Get On Up is the newly released film that follows the life of James Brown from his impoverished childhood to his superstardom as the Godfather of Soul.
The film only highlights some aspects of Brown’s life and overlooks many things that occurred in his life, along with people he knew –including one man in particular in Lebanon.
“We go back a long way,” said “Fantastic Fred” Anthony Burton, a radio DJ for 98.9 WANT FM in Lebanon. Burton began broadcasting while he was stationed in Korea after a program director noticed his unique voice.
Burton, who has been broadcasting for more than 30 years, said he first met Brown in the 1970s and a friendship quickly formed
“His road manager would notify all the [disk] jocks in the area that James was coming to town, and we’d all meet him after the show and go to his hotel suite to have parties and a good time,” Burton said.
Burton said Brown never showed signs of stress or personal issues while they partied together, something the film highlights about Brown’s life.
“It’s one thing I always liked about James, he would definitely give you a show. You were definitely entertained when you left the James Brown show because he was going to give you your money’s worth.”
Burton and Brown shared times unrelated to the love of music they shared. Burton said that one night Brown, Bobby Byrd–Brown’s career partner–and band spent a meal at his home. After the party ate two tubs of chicken, Burton’s wife bought another bucket and made a proclamation to Brown.
“I’m not buying anymore chicken, so don’t ask,” she said, according to Burton. “She told them they better fill up on that last one.”
The film showcases Brown’s dedicated drive for perfection. The drive sometimes bothered his band members and friends. Burton said that part of the film is completely accurate.
“He was definitely a person of perfection. If you were doing a show and you missed your note, you might as well pack your bags at the end. And you better have those capes ready, too.” Burton said. Brown was known for throwing his cape from his back as it appeared he had nothing left to give his audience, declaring that the show is not over.
Burton also said that Brown was much more than just a skilled musician and entertainer. He said Brown would travel the country during the Civil Rights Era and cool riot tensions in many major cities and would donate food and money to poor cities throughout the country.
“He put out ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’ to instill in the black youth that they had a place in the Civil Rights Movement in America.” Burton said.
Middle Tennessee, particularly Nashville, is known for its country music. However, it also holds a special place in the history of soul music.
“He was doing a show in Nashville and got the idea for a song,” said Burton. “So he told his boys ‘let’s go to the studio’ and he cut that song right after a show at the Municipal. That song was “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, one of Brown’s biggest records and title track to the film.
“Back then you had excellent musicians and now it’s all done from computer. There’s no lasting value. Here today, trash tomorrow. If you compare his music to today’s…his music is still lasting.”
“I miss him.” Burton said.
Tate Taylor directed “Get On Up” and the movie stars Chadwick Boseman as Brown. The film is rated PG-13.
“Fantastic Fred” Burton can still be heard on 98.9 FM on Saturday nights from 7:00 p.m. until midnight.