Hit Me, Fred

Recollections of a Sideman

Hit Me, Fred

Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 57 b&w photos Published: September 2002

Author: Fred Wesley

Contributor: Rickey Vincent

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, General Interest > Biography, Letters, Memoirs, Music > Popular Music

With Hit Me, Fred, sensational sideman Fred Wesley Jr. moves front and center to tell his life story. A legendary funk, soul, and jazz musician, Wesley is best known for his work in the late sixties and early seventies with James Brown and as the leader of Brown’s band, Fred Wesley and the JB’s. Having been the band’s music director, arranger, trombone player, and frequent composer, Wesley is one of the original architects of funk music. He describes what it was like working for the Godfather of Soul, revealing the struggle and sometimes stringent discipline behind Brown’s tight, raucous tunes. After leaving Brown and the JB’s, Wesley arranged the horn sections for Parliament, Funkadelic, and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and led Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns. Adding his signature horn arrangements to the P-Funk mix, Wesley made funk music even funkier.
Wesley’s distinctive sound reverberates through rap and hip-hop music today. In Hit Me, Fred, he recalls the many musicians whose influence he absorbed, beginning with his grandmother and father—both music teachers—and including mentors in his southern Alabama hometown and members of the Army band. In addition to the skills he developed working with James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and the many talented musicians in their milieu, Wesley describes the evolution of his trombone playing through stints with the Ike and Tina Turner Revue, Hank Ballard, and Count Basie’s band. He also recounts his education in the music business, particularly through his work in Los Angeles recording sessions.
Wesley is a virtuoso storyteller, whether he's describing the electric rush of performances when the whole band is in the groove, the difficulties of trying to make a living as a rhythm and blues musician, or the frustrations often felt by sidemen. Hit Me, Fred is Wesley’s story of music-making in all its grit and glory.


“As passionately crafted as one of his solos, Hit Me, Fred becomes a shout-out to all sidemen who play their hearts out--just outside the spotlight. As a musician, Wesley could always capture the feverish moment. Now, as a storyteller, he has revealed yet another way to take us higher.” — Boston Globe

“A remarkable autobiography. . . . This candid and hilarious account of working alongside James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, and on his own, should solidify [Wesley’s] reputation as much as the music he created.” — DownBeat

"In his autobiography Hit Me, Fred, Mr. Wesley talks about dancing around the continent-size ego of James Brown. He juxtaposes the courtliness of the South against the hardscrabble desperation of poverty, mentioning the hideous conditions that created Brown though understanding that nothing could explain his boss’s monstrous behavior." — Elvis Mitchell, New York Times

"[Fred Wesley is] one of the most influential instrumentalist/composer/arrangers in the annals of R&B, soul-jazz, and hip-hop . . . [and] one of the most sampled musicians in the world today." — Timothy White, Billboard

"[T]he book reads easily—it sounds like Fred's telling you all this over a plate of rice 'n' ribs. . . . When James [Brown] and George [Clinton] are long gone, the music they brought to life between 1967 and 1977 will still be tearing the roof off the sucker—and Fred Wesley was an indispensable part of that revolution." — Dan Warburton, Signal to Noise

Hit Me, Fred is very enjoyable and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it.” — Freddy Cole

“A MUST read for musicians and people who want to know the truth about being on the road. Fred Wesley is hands down one of the greatest.” — Christian McBride

“A soulful memoir abundant with all the warm humor, joyous passion, and insightful irony that flavors his music. Fred Wesley is funk’s first-string quarterback and an American treasure.” — Alan Leeds, talent manager and Grammy-winning music historian

“This book is straight up! Fred Wesley, he’ll tell you like it is, even if your feelings get hurt, but coming from Fred, for some reason it makes you wanna do better. The book is the bomb!!! Stories are stories but this is real life. Write on, Fred.” — Bootsy Collins

“Very informative reading! I’m glad and lucky to be part of this legacy. We took it to the bridge. Fred, thanks for the memories.” — Maceo Parker


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Fred Wesley Jr. is an accomplished trombonist renowned for his contributions to funk and jazz music over the past several decades. Working for James Brown from 1968–75, he was instrumental in the production of such milestone recordings as The Payback; Doing It to Death; Get on the Good Foot; and Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud, as well as the scoring of the soundtracks to Black Caesar and Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off. In the 1990s Wesley toured extensively with Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker, before forming his own band. Wesley continues to tour and play music. He also writes, lectures, and conducts workshops on jazz and funk music. Wesley lives in South Carolina.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Foreword xi

1. A Musical Upbringing 1

2. Higher Education 31

3. Uncle Sam's Army 55

4. James Brown 84

5. California 115

6. James Brown Again 132

7. Bootsy's Rubber Band and Parliament/Funkadelic 190

8. Count Basie 211

9. Hollywood, Hollywood 228

10. Mile High in Denver 263

11. JB Horns 285

12. Star Time 301

Selected Discography 313

Index 317
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3548-1 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2909-1
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