Early one bright, crisp February Monday morning 2008 in a London Hotel in NW3, I met with living Funk’n’Jazz music legend Mr Fred Wesley, prior to his two day stint at London’s Jazz Café – his daughter, and now manager, Joya in close attendance. Playing alongside two Jazz Funk stalwarts, Maceo Parker and Alfred ‘PeeWee’ Ellis, Fred Wesley, born on Independence Day in 1943, was a key member of the original JB’s; writting some of James Brown’s most distinctive hits, including ‘Doing It to Death’ and ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess’ (a tune I related to big-time growing up) and he co-wrote many others with the ‘Godfather of Soul’ himself.
On sitting down in the hotel foyer, I noticed that Mr Wesley had a music case in his hand – his trombone. It transpired that he prefers to keep something so precious by his side at all times. No instrument, no gig – simple! This became a natural segue into my opening question.
The Dood: Where did your love of playing trombone arise from?
Fred Wesley: ‘The trombone came about as an accident. My father (Fred Sr. a band leader) needed a trombone in his band. He always saw me as a perfect utility player, the go-to-guy.
Any time he needed someone to sing a different part in the choir he’ll get me to sing it….He wanted me to march in the band, I played the symbols in the band, I played a little drums, anything he wanted me to do.’
‘So, he came home one day and I was studying trumpet and the piano at the time. Anyway, he came in and said ‘learn how to play this’ and he was carrying a trombone. He said if you learn how to play it I’ll let you play in the band. I said ‘me, play in the band?’ I was just twelve years old and I said cool! So I learned how to play the trombone, and it stuck all of these years. I played the trombone all through high school, college and in the army, with James Brown, Ike and Tina Turner….I can play the bass, the drums, I play a little piano, but the trombone is what I became famous on. I know how the saxophone sounds, but could never play on it, although I did take clarinet one year in college….But the trombone, I’ve come to love it. After all these years I’ve played it so much, I really love the instrument.
The Dood: Who were your main musical influences growing up… Eddie Harris, Clifford Brown?
Fred Wesley: Actually, Mack Johnson was my main influence, a trumpet player who played with Ike and Tina Turner. He played funk on the trumpet! He just had an attitude about playing trumpet that was attractive to me, so I kinda copied some of his licks. Yeah! he was my main influence, Mack Johnson. He’s a great trumpet player and he’s still living too. He’s an old man….but he still plays trumpet!
TD: You attended the University of Alabama and obtained an Associate Degree in music. Was this key to your musical growth and education?
FW: I didn’t get a full degree but I left there to join Ike and Tina Turner’s band (1962) and never did go back to finish. My main education came in the army. I was in the Military School of Music. This was between ’64 and ’67. I could already read music but I learned how to play in a band, in a concert band, in a big band and when I got out of the army I was professional musician. I had a band before at home and read the music that E B Coleman (His school band teacher and local big band leader) used to make his band sound good….but as to being a good, really professional musician, I became that after I left the army.
TD: This must have stood you in good stead once you where introduced to James Brown in 1967?
FW: Yeah, you know James first asked me if I could dance! (laughs). Yeah! I can dance I said. I could do that, I could read music, I could write music, so I was perfect for his band. And I had an open mind, that’s what really kept me with James Brown’s band, because he had some music that he wanted to do and I was the perfect guy to do it for him.
TD: Did you gain further band experience within the James Brown set up?
FW: That was good experience, but the main thing I got from James was creativity. You know he gave me the freedom to do whatever. He used to say “just do whatever and it will come out right, because when he put his funk to it he’d get to sweatin’ and huffin’ and puffin’ and screamin’ and hollerin’”, it made it right you know. So I did a lot of music that James Brown made stick in people’s minds because of the way he did it.
So James Brown was an opportunity to explore new avenues and new forms of music, because we actually created some music….’Doing It to Death’, ‘Papa Don’t Take no Mess’.
That was brand new music. I co-wrote some of it, but James was the inspiration for it, he was always the main creator, but I filled in the blanks for him.
TD: Was that also the case with Bobby Byrd?
FW: Bobby Byrd did some. I would say that all the guys in the band contributed to it Cheese; Jimmy Nolen… they all did their part but I was there orchestrating it and James Brown was there creating the music. We were creating ‘new’ music in the ’70’s that you had never heard before, but nowadays you’ve heard it before but it’s got a different face on it…But it was fun creating ‘new’ music.
TD: I appreciate you were in the moment back then, but were you aware you were changing music forever?
