Brown’s stuff is going to be complicated, and I predict that it won’t be done by August 1.
I’ve got to tell you, there are some things on the auction list that I want: odd things; ironic things; things that no sane person should want or could use, such as James Brown’s underwear and socks. But I think I’m going to bid on some of the Godfather’s stuff. If I didn’t bid, I couldn’t stand myself.
Here are some things I might go after. They are real. I am not making them up:
An easel and picture of James Brown on copper, signed by M.M. Williams Jr.
I’m guessing that’s folk art. The Jowers house could use some James Brown folk art.
A cup inscribed, “The Only Original James Brown Award”
Seeing as how it’s the only original one, it ought to be, well, unique.
A picture of James Brown and George Bush, signed, in frame
I’d put this right next to my picture of Elvis and Richard Nixon, both obviously gooned on brown acid...or painkillers...or something.
A photograph of James Brown and George W. Bush inscribed, “Killings Is Out, School’s In”
A Republican Presidential Honor Roll, signed by Ronald Reagan and John McCain
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Award, presented to James Brown
I’ll put this one in a drawer until Leon Russell is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’ll be my little protest.
An Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Award, presented to James Brown from the State of Alabama, signed George C. Wallace, November 8, 1985
I didn’t know that J.B. and George Wallace were tight.
A fur walking stick inscribed, “James Brown—Godfather of Soul,” together with horse-hair braids with James Browns’ song names. (There are two of these.)
I want this bad. At least one of them.
And here are some things I don’t want:
A pair of pajamas, embroidered in purple, “James Brown—Godfather of Soul” within a crown and a black housecoat, lined in burgundy, embroidered with a James Brown crown
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it’s wrong for somebody other than James Brown to be lounging around in Mr. Brown’s pajamas and housecoat.
A black jumpsuit, a red jumpsuit, a blue polyester jumpsuit—hell, a whole bunch of jumpsuits
Once the aging performers start squeezing into jumpsuits, their best days are behind them. And as every James Brown fan knows, J.B. could sweat up a jumpsuit before he counted off the ﬁrst song. Pardon me for saying so, but those jumpsuits won’t come clean.
Now, back to things I want:
A Low Mentality Letter, handwritten by James Brown (no further explanation)
A shoulder wrap, embroidered in gold and red, “Mr. Please Please”: length, 80 inches; width, 24 inches
I want this bad. Just one time, I want to be Mr. Please Please.
A certiﬁcate of pardon from the state of South Carolina, with letter, dated May 23, 2003
J.B. should’ve printed up lots of copies of this. Might’ve helped him when the cops pulled him over.
And ﬁnally, a card to Adrienne, one of Mr. Brown’s wives, inscribed, “I Love You from Suga Woog #1 to Sugar Wooga #2, I miss you, rat —James”
Gotta love a man who calls his wife “rat.”
If I get the chance, I’ll go down to Mr. Brown’s daughter’s house in Beech Island, and take a look at some of the stuff. And while I’m there, I’ll be sure to pay my respects – and I’ve got plenty of it – at The Godfather of Soul’s front-yard crypt.
@Whiny war hero and Anglrdr: You're both too stupid to realize that she was responding…
Face it Donna, nobody likes you. Guess we are all phonies considering we chafe at…
A brilliantly scripted biography of tragic destiny, patience and fruition. Ms. Hutson is a masterful…
>>Climate change is already ruining everything.<<
You can thank China for anything remotely close…
Just losing the students isn't the only issue. The fact that schools like KIPP do…