Singer, pianist and songwriter Bobby Byrd, who is credited with discovering James Brown in the 1950's and consequently was one of the Godfather of Soul's main collaborators for twenty years, died September 12th of lung cancer at his home in Georgia. He was 73 years of age.
Byrd, who many may know from shouting that famous refrain "Get on Up" on the James Brown hit "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine," also co-wrote that song. He is additionally credited with co-writing several other James Brown hits that included "Talkin Loud and Sayin' Nothin," "Get Up, Get into It and Get Involved," and "Licking Stick." And at James Brown's funeral late last year he sang "Sex Machine" and "I Know You Got Soul." In fact, it was an ugly dispute over the the authorship credits of this latter song (1971 hit single) that led to the parting of ways between the two artists.
How Byrd originally met Brown in the early 1950's is a pretty interesting story in and of itself. Reportedly Byrd's religious and ever-charitable family helped secure Brown's early release from a juvenile detention facility in Georgia. This was after Byrd, as part of an outside visiting baseball team, met Brown behind the detention walls. The two young men first bonded over baseball and then later music. After Juvenile Hall Bobby Byrd's family providied a home for the young James Brown. While there James joined Bobby's gospel group, the Gospel Starlighters, which soon after became more of a secular/RnB group and called themselves the Famous Flames. By this stage Brown's superior talents were obvious and he became the group leader and later a huge star. However Bobby Byrd stuck with him as part of that group and later the JBs for a total of twenty years, including such performances as the famous Live at the Apollo recording.
After leaving the JBs Byrd spent the last three decades touring and recording as a solo act but never came close to the fame he experienced as a member of James Brown's group.