Musician James Brown switches bands in Columbus, Georgia


Gospel-soul singer James Brown sings “Living in America” ​​during a concert in Los Angeles on June 10, 1991. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File)


Fifty-two years ago this month, music icon James Brown made a decision in Columbus that would change his life forever.

The Godfather of Soul came to town for a concert in March 1970. Shortly before the performance, he fired his band and replaced them with a young cover band called the Pacemakers and led by the Cincinnati brothers Bootsy and Catfish Collins, according to

The night the Cincinnati band was called into the big leagues, they played a gig at a small local venue called The Winebar and earned just $14 for that night’s performance.

“We were playing advantage and we got a call from Bobby Byrd (Brown manager). “I’m coming over there on a plane, on James’ learjet, and I’ll be picking you up in 45 minutes,” Boostsy told Red Bull Music Academy. “We thought it was a joke.”

When they arrived at the Columbus arena, they were greeted by a group of hostile fans, angry that Brown had fired his bandmates. Bootsy said it was like walking through a picket line of some of their friends and heroes.

“We didn’t know what we were getting into; all we knew was that we were playing with James Brown,” said Bootsy, who was 18 at the time. “We had no idea he really wanted us to play behind him.”

James was late to the performance and the audience blamed his new band for the delay.

Once they walked through the show, Brown informed the Pacemakers that they would be his replacements and call themselves “The JB’s”. The new band embraced Brown’s vision and were central to Brown’s new funk sound.

“It was crazy, so crazy in a good way,” Bootsy said. “We took our original energy and groove and he took it, put it into what he was doing and bam! Here it is.”