Son Loves James Brown, Tells All
•By LIBBY CUDMORE• Hometown Oneonta
Just a few weeks before James Brown died, he had a message for his son, Daryl: “I know you’re going to write a book about me. But could you wait until I’m gone?”
Daryl was at the Green Toad on Saturday, Sept. 13 to promote that book, “My Father The Godfather.”
The book, which came out earlier this summer, coincided with the release of the James Brown film biography, “Get on Up.” “I knew Hollywood was going to write some stupid stuff, so I wanted to write this,” he said.
And, like his father, he knew how to command an audience. Downtown shoppers unaware of his signing stopped in their tracks as he spoke, drifting into the front alcove to listen to him speak about what it was like to grow up with a legend. “James Brown was an American icon,” he said. “But James Joseph Brown was my dad. After this, you’ll really know both of them.”
Daryl was born to Bea Ford, who sang “You Got the Power” with Brown in 1960. “I was in her stomach while she was singing that song,” said Daryl. “She was the first black female to sing on WTCT in Brunswick, New Jersey.”
Bea didn’t marry James. “He liked too many women,” said Daryl. “But what do you expect from a man who wrote ‘Sex Machine’ and ‘Hot Pants?’ But they were the best of friends. He respected her.”
When Daryl was 5, Bea took him to meet his father when he was performing at the Apollo. “The first thing I said was, ‘Why is my daddy wearing a wig’?” he said. “I’d never seen hair like that.”
He lived with his father from ages 9-12 and even helped pack his suitcases with Brown’s famous stage costumes. “I really learned how to iron a shirt,” he said. “He was like Superman – he put on those clothes and he wasn’t James Joseph, my father – he was James Brown. And I didn’t mind sharing him with the world.”
Of nine children, Daryl was the only to share the stage with his dad. “We were sitting in the house, just jamming, and he let me play his old Vox guitar. And then he says, ‘You’re gonna be my third guitar player’. Normally, I play drums, but if he asked me to play flute, I would have.”
He bought a Fender Esquire guitar and was on his way.