If James Brown was “the hardest working man in show business” his longtime tour manager Alan Leeds may be (by is own admission) “the luckiest man alive.” Although his client list is best described as short and sick, each name on the list (James Brown. Prince.D’Angelo. Maxwell.) has cast a super-humanly long shadow on the evolution of American music. Though music obsessive may very well agree with Mr. Leeds’ self-assessment, there is no doubt that he attracted talent less through luck than by being the best in the business–as well as his undeniable love for and knowledge of the music.
That knowledge, his proximity to the iconoclastic Godfather of Soul and his self-appointed status as JB’s archivist have conspired to place him as the key resource for any definitive work on the singer and his era up to and including the Hollywood biopic Get On Up starring Chadwick Boseman (which hit theaters earlier this year) and Alex Gibney‘s documentary take Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown (which makes it’s TV debut tonight at 9pm EST on HBO).
Leeds was a consultant on both films, the fount of authenticity from which screenwriters and documentarians alike had to draw in order to produce a credible screed on James. Okayplayer had the chance to speak with Leeds via his home in Minneapolis, detailing his contribution, the comparative strengths and weaknesses of the two projects and a (brand new) grab-bag of other revelations, from Prince’s favorite James Brown sides, right down to how to keep your gold lamé jumpsuit looking crispy while you’re on the road 5 nights a week, 51 weeks a year. Without further ado, we are proud to present The Okayplayer Interview with the legendary Alan Leeds. Or to address the music-nerds among us: are y’all ready for star-time?