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From the Inside Out

Pucho Brown: 'Soul Brother' Number One

By Published: October 12, 2004

AAJ: You're also credited with working with King Curtis. Any of that ever make it onto record?

HPB: I recorded with him on "Pata Pata," that was for Atlantic Records. I recorded with him on some other stuff...I did two recordings with King. I was like his second band. When we played dances, back in the '60s, and he needed another band, he used to always hire me as his second band. So me and him were pretty tight. I think it was for Atlantic Records.

AAJ: You also did sessions with Gene Ammons?

HPB: I did one session with Gene on Prestige, when he came back on the scene. That was on Nat King Cole's tune, it was a calypso song (starts to sing a melody)...I forgot the name of it, but I got the album upstairs somewhere. (Ed. Note: "Calypso Blues" from Ammons' album "Night Lights.")

AAJ: You also have credits with Roberta Flack and George Benson?

HPB: George Benson, I did a couple of CDs with, yeah. We were always on sessions together, when he was with Jimmy Boyd as his manager, there was a flock of people who were in his stable. They used to always record, and I was one of the guys, like Lonnie Smith the organ player, he was part of the stable, George Benson, a couple of other cats there.

Rip a Dip

Roberta Flack, I did a recording for a commercial with her, an Eastern Airlines commercial. I just put that down in my credits, I never actually recorded with her, just did that one recording for an Eastern Airlines commercial.

AAJ: What do you enjoy the most about playing percussion?

HPB: I don't know, I just?I guess the timbales was...seeing Tito Puente in my earlier days and, you know, I liked to be somewhat like him. Not like him, but, you know, he was my idol.

AAJ: What's the funniest or most exciting thing that you ever witnessed while you were on the road with a band? At The Hideout, for example?

HPB: The funniest thing that ever happened in the Hideout? When a cat came in and shot the goddamn place up. And people scrambling to get out of there. Now there was a lot of funny tales. And me and my man from a club up in New York City he owns now called Perks, me and him dived behind cars in the street. That's the kind of joint The Hideout was. It was a fabulous place but there was a lot of shootin' in it. A lot of funny things happening in there.

I got another story! I was on a train coming from Leeds over in England and there were a lot of people over there - like they got guns over here in America, they got knives over there in England. So we're pulling out on the train and we're pulling out and we're pulling out, and the train stops. So when the train stops, a policeman gets on the train, right, he's walking through the car. And he says, "Is anybody around here holding a knife?" They thought somebody had a knife on the train. And I'm the only black sitting on the train and he looks at me. So I hollered out, "Look at that - I'm the only black sitting here and he's looking at me!" And all the English are very reserved, and they all bust out laughing. I made everybody laugh on the train.

AAJ: Would you be okay with it if one of your grandchildren came to you and said they wanted to be a professional musician?

HPB: Yeah, if they could play. You would hear some kind of indication that they can play. That something. They could do a beat or something, and you could know if they got it or if they ain't got it. None of my kids had it, so I never pushed them.

AAJ: What is the biggest difference between the time you started as a professional musician to the time that young person might be starting today?

HPB: The gatekeepers. The guys who let you in, or who don't let you in. Today there's no respect in the business. You call people, they don't return your calls. They call you when they need you. They don't pay you no money. When I say "don't pay you no money," you get paid when you're working but then?it's not like years ago.

You used to do good years ago, you don't do good today. There's so many musicians out here today, the union ain't shit, there's guys that's working today for peanuts. When I say "peanuts," I mean they got people working for thirty-five dollars. You're talking about a professional musician. And there's so many musicians and everybody can't work, so that's why it's a cutthroat business. I've even heard that there's places where you've got to pay the club owners to do a jam session. Which is ridiculous. In my day, it was never like that.

I don't know?today, the music scene is, you should excuse me for saying, fucked up. The only cats who are making money in the music business - I'm saying in New York City - are on Broadway shows, the opera cats, and that's about it. A couple of guys, I guess they've got top of the line gigs, trio gigs or single gigs in swank hotels and whatnot. Then when the stars come in town, that's all the jazz clubs hire are stars. The Blue Note, Birdland, the Vanguard, they hire stars. All of the other cats that are playing, they don't get no work.

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