Monday, January 8, 2007

Frankie “Kash” Waddy has a James Brown story.

In 1970, a teenage bass player in Cincinnati named Bootsy Collins had a band called the Pacemakers. This group caught the eye of a James Brown associate, and soon Bootsy and his boys were doing sessions at King Records. Their destiny, however, would be to serve as J.B.’s own band, touring the globe and cutting such classic tracks as “Super Bad,” “Soul Power” and “Sex Machine.”

Frankie “Kash” Waddy was Bootsy’s drummer. When I interviewed him in 1997, he told the story of how the young Pacemakers became the James Brown band.
FRANKIE “KASH” WADDY: We were working in a place called the Wine Bar in Cincinnati, Ohio. It’s funny, ‘cause that night we played a benefit and we made $15 in total. In total. And we had a Dodge Dart station wagon, and we could put all of our equipment and every member of the group in that station wagon, so that tells you about how much equipment we had.

The next day after that $15 excursion, Bobby Byrd came rounding us up. He took us to the airport for the first time, put us on a plane for the first time, put us in limousines for the first time. When we went from Cincinnati to Columbus, Georgia, that’s the farthest we had been. And when we arrived in Columbus, Georgia, what happened was… [James] had problems with his band, which at this time were our idols – Maceo [Parker] and Kush [Griffith] and Fred [Wesley] and all those guys. They had quit at this National Guard Armory in Columbus, Georgia.

The place was sold out, it was packed. Bobby Byrd brings us in. On one side of the door, we see all our idols. We see Kush, Maceo, Fred, Pee Wee Ellis and all these cats. On the other side was James Brown. They rushed us to the stage, so you can’t compute none of this stuff, right? We get onstage, it’s the biggest stage we’ve ever been on in our lives, which is frightening for us. It was the biggest audience we’d ever seen. So we huddled up in the middle of the stage.

Everybody back in those times was playing James’ stuff, and we were very good at it. James had also sat in with us at times, so we had practiced. So he came up onstage and all he had to do was call the song and the key that it’s in. “ ‘Black and Proud,’ F sharp,” boom! “ ‘Cold Sweat,’ D,” boom! So we did the whole show like that. Smash. Cool.

So we came offstage and James rant and raved and rant and raved. “Boy, y’all killed. Boy, y’all killed! Killed! What I think I’m gonna do is give y’all” – I told you what we made the night before. He said, “I’ma give you $250!” That was apiece, $250 apiece. So we was trippin,’ right?

“No, I’m gonna give you $275!” He said, “No, I’m gonna give you $300!” Anyway, to make a long story short, we came out of there making $450 apiece. And we had three sets of new uniforms and matching shoes. We had a truck full of equipment – I told you we had all of our shit in a Dodge Dart station wagon, right? And we had a Trailways Golden Eagle to travel in. A true Cinderella story, right?

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