1965: James Brown needed a new drummer. Mr. Dynamite was beginning to reach superstardom, having landed hits Night Train, as well as his renditions of Prisoner of Love and Out of Sight. As his band was climbing to the top, he needed to make sure that he had the backbone, both musically and metaphorically, that would solidify him as the Godfather of Soul. After seeing a young drummer play his heart out on a small bandstand in Macon, GA, Brown knew he had to add him to his artillery.
Clyde Stubblefield, born in 1943, was a completely self-taught drummer, influenced by the "rhythms of the Earth." After joining Brown’s band in ‘65, he created the cadence of the group with his co-conspirator John “Jabo” Starks, another self-taught drummer who had joined the group two weeks prior. As he put it, “We just played what we wanted to play… We just put down what we think it should be.” Stubblefield laid down beats on hits such as Give It Up Or Turnit Loose, Cold Sweat, and I Got The Feelin’ amongst others, however, Stubblefield’s playing on Funky Drummer holds a special notoriety within his catalog. Often labeled as the blueprint for funk drumming, the drum break on the track is also the most sampled drum beat of all time, giving Stubblefield the unofficial moniker of “the world’s most sampled drummer.” The groove has been sampled by heavy hitters such as N.W.A., Prince, Public Enemy, and a multiplicity of others across many genres.
After leaving Brown’s band in 1971, Stubblefield moved to Madison, WI, playing every Monday night at various Madison venues with his band. He went on to collaborate with funk legends from all over the states, including Bootsy Collins and former Brown bandmates Maceo Parker and Jabo Starks. Towards the end of his career, Stubblefield began to give lectures about his history and abilities, started a scholarship fund for music education, and even performed on Late Night in 2011. Stubblfield passed in 2017 in Madison alongside his wife Jody Hannon.
On the newest AUGUST AUX :: GNRE playlist, we celebrate Stubblfield’s contributions to both the hip-hop and funk worlds.