FW: I didn’t realise we were creating music that would last this long. I knew it was new but I didn’t realise it was as infectious as it was. When we did a tune like ‘Pass the Peas’, I thought that was just a silly song, we did it for fun, but that song has been going round for years. All those songs like ‘Breakin’ Bread’, ‘Gimme Some Mo’ and ‘Blow Your Head’, they were very silly at the time. I thought we were just cracking fun, and they’ve lasted all this time and they’re still popular today.
TD: You must be thankful for that?
FW: I’m really thankful for that, especially when I get the royalty cheques! (Fred chorkles contently).
TD: I hear ya…time for the big payback as James would say! Did it seem like work writing and arranging tunes in those days and putting a show together?
FW: When I’d be sittin’ in the room grinding out those arrangements that was work. But when you’re actually in the studio with the cats doing the arranging then that was fun. So it was fun-work. Even when you’re grindin’ it out that was fun too ‘cause you hit on something and you say ‘wow, that’s good!’ and you put it down. It’s like work, but it’s fun-work! It’s like a guy asked me when I left, ‘are you going to England for fun or for work?’. I told him it’s work, but it’ll be fun! (We all laugh broadly).
TD: Can you throw some light on the time you spent with the uniquely gifted George Clinton, Parliament Funk, Bootsy Collins et al? Clinton was famed for his outlandish costumes and colourful music which masked all manner of political statements. How was he up close and personal?
FW: He was a very creative person, like James Brown. He created new music out of old music, but the thing is he had a different slant on it. His top, the face he put on it was different to James Brown. James Brown was just trying to make funk elegant, with the bow ties and suits and everything….George Clinton tried to take it down a notch and make it psychedelic.
The music was kinda the same but he slowed it down and it was funkier and more electronic because he had got way-laid into the rock thing. He listened to the rock musicians and how they made it loud and the different sounds with the guitar. He took that and put horns on it, that’s old school you know, and it just created a new style of music. So I was with George to be with what was happening now. It was funky, but it was modern funk.
TD: How would you contrast your trombone playing style with George compared to your time with James Brown?
FW: I didn’t do a lot of band stuff as with James, but it was funky, and I guess you can say it was just laid-back. James did it kinda up and George did it laid-back!
TD: You were cool with both styles?
FW: Yep. That’s my good point. I can adjust to what’s happening.
TD: Following a productive stint with Bootsy’s Rubber Band, you changed up again joining Count Basie’s Big Band in 1981 after a recommendation from good friend trumpet player Waymon Reed (Married to Sarah Vaughn). The same man who introduced you to James Brown. No doubt you had to adjust again?
FW: I had been listening to Count Basie for years… because my father liked Count Basie. The way the band grooved. It was different but Waymon (Reed) knew I could handle the gig. I wasn’t sure, because I had gone from playing as loud as you can, as long as you can to Basie, which was a much lazier groove thing with more phrasing. You had to phrase differently and play dynamics. We’d play loud sometime and then soft sometime. I was kinda skeptical about that, but once I figured it out…I caught on. I was really loud at first but then it got to be a lot of fun…That band could play dynamics real good.
TD: After leaving Count Basie you seemed to take a time-out from live performances and touring. Your focus seemed to be on arranging and producing for numerous acts. Artists that benefited were SOS Band (Take Your Time’) debut album, Cameo (Skin I’m In), some seriously funky horns, Ray Charles, Vanessa Williams, Curtis Mayfield, The Meters, De La Soul, Whitney Houston, and many more. You were still busy!
FW: I was just telling Joya (his daughter) I didn’t hardly go out of town in the eighties. I just stayed around L.A and did arranging and sessions and stuff. I didn’t travel much in the eighties. I was in so many bands back in the eighties. I don’t even remember all of them.
TD: You also worked with a couple of ‘uk vibe’ favourites Terry Callier and Carmen Lundy?
FW: I never met him (Terry Callier). I did all those tracks on his album. Sunny Burke was the producer.
Joya Wesley: He (Callier) wrote ‘The Love We Have Stays on My Mind’ recorded by The Dells. A version is also on my dad’s ‘New Friends’ album. He (Dad) plays the prettiest solo I’ve ever heard. (Fred looks at Joya as if to say ‘that’s my girl!’)
FW: Oh and Carmen Lundy….she was on my jazz album, ‘New Friends’. I also remember one string arrangement I did on a Curtis Mayfield tune. It was absolutely brilliant! I can’t remember the name of the song, but I remember the string part when I hear it. Bunny Sigler was the producer.
