The late legendary Clyde Stubblefield is perhaps best known by his nickname “Funky Drummer” taken from a standout track of the same name in his six years with the well-known funk legend James Brown, known as “The Godfather of Soul.” However, Stubblefield could, and by all accounts, should be considered a legend in his own right for both his work with Brown and his influence in the world of drumming and beyond. That is the message Trevor Banks, a Madison native and filmmaker, hopes to iterate through a new documentary on Stubblefield titled “Give The Drummer Some: A Documentary About the Life and Influence of Clyde Stubblefield,” which will have a preview event at the Majestic Theatre in Madison on Sept. 24.
The event, which opens at 3 p.m., came to fruition from the efforts of Banks to connect his documentary work to the city that Stubblefield would call home for the rest of his years after working with James Brown. Banks’ own childhood in Madison saw an intimate connection with Stubblefield as his father Joey B. Banks is also a drummer in the city who was mentored by Stubblefield and became a close friend. After growing older and realizing the scope of Stubblefield’s impact and legacy, Banks came to the conclusion that Clyde’s was a story that should be immortalized in film, as well.
“Long story short, Clyde was just always in the orbit,” Banks told Madison365. “I recognized pretty early on that he was an influential figure. From a young age, I realized that, so as I grew up I think that realization of his influence on global music became more and more apparent. As I was starting to develop into an independent filmmaker, talks between my father and myself naturally evolved until [we said,] ‘there needs to be a film about Clyde, there needs to be a documentary.’”
Banks started the documentary process in 2015 and hit the ground running. Support from the Madison community especially went to aid in the ongoing production of the film as Banks did around 20 interviews to be sifted through and edited. Talking to other musicians who worked with James Brown and knew Stubblefield such as drummer John “Jabo” Starks, trombonist Fred Wesley, and bassist Fred Thomas, he paints a picture that extends beyond Banks’ own experiences with Stubblefield into the depth of his career as an artist.
“I think we all know him as the Funky Drummer, and the influence he had on Hip Hop, particularly,” said Banks in recognition of Hip Hop’s heavy sampling of Stubblefield’s drum breaks. “That’s just really one aspect of his influence. If you go back even further to the music that he actually played with Brown, Clyde was very pivotal to the evolution and the sound of Brown’s music itself. A lot of the stuff that you hear during Clyde’s tenure in the era that Clyde was there with James Brown was revolutionary. To me, that’s the stuff that really kind of changed the game, particularly rhythmically.”
From standout songs such as “I Got The Feelin’” and “Cold Sweat,” to deeper cuts such as “Mother Popcorn” and “Soul Pride,” Banks’ gave admiration and recognition to the syncopation and rhythm that Stubblefield provided to the James Brown songs that changed the musical landscape by putting soul and funk on the map.
Banks was particular in his goals for the film in that he hopes it highlights the importance of lineage in both musical and cultural history, especially in the case of Stubblefield.
“For me, my driving motivation has always been to create something that helps cement Clyde’s legacy as a musical innovator, and a musical pioneer in American music,” Banks said. “That’s first and foremost, the number-one motivation for me. Obviously, I have aspirations as a creative and an artist and a filmmaker. If this helps in any way with that, cool. If it becomes just what it is, and I’m able to help play a role in the longevity of Clyde’s legacy, or help perpetuate his legacy, then I think that’s going to serve its purpose. I can live with that.”
It would not be totally accurate to cast Stubblefield as a forgotten name or unrecognized talent, however. Banks was sure to call attention to the appreciation The Funky Drummer received from both the musical community and the Madison community, in particular, as he spent the latter half of his life continuing to play and inspire in the local scene.
The event at the Majestic will reflect that local appreciation through a Q&A hosted by Bianca Martin with City Cast Madison, a live performance by The Funkee JBeez, and a DJ set by DJ Nick Nice.
“Madison from the start embraced Clyde and loved him, and Clyde loved the community,” said Banks in closing. “He obviously came here and stayed here for a reason, and it was reciprocated. This event is very much intended to tap into that locality, and that community that loved Clyde, the community that Clyde loved. This film is an extension of that. This film in many ways is kind of a love letter to Madison at times. Madison played a big role in Clyde’s life, and I want to make sure that that chapter of Clyde’s life is presented in this film. I think we’re doing a good job of that.”
Tickets and more information for the preview screening and event at Majestic can be found on their website here.