A young, long-haired rock guitarist finds the funk on stage with the Godfather of Soul
In this unvarnished account of toiling under one of popular music’s most notorious bosses, Damon Wood details his six years spent playing guitar for James Brown’s Soul Generals.
In a memoir certain to fascinate Mr. Dynamite’s millions of fans, as well as musicians and industry insiders, Wood recalls how a chance encounter with James Brown led him to embrace soul and funk music under the tutelage of its greatest progenitor. Numerous interviews with bandmates provide multiple perspectives on James Brown’s complex character, his leadership of his band, the nature of soul and funk, and insights and sometimes harsh lessons learned along the way.
This is a sideman’s story of the gritty reality of working close to the spotlight but rarely in it. Damon Wood describes life on the road — often on James Brown’s infamous tour bus — with one guitar, a change of clothes, and two dozen comrades-in-arms as they brought the funk to clubs, theaters, and the biggest music festivals on earth. Working for James Brown could be fear-inducing, inspiring, exhilarating, and exasperating — all in the space of a single performance.
Damon Wood played guitar for the Soul Generals from 1998 to 2006, shortly before James Brown’s passing. Wood has led his band, Harmonious Junk, since 2001, performing and recording original music to glowing reviews. He lives in Denver. Phil Carson is a Denver-based journalist. He is the author of Roy Buchanan: American Axe.
Published: May 2018
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.
“Listen, I've read a lot of books about James Brown, but Damon Wood's Working For the Man, Playing in the Band goes right onto the top shelf. Wood's relaxed, honest, delightful account of signing up for a tour in JB's world is the most persuasive snapshot of the lived reality of life on the road and on stage — a picture of a band and entourage in constant orbit around a permanent supernova of a human being. Musicians and fans alike will soak up his brilliant descriptions of his own "coming to the funk"; for me, after years of listening to the mysteriously direct and deep grooves of Brown's bands, I feel I understand them in some ways for the first time. And his portrait of Brown had me laughing constantly with the thrill of true recognition. Bravo.” – Jonathan Lethem, New York Times bestselling author, The Fortress of Solitude, and contributor to The New Yorker.
“What a ride and a great read — a funky, bittersweet masterpiece. Everyone who worked for Mr. Brown has stories to tell, some funny, some hurtful, some caring, some unbelievable. We all wanted to touch a star, so into the abyss we went, whatever the outcome.” —Cynthia Moore, original member of James Brown’s backup singers, The Bittersweet
“Wood balances his admiration and admonition for James Brown, and presents it in a factual way. And it's a great peek behind the curtain of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business who, it seems also had the Hardest Working Band in Show Business.” — Houston Press / Voice Media Group
“Wood and Carson smoothly explain the intricacies of being a guitarist, detailing but never dwelling on minutiae such as Brown's hand signals or tuning on the fly. Readers will come away with a deep respect for the skill and resilience needed to be a professional touring musician, especially one traveling and playing with a mercurial star.” — PublishersWeekly.com
“An absorbing inside look at the not always glamorous life of working for one of the most famous and unpredictable bosses in popular music.” — Booklist Online
“Probably the most intimate account ever published of life in James Brown's orbit — particularly in his latter years; an affectionate, gritty and often very funny account of life on the road with a complex music genius and the phenomenal band of musicians who accompanied him. Damon's rare insight into the distinctly un-glamorous reality of the music industry is a must-read for music fans — and especially wannabe musicians — everywhere.” — Charles Thomson, investigative reporter, feature writer, contributor to MOJO
“A fascinating tribute to one of the last century’s most influential artists that’s also an inside peek into disappearing show biz traditions . . . [James Brown’s] musical legacy is well known, but his unlimited energy and commitment to entertain audiences in his latter years is almost beyond belief.” — Alan Leeds, Grammy-winning writer and former James Brown tour manager
“Wood's writing has the ability to put readers right next to him in the cram-packed, 20-year-old Greyhound Eagle bus that the band traveled thousands of miles in . . . But probably the most effective is Wood's ability to describe the mixed emotions of working for a demanding and sometimes irrational boss like Brown.” —Metro Spirit
“An insider's account that will delight both Brown fans and those interested in what it's like working from such a dedicated showman. Kudos to Wood for delivering the inside scoop on a demanding performer with exacting standards who brought it, every night.” — Library Journal
“This is a musician's tale, albeit one working within what was essentially a corporation by the time he joined, and Damon has written an essential backstory to one of the greatest live shows on Earth. Warts and all.” — All Music Books