TD: Back to your 70’s recordings with the JB’s. Can you give me some background as to how those classic tunes came to manifest. Tracks like the 1974 title cut ‘Damn Right I Am Somebody’.
FW: That was one of those James Brown Masterpieces. He would hum parts to me and then say now go here and now go there! That what he would tell me and the tune would go different ways…It was James Brown just freaking out, his mind was kind of ways. I was just writing this stuff down and I put together the arrangements. It was from his mind….People say he was crazy, but it was like a crazy genius. He would just put it out there and didn’t even remember it himself. He just did it one time and then turned his back on it and say do it! I had it written down on napkins and pieces of paper and then I would do the arrangement on it. And that’s what came out to be ‘Damn Right I Am Somebody’. Then he would come back and put words to it like ‘happiness to me is Fred Wesley blowin’ his horn!’ or quotes by Jesse Jackson…. Any crazy thing he suggested I would do it and it came out as a masterpiece. But the Band had to work for hours, sometime for days, because we had to remember all those things come show time. After that I had to go in the studio and put all these other little things on. It was a process, it was a serious process but we had fun doin’ it.
TD: In hindsight the attention to detail was well worth it?
FW: Bob Bogue, the engineer had to be in it too…This was in the days before sampling. We would take little cuts off of records. Sound effects tracks to be exact. We’d shout things out straight onto the tape like ‘the senator has been shot!’ and flip that in some way. It was before sampling so we had to fly these things into the track, actually cut things into the track.
TD: Can you tell me what these names mean to you: St Clair Pinckney, Jimmy Nolen?
FW: Those were some great people who have passed on. St Clair was a great saxophone player. He was with James before James I think (Big laughs all round). He was the most recognisable cat in the band with the grey streak in his hair….I got his last performance, it was on flute. He had emphysema so bad he couldn’t walk to the store, so I had to pick him up and carry him to the car…then I carried him to the studio.
He would get out of breath but would be able to play the flute though, and he played a tune I wrote called ‘Dynaflow’ He played the solo on that but he died a little while after. That was on the JB’s reunion album, an album we did for a Japanese company called ‘Bring the Funk on Down’. That was the 1990s. It was good memories. We nicknamed him the funky gentleman because he was so polite.
Jimmy Nolan was a good guitar player. He was very recognisable on all the guitar parts on James Brown’s records. He was a good cat too, we all loved him and we used to call him ‘Chink’ because of the way he played the guitar, ‘Chink, Chink, Chink!’, and he played guitar like nobody else. He’s from Oklahoma, he could play great cowboy guitar and he’s someone we all miss a lot too. We tell stories about him, he’s a legend.
TD: And Bobby Byrd?
FW: Bobby Byrd, he was another one who was with James before James I think. Before James Brown knew he was James Brown, he was with Bobby Byrd! He was singing with Bobby Byrd at first, then it turned around and Bobby Byrd was singing with him. But he was one of the original Famous Flames…He was a major part of the operation too.
TD: Tell me about the term ‘On the One?!’
FW: ‘On the One!’ shish! That’s something James Brown made up and it just caught on. Everyone knows what the one is. James Brown would always say ‘accent the One’, you know like ONE, two, three, four ONE, two, three, four! It’s not such a big thing but James made it such a big thing until everybody just gravitated to ‘On the One!’ It just something he made up to say he created ‘the One’. He didn’t create ‘the One!’ it was always there, he just accented it. And it does make it funky when you accent ‘the One’.
TD: You started out on your solo career with a strongly jazz infused set. Why?
FW: I always wanted to do jazz, jazz is my first love. Actually, my first venture into jazz was ‘To Someone’. That was an album my Brother produced and we did it in Denver with three great musicians, Joe Bonner played piano…Ken Walker played bass and the late Bruno Carr, one of the greatest drummers I’ve ever seen in my life. He played honest jazz…he also played with Ray Charles and Herbie Mann. He was on his own and he played Jazz and he was a great drummer. So I was lucky to have three great musicians in Denver at the time I was in Denver to make the album with me.
I led the quartet and it was a phenomenal album. It was the best album I’ve ever done…To me ‘To Someone’ is the best album I’ve ever done. I was in the best shape I’ve ever been on trombone.
TD: Like Muhammad Ali on the top of his game?
FW: I was at the top of my game. I will never play that way again, I would have to practice all day. You know that’s what I did in Denver, I just sat and practiced all day and half the night to get to that point you know.
TD: What about being the leader now as oppose to a sideman?
