Clyde Stubblefield dies at 73

The drummer’s work with James Brown provided a foundation for hip-hop.


Stubblefield in 2005. Photo by mtphrames on Flickr.

Stubblefield in 2005. Photo by mtphrames on Flickr.

Tributes began pouring in Saturday afternoon as news emerged that Clyde Stubblefield had died at age 73 of kidney failure. The longtime Madison resident first made his name drumming in James Brown’s band, playing breaks that would become among the most sampled in hip-hop and without which that genre’s origins would simply not have been the same.

Madisonians often encountered Stubblefield through his long-running Funky Mondays residency, which took place over the years at O’Cayz Corral, the King Club, and The Frequency. He took a break from it for several years, but revived it in late 2015 as a monthly gig at the High Noon Saloon. Stubblefield and his band just recently celebrated the release of a new live CD. My favorite Stubblefield memory is seeing him play with DJ Kool Herc in 2007 at the Terrace.

One of Stubblefield’s most recent interviews was on the drumming podcast The Trap SetThe Trap Set. It’s definitely worth a listen.

As NPR’s Daoud Tyler-Ameen pointed out, “for most of his career, Stubblefield was better known in sound than in name.” Brown was notorious for shorting his musicians on credit and royalties, and Stubblefield struggled even decades later to get paid for the many songs on which he is sampled.

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