Alan Leeds worked as James Brown's tour manager from 1969 to 1974. Afterward, he went to work with Prince.
He managed himself -- his manager had died, and he choose not to replace him. He had no manager or agent taking 10 percent here and 10 percent there. We promoted about 75 percent of his shows. We would book the building, hire the local radio guys to front the show, order the printing of the tickets and posters, and set up radio ads. There were three of us, and we'd go into the cities in advance and babysit the promotions, be in the box office and babysit them.
It was a unique opportunity to learn every aspect of the business.
Brown was a guy who went by gut instinct. There was a saxophone player who auditioned with us, and he was going around telling everyone how great this kid was and how he was going to be another Maceo. The kid gets there and plays, James notices he has a med-alert bracelet on. And it could've been just something that said he was allergic to aspirin. But that was it to Brown. "We can't take him, he's going to get sick on us."
Prince hired me, I think, because James Brown was on my résumé: If I could deal with James Brown, I could deal with anybody. He just loves to play, and his sound checks are just an excuse to jam. When he would do sound checks, from 4 until 7 when the crowd was coming in, he had a couple of James Brown songs he loved to jam on: "Body Heat" and "Too Funky In Here." He could play and riff on those songs. If you were going to be in his band, you had to learn those two songs before you learned his songs.
I took Prince to see James perform. This was around the time of Purple Rain. And after the show, I told Prince I'd take him back to meet James and he stopped and looked at me and said, "Why?" And it wasn't because he was arrogant, it's just that he was shy.
Brown played his last gig Nov. 14 when he was honored by the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in London. Prince was also there being inducted and I hope they at least said hello to each other.
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