FW: I’ve never been comfortable being out front until just recently. Maceo (Parker) is the one that got me comfortable, because I used to watch Maceo all the time and how he did things. I could do things like Maceo did and that’s what I’d be thinking about when I’m out front and more and more I got comfortable with the audience, with myself and with the guys in the band. So I’m more comfortable now than I’ve ever been and Maceo I thank him a lot for that, because he’s always been good out front.
That’s one thing that has contributed to my playing, because if you’re comfortable on stage you play better. So I’m just comfortable on stage now, from watching Maceo, from watching James Brown, George Clinton but mainly Maceo, he was a real influence on me getting comfortable talking to an audience and being in front of an audience. I would always talk to people on the side but as for being centre stage, I have to thank Maceo.
TD: On the subject of Maceo Parker and Pee Wee Ellis, how did your different styles and soloing techniques work together?
FW: Everybody had his own thing that he was good at and we worked the three styles or the three strengths together and it came out good. That was the best band I have ever played in…individually the best band. The band with Larry Golden (bass), Rodney Jones (guitar) and Bill Stewart (drums) and Maceo, Pee Wee and myself (aka The JB Horns) that was one of the best bands I’ve ever played in, tight and creative.
We did one of Pee Wee’s tunes in the Jazz Café one night and it was perfect. We did ‘Inarticulate Speech of the Heart’, it was absolutely perfect (He chuckles warmly as he reminisces) and I lost the recording, I don’t know where it is. It was perfect, perfect, every note was perfect. Rodney, Larry everybody played perfect on it. So that band was good. Then things loosened up…Rodney left, we got a new guitar player, Larry left and we got a new bass player. So it continued to be a good band but it was never that good again.
Same way with Bootsy’s band, Bootsy’s Rubber Band was the tightest funk band I ever played in. It was a good funk band. But then one cat would leave and then Bootsy got sick and we were never ever to get that back together again…. We rehearsed a lot to. Bootsy’s Rubber band rehearsed a lot! So that band and the JB Horns first band were the two best bands I’ve ever played in….except this band!
TD: Hint taken. So who are the members of this current band The Fred Wesley Group?
FW: We have Bruce Cox on drums. He’s a dynamic drummer, he can play funk, he can play jazz. He’s an all around drummer….Dwayne Dolphin on bass. He’s an excellent bass player. He’s played with Winton Marsalis, Geri Allen and Stanley Turrentine. He’s got lots of credentials. He plays more funk than people know. He’s been with me for thirteen year’s. We’ve been together for a long time. He’s a super player. We have Peter Madsen on piano.
TD: I have a quote here from Peter Madsen, ‘…I myself ….have had the fortunate opportunity to have played with some of the greatest trombone players around, from Conrad Hedwig to Robin Eubanks, from Dave Taylor to Ku-uma Frank Lacy and from Ray Anderson to Steve Turret. But the one that has knocked me out the most is the incredible and versatile funky Fred Wesley….Fred is one of the greatest writers and arrangers of funk music on planet earth and from the very beginning he has been an integral part in defining the funk sound. His horn arrangements have been and still are the guiding light to other soul and funk horn sections.’
FW: When did he say that? I’m gonna have to give him a raise! (We all double up with laughter).
We’ve got Gary Winters on trumpet…who I met in Cincinnati when I was doing a session for Bootsy. He’s a great trumpet player. He can play anything, anywhere, for anybody. He can play high, low, all the stuff you know. Ernie fields plays saxophone. He’s my old friend…he play in the ‘Texas Terror’ style, but he’s contracted for American Idol…So he’s not here now, it’s a guy named Theodore Arthur also a tenor player I played with all my life. We grew up together. Reggie Ward is on guitar, but he shares duties with the SOS band, so he won’t be here. Anyway, we have another fine guitar player Joel Johnson from South Carolina, he lived around the corner from me but now he’s down in Florida and we got him here to do this gig.
TD: How do you source the members of your band?
FW: First they have to be a good player! They’ve all been here before and know something about my music, and they have to like me and I have to like them. It one cat can’t make it we’ve got someone to replace him. When Ernie can’t make it Theodore makes it, when Reggie can’t make it Joel makes it. So it all sounds the same all the time.
TD: So talk about the set you’ll be playing at the jazz Cafe. Will you mix it up?
