James Brown was a Georgia guy, but he also spent a lot of time in Miami. It’s where he came to chill out, talk records with Henry Stone, and drink Cognac with his posse.
It’s also where he got to know a fella by the name of Steve Alaimo, who later became Vice President of TK Productions. Back in the 60s, he was still pursuing his solo music career when he got a call from his buddy Dick Clark to host a musical entertainment and variety show out in California.
Steve Alaimo’s “Where The Action Is” aired nationally 5 days a week to a rabid audience of teenage music fans with disposable incomes for buying records.
Steve had a deep love of rhythm and blues from gigging at clubs in Overtown, and generally coming of age around Henry Stone in Miami’s indie pop and r&b music scene.
So it’s no surprise that Alaimo, who had control of booking musical acts for the show, would give many great r&b artists their first national tv exposure.
Steve says, “I was very very close with the black community. When I did “Where The Action Is” in California, I brought all the black talent on the show. And that’s where some of the first exposure for Smokey Robinson, and Wilson Pickett came from. The Temptations and Diana Ross got on Ed Sullivan. But you ain’t gonna see Sam and Dave on there. You aint gonna see James Brown on there. James Brown told people till the day that he died that I was a big reason for his success, cause I put him on that show a bunch of times. And I also gave him a half hour special.”
It all started when Henry Stone says that he convinced James Brown to do it.
Henry remembers, “I said, James, you’re goin’ to California in about 2 weeks. You gotta call Steve cause Steve has got this show out there, and James sez “What does it pay, whats the scale, what does it pay?” I said, “It pays scale.”
He said, “Henry, you know I dont work for scale”
I sez, “James fuhgettaboutit man, it’s exposure, you’re gonna be in California would you do me a personal favor and go and see Steve and do it. ”
So he went out and did the show, and of course when he did that show it was also the first time that black kids got to see him. They had never seen James Brown cause he only worked the chitlin circuit and you had to be 18 or 21 to go into a black nightclub so the kids had never seen him. They might have heard a few songs through their parents but they never saw him do his whole act, and boy, after that, I could not get him off the show. He went California every two weeks to do that show yknow cause that show really busted James Brown wide open to the black and white kids. It’s one thing to hear him sing, but to see him perform it, forget it, he’s the greatest performer out there. Or one of the greatest. Ask Michael Jackson, he’ll tell ya. He copied his moonwalk from him.”
All text ©Jacob Katel and HenryStoneMusic USA Inc. All Rights Reserved