According to the latest issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, Madison’s own Clyde Stubblefield, well known as drummer and collaborator with the legendary James Brown, is the #6 drummer in the magazine’s list of “100 Greatest Drummers of All Time.”
Stubblefield, known as “The Funky Drummer,” has created some of the most-sampled beats in the history of modern music. His recordings with James Brown are considered to be some of the standard-bearers for funk drumming including the singles “Cold Sweat,” “I Got The Feelin’,” “There Was a Time,” “Say It Loud-I’m Black and I’m Proud,” “Ain’t It Funky Now,” and “Mother Popcorn.”
“A lot of people are excited about it. It’s a major honor. Rolling Stone Magazine is hugely reputable,” Joey B. Banks, who considers Stubblefield to be his good friend and mentor, tells Madison365. “That’s a huge list. It’s a great thing. Any time you can get that type of recognition in an international magazine, it brings a certain level of recognition to Clyde and it brings in new audiences.”
“But ‘#6’ seems low, to be honest with you. To me, he’s had such an incredible impact on American music, so #6 doesn’t seem like a high number,” Banks says.”I measure impact by asking: What if that person didn’t exist? Obviously, to me, he affected a genre of music. He brought funk to pop music starting with ‘Cold Sweat.’”
Banks is the founder and the director of the Black Star Drum Line, a youth performance group he started at the Boys and Girls Club in 2008 to give youth in the Madison community the opportunity to creatively express themselves through “percussive arts.” Banks and Stubblefield have a monthly show where they both play with the new Clyde Stubblefield All Stars at the High Noon Saloon which features some of the best musicians in the Midwest.
“Clyde brought funk to the mainstream and to the forefront of American music. So, if Clyde Stubblefield didn’t exist, that might have never happened and even James Brown as we know him today wouldn’t be the same,” Banks says. “We also have to talk about the hip-hop influence he had and the sampling of his work by hundreds of artists. How many of those artist might not have had those number one hits? The whole history of hip-hop would have been altered dramatically without the presence of Clyde.”
In awarding Stubblefield the #6 spot, Rolling Stone wrote:
“At the height of his band’s rhythmic revolutions, Brown’s percussion section was anchored by not one but two master drummers: the woefully underrated John “Jabo” Starks and Mr. Funky Drummer himself, Clyde Stubblefield. Starks began his career backing jazz and blues players, Stubblefield was an R&B man and, by coincidence, the two started with Brown’s band just weeks apart. Each brought a distinctive style that complemented the other. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson once told Rolling Stone that “Starks was the Beatles to Clyde’s Stones. A clean shuffle drummer to Clyde’s free-jazz left hand.” Together, their partnership would help shape some of Brown’s greatest songs, including “Cold Sweat,” “Superbad” and of course “Funky Drummer.” Their innovations would be felt again as they dictated the entire feel of hip-hop’s Golden Era.”
In coming up with their list, Rolling Stone said that they valued nuance and musicality over chops and flash, celebrating players who knew the value of aiding a great song more than hogging up a show with a silly solo.
“In the drumming community he is looked on as more impactful than #6,” Banks says. “Clyde has been ranked really high in drumming magazines — either number one or number two.”
In 2014, Stubblefield was named the second best drummer of all time by LA Weekly who wrote: “Stubblefield is one of the most sampled drummers in history, the man whose uncanny ability to deconstruct pop music’s simple 4/4 rhythms into a thousand different sly syncopations laid the foundation not only for funk, but for most of hip-hop, as well.”
Stubblefield’s rhythm pattern on James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” is among the world’s most-sampled musical segments.
“I think that in this point in his life, he just wants credit for what he’s done,” Banks says.”There are all these hip-hop artists making million off his beats. He just wants a credit on the song or album.”
Stubblefield’s drumsticks are enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Banks and other has been pushing to get Stubblefield in, too. He is one of the people behind a group called Coalition for the Recognition of Clyde Stubblefield. “There’s a push to get him in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame,” Banks says. “Clyde just doesn’t care about accolades. He just genuinely loves to play music. He’s too kind to a fault.”
Banks plays cards every Sunday with Stubblefield and says he’s doing well after dealing with a series of health-related problems. “Clyde’s doing well. He’s an old school cat,” Banks says. “He’s very humble. He’s super humble. He’s the most humble guy I know, almost to a fault. The Rolling Stone ranking was not even a big deal for him.”
Stubblefield was fresh off a Sunday performance at High Noon Saloon for BerniePalooza, a benefit for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign fund.
“We’re getting Clyde back to play more often. There were two years where Clyde didn’t play. He had the finger amputation and was in ICU a couple times this last summer,” Banks says. “He had pneumonia. But now he’s strong. The other day at Bernie-palooza he actually sang out the song while he was drumming. He doesn’t sing and play at the same time much anymore. Things are really going well for him right now.
“The Rolling Stone Magazine ranking is a nice honor for him,” Banks adds. “But in my book, he could very well be the greatest living drummer.”