FW: We’ll do some of my tunes in the beginning. We’ll do ‘Spain’ Yeah! I’ll give you the whole set. We’ll do ‘No One’ a tune off the ‘Amalgamation’ album…Then we’re gonna do ‘In Love in L.A’. That’s a tune off the ‘Comme Ci, Comme Ca’ album. Then we’ll do a whole medley of tunes from the J.Bs. We’ll do ‘Breakin’ Bread’, ‘Pass the Peas’, ‘Gimme Some More’…’Doin’ it to Death’. We’ll do a lot of the J.B’s songs. We’ll do ‘For the Elders’ which actually is a tribute to all the Jazz talent that died before like JJ Johnson. Actually, all of them ain’t dead!
TD: I want to know about your stamina. How can you blow those solos for so long?
FW: I’m gettin’ so tired now just thinking about the stamina. You know I don’t have it like I used to have it. I used to play all night long and then play another set.
TD: A man’s got to know his limitations?
FW: (Laughs agreeably). That’s right. A man’s got to know his limitations. I do a lot of talking, a lot of singing, to rest my lip you know.
TD: You mentioned singing. ‘House Party’ immediately comes to mind. Tell me about Fred Wesley the vocalist?
FW: I’m not a singer, I can’t sing but I can talk a good song. ‘House Party’ is like a talking song (He sings) ‘Bring your own bottle or whatever turns you on!’ and ‘Breakin’ Bread’ (He sings) ‘I went back home about a month ago…!’ You know just talkin’, sort of singing. I did one song on the ‘Wuda, Cuda, Shuda’ album called ‘I’m in love with ‘Ballad of Beulah Baptist’…and that went over real well. So I’m not a singer…singing is a special talent.
TD: Give me some feedback on Benny Golson’s ‘I Remember Clifford’, a tune you said you love to play and brings a tear to your eye?
FW: It does…Wears me out every time! Benny Golson writes the most beautiful songs, the most difficult songs to play, but the most beautiful at the same time. Benny Golson can make changes sound easy, but when you get into them, they’re actually very difficult.
TD: You’ve scored a number of movies over years. Doing the arrangement on ‘Slaughter’s Big Rip Off’ and ‘Black Ceasar’ most notably. Good Memories for you?
FW: Do you know the drummer (Leon) Ndugu Chancellor? When he was young, a young boy, he did part of ‘Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off’. It was Ndugu and Joe Sample (Keyboards)…Cat Anderson (trumpet), Smithy Young. These cats also did part of Black Caesar with me. If you’ve seen ‘Spiderman 3’, it’s my trombone…Joe Sample, Ndugu and Smithy Young. Chuck Rainy played bass on there. Cat Anderson and Deny Powell are on there. Listen to it, I’m on there with all those cats….I don’t know why they didn’t put the track we did on the soundtrack, I would’ve been a rich man by now! But it’s in the movie though. ‘People Get Up and Drive Your Funky Soul’ that was the name of the track.
TD: Which musicians/artists do you listen to today?
FW: Mmmm! Who have I heard that I like….ME!! (Massive Belly Laughs by All) I listen to Count Basie, Aretha Franklin, I got some Isley Brothers – Ron Isley and Burt Bacharach….I listen to Troy Andrews…he’s a great trombone player. If you ask me who I like from all time, I’ll have to say Cannonball Adderley. He’s one of my all time favourite musicians. And I like the singers like Ray Charles and his band.
TD: What is it about Cannonball that stirs you?
FW: Oh! Cannonball could just learn a tune and just fly through it. He was just an amazing musician…..Cannonball just made it easy, he just flew through the music. Like on those Miles Davis albums, I’d listen to Miles and say ‘man hurry up and get through playin’ so I can hear Cannonball! And ‘The Trane’, you know Coltrane, I wanted to hear them. But I would really have to think about that question ‘who do I like today?’ Everybody sounds alike today. I really can’t think of anybody that’s on the charts today that I like. I’ll think about it and call you up!
TD: Cool. As you are no doubt aware, you alongside James Brown and George Clinton are the most sampled artist in history. What are your views on sampling, aside from the royalties of course? Do you think it educates the masses to explore further the classic musicians of yesteryear?
FW: I like sampling for that reason. But I still wish the people of today would do something original!! (Slaps his chair on every word to emphasize his frustration), would do original music. It seems like music stopped back in the ‘70s and started going in a circle. Round and round. I would like to hear something new!
Even I do the same thing over and over again. If you hear a solo I did over here and then you hear another solo, it’s the same thing. So even I had just stopped going forward and was moving in a circle. If I do something slow, it sounds like me playing slow, if I do something fast, it sounds like me playing fast. I just think music STOPPED!
