With the sad news filtering through on Saturday of the passing of the Funky Drummer, Clyde Stubblefield there was only going to be one topic for this week’s update. I’m sure there have been many tributes paid to the great man over the last week and probably a few more to come but here is my own little tribute.
Clyde’s career as a drummer began in the early 60s when he toured alongside the legendary Otis Redding who at that time was anything but a household name. However, it was the joining of James Brown’s band that was to push Stubblefield to the forefront of the newly emerging “funk” sound sweeping across black America. Whilst being a key component of Brown’s rawer, funkier sound it’s worth remembering that he wasn’t the only drummer in the band. John “Jab’o” Starks also performed live with the group and had in fact only joined 2 weeks prior to Stubblefield – an audition that saw 5 drumkits on stage.
With a number of other drummers on the roster (including Melvin Parker brother of Maceo and Clayton Fillyau) there was a lot of competition to play with the group. However, it was soon settled upon Clyde & Jab’o to fulfill the roles, something they both did with distinction until Clyde left the group in 1970.
During this time Clyde performed on some of the most memorable James Brown recordings of the time. “There Was A Time”, “Say It Loud – I’m Black And I’m Proud”, “Mother Popcorn”, “Ain’t It Funky Now” and today’s selection “I Got The Feelin”. It was however one of the final tracks that Stubblefield cut with Brown that remains his signature work..
The Funky Drummer was a 1970 single released over 2 sides due to it’s length. On the original 9 minute recording the fabled “break” that is estimated to have been sampled over 1,000 times (999 of those by Public Enemy alone!!) kicks in around the 5 minute mark creating arguably the most important drum pattern in the history of popular music. So let’s all raise a glass and give the drummer some.