Herman Matthews: On The One

I moved to Los Angeles in 1988 and noticed the way the funk or groove drummers were playing. Strong, solid grooves flared up everywhere with the emphasis on 2 and 4. The snare drum was just a little louder then the band. It was a sign of the times. Let’s take a step back in time and focus on a young man who was major in changing the hump of funk. Around 1967 or so James Brown put a brand on music that would forever make it his sound. He started writing grooves, with the help of his band, that put the hump on the front side of the groove, on the 1.

Songs like “Cold Sweat” made funk history because it was just rhythm – very few chord changes. This made the grooves more tribal, and with the help of Sly & The Family Stone and the Isley Bros., this made the world funk on the 1. In 1970 bass player Bootsy Collins came on the scene playing with James Brown along with his brother, guitarist Catfish Collins. They played and co-wrote tunes like “Sex Machine,” “Talkin’ Loud and Saying Nothing” and “Super Bad.” All of these tunes play on the 1.

Of course, the two drummers who were making it funky for James at the time were Clyde Stubblefield and Jabo Starks. The Artist (formerly known as Prince) wrote a tune called “You Sexy MF” where the snare starts the groove on the 1, which is out of the Book of James. So many bands have been influenced by Soul Brother Number One, the man who put it on the Goodfoot, Mr. Please Please himself, James Brown. It’s no wonder why they call him the Godfather of Soul.

Here are some grooves where the accent is on the 1. If this doesn’t get people dancing, nothing will.

DRUM! Notation Guide

Herman Matthews

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