Two Madison events will honor Clyde ‘the Funky Drummer’ Stubblefield

Riff sampled by scores of artists
Two Madison events will honor Clyde ‘the Funky Drummer’ Stubblefield
Long-time Madison resident Clyde "The Funky Drummer" Stubblefield died Feb. 18 from kidney failure. He was 73.

Two events honoring music legend Clyde Stubblefield–a pillar of the Madison music community and a staple of hip-hop music for decades–will take place this Friday, February 24, and the following Monday, February 27. Stubblefield, 73, died on February 18 of kidney failure. He was 73.

Nicknamed “the Funky Drummer” for having played that oft-sampled riff in the 1969 James Brown song by the same name, Stubblefield “was one of the giants living in our midst,” said Rick Tvedt, co-founder of the Madison Area Music Association. Stubblefield, originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, called Madison his home for more than 40 years.

Although his beats have been sampled in more than a thousand songs–by everyone from Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and Prince, to George Michael and Madonna–Stubblefield never reaped financial rewards from their reuse. In interviews he said he would have at least appreciated getting credit, but he rarely expressed bitterness.

Rolling Stone Magazine gave Stubblefield some due by ranking him No. 6 on its list of the “100 greatest drummers of all time.”

“The world’s music community will remember him as a groundbreaking drummer,” Tvedt said. “We in Madison will remember him as one of us; a gentle spirit with a wit that was razor sharp and a life beat that will never cease. He was a father figure and mentor to many local artists as well as a bandmate and companion. He loved it here in Madison and it was our honor to love him back.”

Celebrations of his life and music, Feb. 24 & 27

That will be the sentiment and purpose of the event Friday at the Madison Concourse Grand Ball Room, from 5 to 8 p.m., with host Michael Feldman. For many years Stubblefield played in the band on Feldman’s locally produced and nationally syndicated public radio quiz show “Whad’Ya Know?”

On Monday night, Stubblefield’s music will take center stage at the High Noon Saloon with the Clyde Stubblefield All Stars, led by drummer and Stubblefield protege Joey B. Banks. The band will play the hits Stubblefield recorded with James Brown as well as some of the late percussionist’s own original music. Banks said several special guests are expected to join in.

The High Noon show will serve as a fundraiser to cover the funeral expenses and contribute to the Clyde Stubblefield Scholarship Fund. The all stars released a benefit CD in January, which will be available for purchase at the club Monday night. It is expected that the scholarship fund will continue to help local youth study music in college.

Two Madison events will honor Clyde ‘the Funky Drummer’ Stubblefield

S tubblefield’s reimagined country song on Madison Magazine CD

Stubblefield contributed a track to a CD produced by Madison Magazine in 2001, the sale of which supported a teen center in town. He sang “Walking the Floor Over You Blues” as guitarist John Brown played, without percussion. The original song (without “blues” in the title) was written and recorded by Ernest Tubb as an acoustic country music song, reaching No. 23 on the Billboard charts in 1941.

Click below to hear the song–one of the few to emphasize Stubblefield’s voice rather than his drumming.

Whether Stubblefield was backing a band at the innumerable gigs he played around town, recording his own music or the subject of sampling, he spoke through his music. The love Madison and the music industry has for that voice suggest he will be heard by many generations to come.

Joel Patenaude is associate editor of Madison Magazine.