2011 Legacy Inductee
1933 - 2006
James Brown was born in rural Elko, South Carolina Brown and his family lived in extreme poverty. During his childhood, Brown earned money shining shoes at an Augusta radio station, sweeping out stores, selling and trading in old stamps, washing cars and dishes and singing in talent contests. Brown taught himself to play a harmonica given to him by his father. He learned to play some guitar. play piano and drums. Brown was inspired to become an entertainer after watching Louis Jordan, a popular jazz and R&B performer during the 1940s, and Jordan's Tympany Five performing "Caldonia" in a short film. Brown also got into trouble and was sentenced to prison. Bobby Byrd saw Brown perform in prison admired Brown's ability to sing and perform. Byrd's family helped Brown secure an early release after serving three years of his sentence. After stints as a boxer and baseball pitcher in semi-pro baseball, Brown turned his energy toward music joining Bobby Byrd's vocal group, the Avons later changing their names to the Flames. Brown and Byrd's group toured the Southern "chitlin' circuit" and eventually signed a deal with Federal Records, a sister label of King Records. Brown's early recordings were fairly straightforward gospel-inspired R&B compositions, heavily influenced by the work of contemporary musicians such as Ray Charles, Little Willie John, Clyde McPhatter and Little Richard. The rest of his recording career is history; however, James Brown also became a radio station owner. In the late 60ís he purchased WRDW in Augusta where he had shined shoes as a boy.
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