James Brown was not a Macon native, but the Godfather of Soul was born here.
Browns legendary career was launched in Macon, and on Friday he was honored with a portrait on the Douglass Theatres Walk of Fame.
Blessings on the historic Douglass Theatre for showing love for the Godfather, the late singers daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, said after uncovering the marble sidewalk portrait of Brown clutching a pair of sunglasses.
Brown came to Macon in 1955 as part of The Famous Flames group. The following year, their makeshift recording of Please, Please, Please, with no musical accompaniment, drew notice after legendary disc jockey Hamp Swain played the song on WIBB.
Playing a record without music, that was not professionally recorded, was not something we were doing at the time, Swain recalled at the Douglass ceremony. But, you got to help a brother. The first time we played it, the phone started ringing. The response was unbelievable.
The group was signed by King Records in Cincinnati, but Browns charisma led to a solo career and later stardom. He toured extensively but lived in Macon throughout the late 50s and early 60s before moving to New York.
He went on to become the biggest name in show business, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, the Godfather of Soul, Swain recalled. He lived up to every name he was given. Not only that, he was a great friend.
Willie Jackson remembered Brown talking to him and other neighborhood kids about staying out of trouble. Brown had a big blue Cadillac that he would park in front of a housing project when back in Macon, Jackson said.
Wed watch that thing for hours, to make sure nobody touched it.
Brown was involved in every aspect of the music business, as a performer, manager and businessman. He bought a radio station and opened his Golden Platter restaurants in Macon.
Douglass Theatre chairman George Muhammad said Brown was an inspiration to Macons black youth.
It inspired everyone to see that, to be successful and to come back, Muhammad said.
Thomas gave attendees a glimpse into James Brown, the father. She said Brown kept a Bible in every room of the house, each opened to Psalms 37. Her father only finished the seventh grade before he had to go to work, but he made education a priority with his children, especially music, she said.
Education was drilled in our home. ... Thats where my fathers heart was.
Thomas runs the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils in Augusta, Browns actual birthplace. Some of the students accompanied her Friday and were to perform at the Douglass on Friday night.
She and Swain both said Brown would have appreciated his step on the Douglass Walk of Fame more than a Grammy or the many other awards he earned.
There aint nothing like coming home and being shown love by the ones where you first started, said Thomas.
Brown is the fourth person honored on the Douglass Walk, joining Otis Redding, Little Richard and Swain.
Preservation of heritage is a key part of our mission at the Douglass, Muhammad said. We have to remember the great ones. Macon is a sacred place. We want to remind you of that.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.