James Brown’s drum­mer, John "Jab'o" Starks, dies af­ter can­cer bout


BIRM­ING­HAM, Ala. (AP) - John “Jab'o” Starks, one of the drum­mers who gave funk singer James Brown his driv­ing beat, has died in his na­tive Alabama.

Starks died May 1 in Mo­bile days af­ter en­ter­ing hos­pice care for a bone mar­row disorder and can­cer, long­time man­ager Kathie Williams said Wed­nes­day. He was 79.

Starks played with Bobby “Blue'' Bland for years be­fore join­ing Brown. He and fel­low drum­mer Clyde Stub­ble­field were the back­bone of Brown's rhythm sec­tion in the late `60s and early `70s.

Rolling Stone magazine has ranked the Starks-Stub­ble­field com­bi­na­tion among the great­est drum­mers of all time.

Starks was born in Jack­son, lo­cated in ru­ral south­west Alabama, north of Mo­bile. He grew up lis­ten­ing to blues and gospel mu­sic and be­gan play­ing drums in his school band. Starks' nick­name “Jab'o” was given to him by an older brother in in­fancy, Williams said.

Starks and Stub­ble­field com­bined on some of Brown's best-known record­ings, and Starks per­formed on hits in­clud­ing “Sex Ma­chine'' and “Su­per Bad.'' While Starks came from a blues back­ground and Stub­ble­field was known more f or funk, the two meshed.

“You have to un­der­stand this: We're two dif­fer­ent drum­mers,'' Starks told Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio in an in­ter­view in 2015. ``Clyde plays the way that Clyde plays, which, no­body's gonna play like Clyde. I play like I play. We can play the same tune, but dif­fer­ent ways. We never played to­gether on James' shows, but when he wanted to hear some­thing dif­fer­ent from Clyde, he'd point to me.''

Af­ter gigs that in­cluded tour­ing with blues leg­end B.B. King, Starks re­united with Stub­ble­field two decades ago. The two toured for years as the “FunkMas­ters,'' Williams wrote in a trib­ute.

Stub­ble­field died last year.


John Jab’o Starks

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