TD: What about Prince and his musicians. Some say his style is Clintonesque?
FW: I do like Prince. You know what I saw him in Atlanta and he put on a good show. He did forty-five minutes by his self on guitar. I guess you can say prince is one of the artists that I like today….Although he did use that fake trombone in the show. I told him he could have called me!
TD: Joya, what was it was like growing up as a child around this time, with your Dad away so much on tour. Schooling etc?
Joya: We were home. My mother was a school teacher…so we had a pretty stable family life/home life while he was doing his thing. But it was very exciting that he was doing that thing and that people knew about it. I remember hearing ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess’ on the radio going to elementary school. We were beside ourselves. We were so excited, thinking ‘that’s our Dad!!’… And our world was bigger than that of our peers because my Dad was in Europe sometime, he was playing with George Clinton and doing wild stuff. We had this wild kind of frame of reference that other kids didn’t have.
TD: So it broadened your mind?
Joya: Definitely, definitely! And I was always so proud because people did recognise him as the greatest…He is the greatest in terms of creating this brand of funk and taking it to another level and keeping it live, keeping it fresh, keeping it real. To see people today, even now at concerts experience him and experience his music is really exciting too.
TD: Do you play any Instruments yourself?
Joya: No, I like to consider myself a connoisseur. I don’t play anything.
TD: Any siblings back home in the music industry?
Fred Wesley: Actually, there are two boys. One is into hip-hop. The other one is a band master. He’s a trombone player but he teaches band. Frederick III is the hip-hip son and Victor is the band master. He’s just finished school. He went to University in South Carolina and now he’s an assistant band master. He’s a brass teacher and gonna get his masters started in September.
TD: Do you still teach now?
FW: I don’t really teach now. I do clinics. I’m going to Berkley the end of the month and I’ll be at Columbia University and Chicago in April. I’ll be in El Paso. I’m going there to do some work with the kids.
TD: What’s the format of these clinics?
FW: The first thing I do is a James Brown clinic. That’s what I’m gonna do at Berkley. I just let them see me play and explain how I play and the instrument that I play and what it’s about. Just generally share my experience with them.
TD: Any future plans to record more material with Pee Wee (Ellis) and Maceo (Parker)?
FW: Actually, I do a lot of gigs with Pee Wee. I played with him at Ronnie Scott’s and we’re planning some dates in Cully, Switzerland, a festival (Jazz) in Switzerland. We did Japan last year with Maceo and Pee Wee too. The three of us were back together and we may do something like that again…Pee Wee is playing better than ever. He’s a great saxophone player. I like to play with him. I like to play with Maceo, but just for a limited amount of time. We keep our own bands but we work together sometime. I also have a new album coming out. It will be out in Japan. It’s called ‘Funk for Your Ass’.
TD: Anybody of note on there?
FW: Well, (John) Jabo, pronounced Jabbo (Starks) and Clyde (Stubblefield) and my band Bruce Cox, Dwayne Dolphin and Reggie Ward. It’s coming out soon, maybe March. It’s a Japanese release but it’ll be all over soon.
TD: What do you think about the ‘You Tube’ generation?
FW: Phew! Everybody hears too much of everybody else…That’s why music has stopped, because everybody hears everybody. You know it should be a surprise when you hear somebody….I’m just severely old school…I just create what I create. I can get an idea for a song and do a song and it just goes on. I’m just severely old school and I’m just gonna stay like this FOREVER!
TD: What would you like as your epitaph? To be remembered for?
FW: I would like people to say that I was honest. I was honest about myself and I was honest about the music. I do try to be honest about how I feel…That’s why I wrote the book (Hit Me Fred: Recollections of a Sideman), so people would stop wondering how I feel and KNOW how I feel! Regarding the music, I say what I’m good at and I say what I’m not good at. What I’m good at I’ll do one hundred percent and what I’m not good at I’ll try to learn. That’s all you can say about me right now…. You can’t say one day that I was the greatest nothing but I was someone who was in there you know.
Joya Wesley: You’re the greatest Dad!!
FW: Now that’s what I want to be!
For Further Information on Fred Wesley:
Essential Reading: Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman
Publisher: Duke University Press (30 Jun 2005)
ISBN: 0822335484 or
Available from Amazon
Essential Albums: A Blow for me, A Toot for You (1977)
To Someone (1988)
New Friends (1990)
Comme Ci Comme Ca (1991)
Full Circle: from Be Bop to Hip Hop (1999)
Funk for Your Ass (May 2008)