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This is the trouble blues, that Lightnin' Hopkins is havin' at the present, which I hope it don't last all week - Lightnin' Hopkins, intro to Trouble Blues

Author Topic: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?  (Read 2011 times)

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Offline doctorpep

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James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« on: February 28, 2009, 03:50:53 PM »
I didn't want to post this in the Country Blues section for fear of being ripped apart, but I just received "Free Again" in the mail and it appears as if there is some proto-James Brown on "I've Grown So Ugly". Am I completely crazy or is there a funk-like feel to the singing and definitely the guitar playing on that track? It's highly unlikely that Williams heard a similar style on a Brown record, considering how Williams' debut recorded was recorded in 1960, when James Brown was doing stuff like "Try Me" and "Please, Please, Please". So, was James Brown inspired by Mr. Williams? I assume we're just dealing with a coincidence here, but I hear a definite funk-vibe on "I've Grown So Ugly"!
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline Johnm

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2009, 05:47:47 PM »
Hi doctorpep,
The Robert Pete Williams track you cite is indeed funky, as is a lot more of Robert Pete's music; really about as funky as Country Blues has ever gotten.  I'm very dubious that James Brown ever heard any of Robert Pete's music though, or that he would have perceived any similarity to his own musical ideas if he had.  I'd venture to say that all funkiness in music does not derive from either Robert Pete Williams or James Brown.  It's just out there.
All best,
Johnm

Offline oddenda

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2009, 02:41:17 AM »
Everyone knows that the world is funked up.

Peter B.

Offline dj

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2009, 05:44:39 AM »
Though James Brown's major early musical influences were, I think, R&B vocal groups like the Clovers and Billy Ward & the Dominoes (especially the Donimoes' lead singers, Clyde McPhatter and later Jackie Wilson), he certainly grew up in a world where there was a lot of blues being sung.  You can hear the influence of blues shouters like Wynonie Harris, Billy Wright, and, especially, Roy Brown in JB's early recordings.

James Brown always claimed to dislike the blues, but he sure recorded a lot of blues.  If you listen to the verses of "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", they're straight 12 bar blues.

I think JB's funk came from extended riffing at the end of songs in his live concerts, where the band would keep up the signature instrumental riff of a song and Brown would improvise vocals.  Apparently, these went over well with audiences, and Brown gradually split them off into new songs.  Going back to "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", imagine the basic horn riff played over and over, with Brown adding some vocals and calling out solos ("Maceo!", "Give the drummer some."), and you've got early funk.
         

Offline snakehips

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2009, 09:58:57 AM »
Hi there !

I've always thought Robert Johnson's version of "Preachin' Blues" was pretty damn funky.
 Does this funk go further back than that ?
If so, post your proposals (sorry if that hijacks the thread into something else !).

Offline doctorpep

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2009, 07:27:31 AM »
R.L. Burnside's "Miss Maybelle" has this beat that is almost techno/dance music-like. I don't recall having heard it in any other Country Blues songs. Perhaps "beat" is not the right word (?) I shall stop here, so that I am not assaulted by an army of Weenies!
"There ain't no Heaven, ain't no burning Hell. Where I go when I die, can't nobody tell."

http://www.hardluckchild.blogspot.com/

Offline Jay Bee Rodriguez

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2011, 09:40:47 AM »
I've always associated RPW's music to the more obvious like-blues African singers-guitarrists, like late great Mali's Ali Farka Tour?, but never to people like great JB. Thank you for this interesting analogy, doctorpep!
 O0

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: James Brown Was Inspired By...Robert Pete Williams?!?
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2011, 10:57:41 AM »
Well it's not that far fetched.

Harry Oster in his booklet which accompanied the original 1960 LP of Angola Prisoners Blues says

In each camp there are radio which pick up the standard popular music from stations in Louisiana and Mississippi (WXOK, a Negro Station in Baton Rouge) is particularly influential and there are 58 television sets spread all over the prison.

Williams was incarcerated from April 6, 1956 until December 1, 1959 when Oster got him out. James Brown was a major star during that period and his records would have been played on black radio station's such as WXOK.

Just an observation.

LATER EDIT: Having been interrupted by the phone whilst responding to this I see that I never finished my initial sentence which should have gone on to say "BUT more probably RPW being subconsciously influenced by JB"
« Last Edit: March 26, 2011, 11:46:36 AM by Bunker Hill »

 


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