Sonny Knight and the Lakers team up with James Brown's band members Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley

Sonny Knight and the Lakers, along with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley — members of James Brown's legendary band — perform live in the studio of 89.3 The Current. (MPR/Nate Ryan)
Listen:
Sonny Knight and the Lakers with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley - This Is A Man’s World (live on 89.3 The Current
| 05:37
  • Sonny Knight and the Lakers with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley - This Is A Man’s World (live on 89.3 The Current 05:37
  • Sonny Knight and the Lakers with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley - Try Me (live on 89.3 The Current 03:23
  • Sonny Knight and The Lakers with Fred Wesley and John Jabo Starks perform in The Current studio (full session + interview) 27:42
  • Sonny Knight and the Lakers with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley - There Was a Time (live on 89.3 The Current 07:32

It's nice when a surprise phone call brings good news. When Eric Foss of Sonny Knight and the Lakers was on his way to work one day, the band's booking agent, Jack Randall, phoned Eric with an idea. Randall suggested Sonny Knight and the Lakers collaborate on some shows with John "Jabo" Starks and Fred Wesley, the drummer and trombone player, respectively, from James Brown's band.

"[John Randall has] got a lot of experience bringing people together, especially from a certain genre or a certain era," Foss says. "I said, 'Let's try and make it happen' … and here we are."

Ahead of two shows they'll play on Monday, Jan. 4, at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis, Sonny Knight and the Lakers, along with Jabo Starks and Fred Wesley, stopped at The Current to perform a set of James Brown songs and to chat with Bill DeVille.

Wesley and Starks are impressed with Sonny Knight and the Lakers. "They really understand the music and they relish the music, they do it real good," Wesley says. "I'm just happy to play with them."

Knight certainly relishes the opportunity to perform Brown's music. "James Brown has always been an inspiration to me," he says. "This music means everything to me, it's like where it's all at. It's the funk, it's the blues, it's a little bit of the gospel, it's a little bit of everything that all comes together. And these guys lay down the funk so well, it just makes it right."

Asked to define funk, Starks says, "You can sit down and start patting your feet and shaking your butt and getting into it, making all your funny little moves — that's funk!"

In the course of the interview, Starks and Wesley reflected on their time working with the legendary James Brown. Wesley recalls Brown as "a benevolent person" who taught him an important lesson about the music business. "He told me, 'I'll give you the publishing on this song, or I'll pay you $125.' I told him I'd take the $125 — I was very young and green, I didn't understand what publishing was," Wesley recalls. "[Brown] said, 'I'm going to give you both: The money I'll give you now will take care of you for a day, the publishing I'll give you will take care of you for the rest of your life, and your family.' And it's been true. He was a very good person about doing things like that."

Starks had similar praise for Brown's business acumen, saying to this day, he still receives royalty checks for the work he did with Brown.

Ultimately, however, it's the music that matters most. "I just have fun playing music, period," Starks says.

Listen to the complete interview and all of the songs by clicking the audio player above.

Songs Performed


"This Is A Man's World"
"There Was a Time"
"Try Me"

Personnel


Sonny Knight
The Lakers: Sam Harvey-Carlson (organ), Cole Pulice (saxophone), Riley Helgeson (trumpet), Tony Beaderstadt (trombone), Blair Krivanek (guitar), Nick Salisbury (bass), Eric Foss (guitar)
Jabo Starks, drums
Fred Wesley, trombone

Hosted by Bill DeVille
Produced by Derrick Stevens
Engineered by Michael DeMark, Erik Stromstad and Sasha Druva
Photo and video by Nate Ryan and Leah Garaas
Web feature by Luke Taylor

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14 Photos

  • Drummer John "Jabo" Starks in studio at The Current.
    Drummer John "Jabo" Starks in studio at The Current. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • John "Jabo" Starks performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers at The Current.
    John "Jabo" Starks performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers at The Current. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • John "Jabo" Starks plays drums at The Current.
    John "Jabo" Starks plays drums at The Current. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Drummer Jabo Starks at The Current
    Drummer Jabo Starks at The Current (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Fred Wesley performs in The Current studio
    Fred Wesley performs in The Current studio (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Trombonist Tony Beaderstadt of Sonny Knight's band, the Lakers.
    Trombonist Tony Beaderstadt of Sonny Knight's band, the Lakers. (MPR photo/Luke Taylor)
  • Lakers guitarist Blair Krivanek at The Current.
    Lakers guitarist Blair Krivanek at The Current. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Fred Wesley and the Lakers' horn section warm up in The Current studio.
    Fred Wesley and the Lakers' horn section warm up in The Current studio. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Fred Wesley sound-checks in the Forum at MPR ahead of an in-studio session on The Current.
    Fred Wesley sound-checks in the Forum at MPR ahead of an in-studio session on The Current. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Jabo Starks in a moment of repose at The Current
    Jabo Starks in a moment of repose at The Current (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Jabo Starks performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers
    Jabo Starks performs with Sonny Knight and the Lakers (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Sonny Knight and the Lakers perform at The Current
    Sonny Knight and the Lakers perform at The Current (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • Sonny Knight performs at The Current
    Sonny Knight performs at The Current (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)
  • L to R: The Current's Michael DeMark, Jabo Starks, The Current's Bill DeVille, Sonny Knight, The Current's Derrick Stevens, and Jabo Starks.
    L to R: The Current's Michael DeMark, Jabo Starks, The Current's Bill DeVille, Sonny Knight, The Current's Derrick Stevens, and Jabo Starks. (MPR photo/Nate Ryan)

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