He Often Punished His Band

When James Brown sang “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” he meant it. As a band leader, James Brown didn’t take any crap from his musicians. “You gotta be on time,” JBs sax player Maceo Parker told NPR. “You gotta have your uniform. Your stuff's got to be intact. You gotta have the bow tie. You got to have it. You can't come up without the bow tie. You cannot come up without a cummerbund... [The] patent leather shoes we were wearing at the time gotta be greased. You just gotta have this stuff.”

During some of his shows, Brown danced in front of his band with his back to the audience while flashing hand signals to his crew. Those weren’t just dance moves, though. Those were signals to let his band know that someone had screwed up in some way—whether hitting an off note or wearing crummy shoes. And they’d have to pay a fine for that. That’s how the boss moves.