After seeing the James Brown Dance Party in NYC after last January’s Phish concert, ECE Augusta agent, George Claussen’s wheels began to turn. The tribute show featured a couple members of the JB’s and triggered an idea to resurrect the James Brown Birthday Bash — an event held for years at the James Brown arena in Augusta, GA. A few months after Brown’s death on Christmas Day 2006, the final farewell bash was held in 2007. Claussen was determined to bring it back.
When he returned to Augusta, he set up meetings with city officials and the James Brown Family Foundation to organize a celebration for May 3, 2016 — which would have been Brown’s 83rd birthday. The event would reunite Brown’s band and benefit the James Brown Music Academy (JAMP).
A seasoned concert organizer, Claussen knew he had his work cut out for him in the short four months between idea and execution. The most challenging aspect?
“This event brought together 23 different artists coming into town on 13 flights. Seven artists were sit-ins who had never played together before. The full James Brown Band haven’t played together in 17 years! This was, hands down, the hardest event I’ve ever organized, but all were a pleasure to work with. I wouldn’t change a thing,” exclaimed Claussen.
Due to inclement weather, the free event was moved indoors to the Bell Auditorium and was quickly filled to capacity with over 2,500 attendees ready to celebrate and honor the Godfather of Soul. Keith Jenkins of ECE exclusive band, Mr. Potato Head, served as musical director and the evening featured a multitude of artists such as Funk You, JAMP Masters and the James Brown Band. Other guests included Sharon Jones, George Porter Jr. (The Meters), Ivan Neville (Dumpstaphunk), Ty Taylor (Vintage Trouble), Jennifer Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), Chris Rob (Craig Robinson & The Nasty Delicious), Gavin Hamilton (Funk You) and Greg Hester.
“It was so surreal to have everyone back together. The artists were literally crying at rehearsal. The band truly never thought they would be back together again. A couple had done projects and tributes together, but never with the full band,” stated Claussen.
When asked about the most rewarding part of the event, Claussen was quick to reply, “Staying up late the past couple of nights listening to stories of Mr. Brown and the concert they played all over the world — it was a dream come true.”
“The coolest part of it all,” continues Claussen, “Was when I got a letter yesterday from Greg Harris, CEO of The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, thanking me for putting this together and telling me how much Mr. Brown meant to him and the industry. They gave the James Brown Family Foundation a nice donation as well.”
Photo Credit: Moose Pro Foto