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James Brown and his backing band, The J.B.’s, were responsible for some of the funkiest tracks to ever hit the airwaves. With an aggressive style that shifted the tide in the presentation of of Black music, Brown’s band and its sound was imitated by lesser groups but never duplicated.

The J.B.’s grooves have been heavily sampled by hip-hop, R&B and pop producers, adding to some of the biggest hits of the modern era. The J.B.’s formed in 1970 after Brown’s original backing band split with the singer over a paymen dispute. Much of the J.B.’s core was centered on horn players Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis, Maceo Parker, and eventual bandleader, Fred Wesley.

The gentlemen have spent time in the 60’s incarnation of Brown’s backing band, but they weren’t the only holdovers from the old crew. Bobby Byrd, a singer and organist, was part of the original J.B.’s. The Pacemakers – guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins, and his bassist brother William “Bootsy” Collins from Cincinnati joined him.

Rounding out the band’s personnel were drummer John “Jabo” Starks, guitarist Hearlon “Cheese” Martin, saxophonists St. Clair Pinckney and Jimmy Parker, and bassist Fred Thomas.

While the Collins brothers left, the core largely remained for a potent musical period that defined Brown and the band’s career. From 1970 to 1975, James Brown and the JB’s released several powerful soul anthems. Tracks like “Sex Machine,” “Soul Power,” and the band’s first single, “The Grunt” all became signature tracks that captured their essence.

Little Known Black History Month: The JB’s  was originally published on

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