Macon ceremony commemorates 'Godfather of Soul,' James Brown

pramati@macon.comDecember 20, 2011 

Forty-five years after Tascha Houston got her big break with legendary singer James Brown, she is still honoring the memory of the “Godfather of Soul.”

At the bridge in Macon named for Brown, Houston with 15 other fans, placed a wreath to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the singer’s death with 15 other fans.

Houston was one of the original “James Brown Dancers,” first signed to perform in 1966 at a show in Chattanooga, Tenn. She continued performing with Brown until 2003.

“It was very exciting,” said Houston, adding that she also once performed with R&B icon Otis Redding during a concert at the famed Whisky a Go Go club in Los Angeles. “He was a phenomenal entertainer.”

Houston told those on hand that routines for every song Brown performed had to be choreographed. While she said she couldn’t pick a favorite song, she said “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” was among her favorite dance routines.

Brown died on Christmas Day 2006. Though he was a native of Augusta, he had a strong association with Macon, having owned several homes and businesses here.

Houston said she remembered that he once had a house in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, not far from where the bridge is located.

In 1955, Brown recorded a demo tape at radio station WIBB for “Please, Please, Please,” which became his first radio hit.

Alice Bailey, a Macon native who shared her memories of Brown with the crowd, said Brown used to sing that song while trying to woo a woman in the neighborhood. The older women in the neighborhood were offended by the lyrics, and they complained to police.

Years later, Bailey said, some of those same women bought concert tickets to hear Brown sing “Please, Please, Please” and his other hits.

Jack O. Davis, who now lives in Warner Robins, told those in attendance that he first heard Brown on the radio as a youth in Cairo.

“His music crossed all races,” Davis told the crowd. “It carried such a positive attitude.”

Houston played several songs from a CD from a live show Brown performed at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. After the songs, a prayer and the sharing of memories, a wreath was attached to the sign on the bridge that bears Brown’s name.

“It’s a great honor to lay a wreath to mark the fifth (anniversary),” Houston said. “I’m hoping and praying that (the tradition) continues as the years go by.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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