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36 years ago, tenor sax player J.C. Davis and his band went into the Mus-I-Col Studio to record a few tracks. The results of this session have been re-mastered by Josh Davis (aka DJ Shadow, no relation) and released on his Cali-Tex Records.
J.C. Davis would be completely obscure except for the fact that he led James Brown’s Famous Flames for a few years. Four of the tracks on this album were released as 45s, which are highly sought after and can be had for a few hundred dollars. Only 1,500 of these were pressed, so this album will become a rarity as well ‘I’m sure.
The music is not as funky or outrageous as one might expect from someone who led James Brown‘s band. There’s plenty of funk and ‘I’m sure we’ll be hearing the breakbeats from these tracks on future recordings that we add. The band sounds relaxed and disciplined at the same time. (Maybe they are relieved that they aren’t going to get fined for coming in late or missing a note, like JB used to do.) Shelly, notable for its unselfconscious singing, and A New Day (is Here at Last) are the slowest tracks.
The recording quality is amazing. I wouldn’t have known that this was recorded 36 years ago unless it said it on the back of the album. The drums sound fat and Mr. Davis‘s sax in particular sounds full.
Here?s what I know about JAMES ?J.C.? DAVIS, along with a scanned photo from a 1960 tour program booklet:
DEC. 18, 1958-LOS ANGELES as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
JAN. 30, 1959-NEW YORK as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
JUNE, 1959-NEW YORK as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
NOV. 11, 1959-CINCINNATI as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
NOV., 1959-NEW YORK as LITTLE BOBBY ROACH & HIS COMBO (Fire 45-1013)
NOV., 1959-MIAMI as NAT KENDRICK & THE SWANS (Dade 45-1804)
DEC., 1962-NEW YORK as KIP ANDERSON (Everlast 45-5021)
FEB. 20, 1960-HOLLYWOOD as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
Late MAY, 1960-MIAMI as NAT KENDRICK & THE SWANS (Dade 45-1808)
SEPT. 27, 1960-HOLLYWOOD as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
SEPT. 29, 1960-HOLLYWOOD as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
OCT. 4, 1960-HOLLYWOOD as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
LATE, 1960-MIAMI as NAT KENDRICK & THE SWANS (Dade 45-1812)
DEC., 1960-Probably CHICAGO as J.C. DAVIS (Argo 45-5382)
FEB. 9, 1961-CINCINNATI as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
FEB. 10, 1961-CINCINNATI as JAMES BROWN & THE FAMOUS FLAMES
Ci. MARCH, 1962-CHICAGO as J.C. DAVIS (Chess 45-1831)
MAY-JUNE, 1963-CHICAGO as J.C. DAVIS
JANUARY, 1964-CHICAGO as J.C. DAVIS
There were several unissued titles also recorded at the above Chess Records sessions as well as one additional date in 1965.
2/26/05??Thanks for the CD. Fascinating, great stuff!!! Kudos!!
You said in your article that JC Davis led James Brown’s FAMOUS FLAMES. By THAT, I assume you mean James Brown’s BAND .
Just one problem.
James Brown’s BAND was not , is not , and HAS NEVER BEEN called THE FAMOUS FLAMES.
The FAMOUS FLAMES were the name of his SINGING GROUP.
His BAND was simply called THE JAMES BROWN BAND.
This is a common mistake that someone started as a lie some 50 years ago, and people are making the SAME mistake today.
James even attempted to correct the error himself once , on the DAVID LETTERMAN SHOW back in the Eighties….Yet, people are STILL making THE SAME MISTAKE TODAY. THE FAMOUS FLAMES are: BOBBY BYRD, BOBBY BENNETT, LLOYD STALLWORTH, and JOHNNY TERRY. They were SINGERS…NOT BAND MEMBERS.
JAMES BROWN himself was a member of The Flames. He was their LEAD SINGER. He was NEVER A MEMBER of The James Brown Band. Ask ALAN LEEDS. He is well familiar with this fact: THE FAMOUS FLAMES was ALWAYS the name of Brown’s VOCAL BACKING GROUP ….never his BAND….EVER.
