James Brown’s band will go on, just as he always wanted.
Bassist Fred Thomas, 61, said he expects to practice with his bandmates within days as they ready themselves to tour in 2007.
Brown’s agent, Frank Copsidas, said it was more likely that the first date for the 11-member band would be sometime in February, perhaps in Los Angeles. He said there was significant interest in the band.
Brown, who died Christmas Day, had always told Copsidas the show must go on, even without him. As for the band members, Copsidas said that Brown told him: “Gotta take care of them. They’re family. They’re like my kids.”
Meetings are planned for late next week to consider whether the band should bring in a new lead vocal or share the singing duties among the remaining band members, most of whom sing anyway.
“I told people to write down all their ideas,” Copsidas said. “I love to get all the ideas and hear them.”
Thomas said he thinks the remaining band members can put together an impressive show, even without the man who brought them fame.
Brown’s death shocked the public because the singer still toured so regularly, even at 73, but Thomas said it was not so surprising to some like himself who had watched Brown’s health deteriorate as he fought the effects of heart disease and diabetes.
In the past year, Thomas said, he had pleaded with Brown to pace himself on stage — to show flashes of his flamboyant dance style, but just enough to get the crowd excited.
“He’d say, ‘You’re right,”’ Thomas said.
But then he’d go on stage and dance like he was 16 again, Thomas recalled with a chuckle. “To the last show to see how hard he worked was incredible,” he said. “That was his heart. You couldn’t stop him.”
In the same way, he said, the band can’t be stopped either. The group consists of three guitarists, two bass players, two drummers, three horns and a percussionist.
“We are the only true James Brown funk band in the world and the funk of this band is in demand,” Thomas said.
No one knows that better than Thomas Hart, a Washington lawyer who sometimes represented Brown in business deals. He noted that trade publications said the value of the Ray Charles catalog grew 10 fold after his death.
Hart had no doubt that Brown’s death had significantly boosted the value of his work and life story. But he said, “We would gladly trade the value for his presence for one more day.”
Jonelle Procope, president of the Apollo Theater Foundation, said the famed music hall would be interested in staging a tribute to Brown and having his band perform there.
“Sure would, absolutely,” she said in an interview at the conclusion of Thursday’s public viewing of Brown’s body on the Apollo stage where he debuted 50 years ago. “I would very much hope it would be at the Apollo.”
She said other vocalists will emerge, allowing the band to go on.
“Funk is funk,” she said. “It still would be infectious.”