By, Les Garland
December 26th, 2006
Mr. James Brown (the hardest working man in show business) also known as the Godfather of Soul was the first large pop/rock/r+b star i ever met in my life. Well, yes, i met Red Foley when i was a Cub Scout on-set at the old Ozark Jubilee national television show that originated from Springfield, Missouri way back in the 50's. My unit was invited to the stage for some reason. Then there was Tennessee Ernie Ford and Pat Boone, but I'm talking about James Brown or "Mister Brown" (he preferred to be called that).
Meeting James Brown provided the fuel and tailwind that propelled me to go in search of bigger things through my early beginnings in radio. It was during the racially charged 60's, somewhere around '66 or maybe '67 when my destiny arranged the meeting. I was a radio disc jockey and I was the 'MC' who introduced him and his 'Band of Renowned' to the 5,000 people assembled at Springfield's Shrine Mosque Auditorium. I've always remembered the high level energy in the building that night. It was intense.
As I approached the microphone, the first thing i noticed was that to my right were the white people and to my left were the black people. In the middle was empty space. In the background, it was the 'Band of Renowned' riffing some beats. I brought Mister Brown to the stage with the most rousing rockin' introduction i could articulate. The moment he hit the stage, totally shining in his full-on red tight fitting sequined jump suit, all hell was unleashed! 5,000 people wildly converged toward the stage creating what felt like some sort of an old-time rompin' and stompin' religious tent revival! For the next two hours or so those 5,000 people were ONE. Mister Brown came back for no less than three encores. One featured the famous fainting routine.
Thankfully, i was in the right place at the right time backstage that night because, as Mr. Brown was heading to his dressing room, he says to me, "Wait here, i wanna see ya after i change". Me? What? Why? So, of course, I waited. (for several minutes)
All of a sudden the dressing room door swings open. Toward me comes Mister Brown and his entourage. "I'd like to invite you to come to the airport with me", Mister Brown says to me. Who could remember exactly HOW they really felt all those years ago at a magical moment like this one, other than to say i remember the moment as one of THE most important of my life. I remember following just one car to the airport. I believe Mister Brown was in the company of a woman. We drove to the edge of the runway where his private jet awaited. Artwork commemorating Mr. Brown's Gold and Platinum records were painted along the fuselage. Papa's got a brand new bag, This is a man's world, I got you (I feel good)...yup, this was cool! Next thing ya know, James Brown and I are sharing a sparkling wine product on the wing of his jet. Me? Well, I'm in total awe. A few moments of conversation transpire when a voice comes bellowing from the tower directly behind me. The words I recall were, "Mr. Brown, I don't care who you are, you need to put away that bottle, get on your plane, and get the hell off my runway NOW". A hug and handshake precede the word's "Good luck to ya, Les. Chase your dreams", sounding just like Eddie Murphy's impersonation of the Godfather of Soul. Mister Brown boarded his platinum plastered plane and off he went into the late night sky and off i went chasing dreams!
Mister Brown meant something to me.......