James Brown: Behind The Scenes Of A Legendary Career At UAA
Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images – James Brown
James Brown is unquestionably Universal Artist Attractions’ most venerable and historic client out of a slew of them. His first association was with founder Ben Bart, back when agents and manager duties sometimes overlapped. Ben’s son Jack eventually took over the role of agent for Brown before current UAA co-owner Jack Allen took the reins.
Ben Bart was working in New York City with The Ravens, a big group at the time, but took an intriguing call from a local promoter in Georgia about an 18-year-old performer named James Brown. “He went down and saw him and felt he had talent. He signed him to a booking agency contract and eventually became his manager,” Jack Bart tells Pollstar.
Brown became Allen’s introduction to Jack Bart when the fledging agent sold a JB date in Seattle and things got complicated. Allen worked with a onetime Famous Flame, and booked the show. But Allen recalls getting a call from Brown associate Al Sharpton.
“He says there’s a problem with the money,” Allen says. ‘Mr. Brown wants to talk to you.’ I told him I sold the show for a $5,000 deposit, $10,000 total. And [Brown] said, “Mr. Crawford said he was getting less money.” I told him I could show him the contracts and he says, ‘You want to be my manager? Here’s my number.’ I was barely 21. He said I’d be his new manager. I get a call from Jack Bart and he says, “I handle James Brown. I’m his agent.” So I met him for lunch. But it turned out I wouldn’t be a manager, I’d be an agent, and I gave up my living room desk in 1981 and join UAA.”
One didn’t simply manage James Brown. “But you have to manage the business. In the world of James Brown, you take care of the details. You handle immigration, you call the airlines, you do whatever he wants you to do,” Allen says.
“There are celebrities, there are rock stars, there are legends and James Brown was a legend. I’d get calls from the Rolling Stones or from Prince asking if James would open for them – saying they want to meet James Brown. People didn’t think he bled. Everybody wanted to meet James Brown. Kings wanted to meet him. James Brown walked down the street and traffic stopped.”