Though for years people believed the Famous Flames were James Brown’s backing band, those instrumental giants had no official credit on record and in fact had NO RECOGNIZED NAME until they were dubbed the J.B.’s in the 70′s for lack of anything else to refer to them as. The Flames in fact were the (name of the) VOCAL GROUP Brown joined in the mid-50′s and with his presence making them Famous, they continued to use that moniker for a dozen years. They were led by Bobby Byrd, one of the most important side figures in a major star’s career, and while they featured fluctuating membership over the years, the most prominent members included Johnny Terry, Bobby Bennett and Eugene “Baby Lloyd” Stallworth. The combination of the gospel-derived harmonies of the Flames and the intense leads of Brown made the group the undisputed leaders of the soul movement and the most explosive act in all of rock.”
Bobby Bennett, The last surviving member of The Famous Flames, accepted the induction for the group in Cleveland on April 14, 2012.
You can see his YouTube comment at this site:
You can see the FAMOUS FLAMES ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME PAGE HERE:
And see them perform live on stage with James Brown on the 1964 concert film The T.A.M.I. Show HERE
…and on the 1965 Frankie Avalon l motion picture SKI PARTY HERE:
If you need still more proof , check out these sites:
Here is what Wikipedia said about The Famous Flames:
“Although the passing of time, and attempts made by certain groups and individuals to re-write history, (not to mention many uninformed DeeJays nationwide) who have in recent years unfairly tended to credit James Brown as the sole artist on their songs, it should be made clear that they were recorded and made hits by the entire group, “James Brown and The Famous Flames”,. These were the songs that established Brown’s career, and they were recorded by all of them …not just him. The Famous Flames were a “group”, and Brown was initially just one of the members…just like all of the rest. In addition, claims made by uninformed individuals that the Famous Flames were a “band” or were backup musicians are also incorrect . The Famous Flames were a singing group . The “band” was the James Brown Orchestra…a totally separate entity from The Famous Flames.”
Again, The Famous Flames were a VOCAL GROUP…NOT BACKING MUSICIANS.
Why the confusion? Wikipedia explains :
” In 1964, the group recorded another successful live album, Pure Dynamite! Live at the Royal, but as before with the Apollo album, the group’s name was not placed on the cover though they were clearly on the record, and were included in the album’s intro. The Flames also contributed to the recording of the 1964 studio album, Showtime. Again, Brown, and not the Flames, was included in the credit alone though they were featured on the cover of the album. King Records caused further confusion by listing some James Brown solo recordings as recordings by The Famous Flames when the group wasn’t on it; this had started back in the group’s Federal days with the ballad “I Want You So Bad”. This confusion made fans of Brown believe for years that the Famous Flames was actually Brown’s backing band. In 1964, James & the Flames had another top 40 hit with the blues ballad, “Oh Baby, Don’t You Weep”, which reached # 23 Pop on the Billboard Chart, and # 4 R&B on the Cash Box R&B chart, and later released their last recording together, “Maybe The Last Time”, which was a b-side of James Brown’s Smash recording, “Out of Sight”, for which, ironically, The Flames did not receive label credit.”
When The Flames recorded albums with Brown, Their name, but not their faces , graced the album covers …so unless you saw the group in concert, You didn’t know what they looked like, while at the same time, several later singles were credited to them on the labels (King Records’ mistake) that they didn’t actually sing on, because Brown stopped using them on record after 1964, although the group still continued to tour together until 1968.
Again, The Famous Flames were a SINGING GROUP…NOT A BAND.
Is there a way to contact Alan Leeds, I’d like to get a look at that pic of J.C. Davis he mentions here.
I worked with J.C. Davis at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority in the late 1980′s and the early 1990′s He was a maintenance area foreman and a fascinating man. There was a 8″ x 10″ glossy black & white publicity “head-shot” of him framed near his desk, the only reminder of his colorful past. J.C. was really laid back, very cool and down to earth. We went to lunch a few times and I would always ask him about his time on tour etc. I saw Little Richard play at the International Childrens games in Cleveland in the early 2000′s and he was amazing.
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