Chicago soul singer Ty Stone has been impersonating his idol, James Brown since he was a child.
“When I was a kid I went and saw him in concert and it was an amazing and exciting show,” recalls Stone. “Whenever you’d see him in town it was like an army. The band was tight and organized and it was like going to a circus. It was very exciting and James would suck you in.”
|TY STONE AS “THE GODFATHER OF SOUL” JAMES BROWN (Photos by Rossano P. Stewart)
That excitement and reverence for the Godfather of Soul and his stage presence is why Stone decided to start doing “The Return of James Brown Tribute” show about five years ago.
“James Brown is an art form. Everyone is doing the Beetles and Elvis tribute shows but no one is doing James Brown. He is an icon. A lot of the young singers today are sampling his music and a lot of young kids have forgotten that. Someone needs to represent that.”
That need for representation is why promoter and fellow James Brown lover Don Patterson worked hard to bring Stone to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture July 9.
“I wanted people to see what a show was really like,” said Patterson. “Young people need to see this show because a show like this is lacking in today’s music. There’s a lot of talent, but its missing soul for me. Soul is an emotion.”
Stone definitely brought the soul, dancing and high-energy that James Brown was noted for to the August Wilson Center stage.
Complete with several costume changes, Stone sang a selection of Brown’s most popular hits including “Living In America,” “Sex Machine,” “I Feel Good,” “Super Bad” and “Try Me.”
Flanked by an awesome band complete with a funky four-piece horn section and James Brown’s go-go girls, Stone made audience members feel like they were experiencing one of Brown’s concerts from the 1960s.
“All of the tribute shows shouldn’t be Liza Minnelli and Elvis,” Patterson said. “There are African-Americans out there who deserve to have Tribute shows. This James Brown Tribute show is the real deal. Ty and his band doesn’t just look the part. They sound like it.”
“I wanted people to come out and have fun and a good time. I wanted to give them their money’s worth or more than their money’s worth,” Stone said.
He definitely met and surpassed that goal. Audience members were dancing in their seats, singing along with Stone and grooving with his band’s vibe.
“The James Brown Tribute Show” was funded partially by a grant from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield to increase community accessibility to the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.