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Wed, 10.26.1938

Jabo Starks, “Beats” Master Drummer born

Jabo Starks

*Jabo Starks was born on this date in 1938.  He was a Black funk and blues drummer best known for playing with James Brown.

John Henry "Jabo" Starks was born in Jackson, Alabama, and fell in love with the drums after watching a marching band in a Mardi Gras parade in Alabama as a child.  He taught himself to play on an improvised drum kit made up of a bass and snare drum tied to a chair and cymbals on a stand, but never took formal drum lessons. 

Starks played with blues acts including John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, and Big Mama Thornton at the Harlem Duke Social Club in Prichard, Alabama, after graduating from high school in the mid-1950s.  Following a stint in Bobby Blue Bland's band starting in 1959 during which he performed on such hits as "That's the Way Love Is" and "I Pity the Fool."  Starks joined up with James Brown in 1965 and anchored the funk icon's band until the mid-1970s when he departed to play and record with B.B. King.  He played on many of Brown's biggest hits, either as the sole drummer or in tandem with Clyde Stubblefield, including "The Payback", "Sex Machine", "Super Bad", and "Talkin' Loud and Sayin' Nothing".

He also backed many of the artists produced or managed by Brown, most notably Lyn Collins, The J.B.'s, and Bobby Byrd.   Along with his colleague Stubblefield, Starks ranks as one of the most sampled drummers on contemporary hip hop and R&B recordings.

On December 22, 2007, Starks, Stubblefield, and Bootsy Collins performed in Covington, Kentucky for the first tribute concert remembering James Brown.   Starks lived in Mobile, Alabama, and performed in Grayton Beach, Florida. When not touring or recording, he performed five nights a week at the Piccolo Restaurant and Red Bar, a local restaurant.   John Henry "Jabo" Starks died on May 1, 2018, at his home in Mobile, Alabama, at the age of 79.

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