Bobby Byrd / Aug 15, 1934 - Sept 12, 2007

Happy birthday to the man who James Brown owes his career to, Bobby Byrd. Byrd was JB's discoverer and longtime business partner, as well as a singer/composer of his own note.

Byrd came from a gospel music family in Georgia and sang and played piano & organ. He and his siblings would take secular jobs in South Carolina, unbeknownst to his elders, and they got to be known in the region. Professional by 1952 when he met Brown during a prison baseball game and the Byrd family helped get him paroled. Upon release, Brown immediately joined Byrd's band The Famous Flames as drummer.

After Brown moved to lead singer they signed to Federal/King in the mid-'50s. Byrd was co-composer on their first record, the hit "Please Please Please". They became one of the most successful young R&B groups in the country. The JB-financed concert Live At The Apollo was an inspired move. In '64 Byrd started cutting his own records (and in duo with Anna King). Brown and Byrd formed a production company called Fair Deal, which benefited both singers.

In '68 the Famous Flames broke up, but Bobby returned in 1970 when the JB band turned over into the Bootsy & Catfish Collins backing unit. At this point they started People Records and Byrd released his monster funk tune "I Know You Got Soul" (sampled famously by Eric B & Rakim, among others). And Lyn Collins' heavily-sampled funk smash "Think (About It") features Byrd on perhaps the most famous tambourine break of all time.

Byrd left the organization in '73, mostly due to uncredited composing and problems between Brown and Byrd's singer wife Vicki Anderson. They remained friends but JB's output clearly missed Byrd's assistance. Byrd pretty much laid low for a long time, recording an album in Germany in the '90s and making select appearances. Some financial assistance from Jay Z provided a needed boost for Byrd & Anderson in his last few years after decades of unpaid publishing.

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