As the drummer for James Brown's band, John "Jabo" Starks virtually invented funk drumming with his ridiculously syncopated grooves in Brown’s late ’60s and early ’70’s jams.
Born October 26, 1938, Starks started his career in jazz playing for blues singer Bobby Bland. It was on Bland’s big hits that Starks’ playing caught the ear of James Brown. Stark’s jazz sensibilities gave Brown’s the deep groove that is so recognizable in Brown’s sound.
Brown’s live shows at one point incorporated up to five drummers, but when Starks joined the band, only he and Clyde Stubblefield were left, sometimes sharing duty on the stage or switching on and off according to Browns whimsy.
Starks stint with Brown lasted from 1970–1975, and he recorded more charting singles than any other drummer in the singer's long career. His hard-grooving, but relaxed and dependable recording style was coupled with an ability to crank up the energy at a live performance to a fever pitch.
After leaving Brown in in 1975, he went on to work with B.B, King. His tracks are some of the most sampled by hip-hoppers and it’s safe to say that without his contribution to funk drumming, many of today’s hip-hop and r&b grooves wouldn’t even exist.