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Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman Paperback – September 25, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (September 25, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822335484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822335481
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #797,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Before hip-hop, there was soul and funk, which gave rise to such highly influential bands and popular stars as Ike and Tina Turner, George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, and, of course, James Brown. Trombonist Wesley has been associated with all of these and more, serving as Brown's bandleader for many years and through his personal sound, compositions, and arrangements contributing immeasurably to the fabric of American popular music. Wesley has written a thoroughly engaging memoir of his life in music, using frank, opinionated, sometimes colorful language that reads as if he were sitting across the room reminiscing. Readers will be fascinated by his insider descriptions of working with the volatile Brown and by his vivid descriptions of the vicissitudes of life as a professional musician; musicians at all levels will find his comments on life on the road particularly compelling. Chapters on his tenure with the Count Basie Orchestra, his struggles with the L.A. music scene, and playing jazz in Denver after brother Ron helped him overcome a cocaine habit round out the picture of Wesley's musicianship and humanity without lapsing into "behind the music" cliche. Recommended for all collections, a real gem for music collections. Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“As passionately crafted as one of his solos, Hit Me, Fred becomes a shout-out to all sidemen who play their hearts out--just outside the spotlight. As a musician, Wesley could always capture the feverish moment. Now, as a storyteller, he has revealed yet another way to take us higher.” - Boston Globe

“[A] remarkable autobiography. . . . This candid and hilarious account of working alongside James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, and on his own, should solidify [Wesley’s] reputation as much as the music he created.” - Down Beat

"In his autobiography Hit Me, Fred, Mr. Wesley talks about dancing around the continent-size ego of James Brown. He juxtaposes the courtliness of the South against the hardscrabble desperation of poverty, mentioning the hideous conditions that created Brown though understanding that nothing could explain his boss’s monstrous behavior." - Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times

Hit Me, Fred is very enjoyable and funny. I thoroughly enjoyed it.”—Freddy Cole

“A MUST read for musicians and people who want to know the truth about being on the road. Fred Wesley is hands down one of the greatest.”—Christian McBride

“A soulful memoir abundant with all the warm humor, joyous passion, and insightful irony that flavors his music. Fred Wesley is funk’s first-string quarterback and an American treasure.”—Alan Leeds, talent manager and Grammy-winning music historian

“This book is straight up! Fred Wesley, he’ll tell you like it is, even if your feelings get hurt, but coming from Fred, for some reason it makes you wanna do better. The book is the bomb!!! Stories are stories but this is real life. Write on, Fred.”—Bootsy Collins

“Very informative reading! I’m glad and lucky to be part of this legacy. We took it to the bridge. Fred, thanks for the memories.”—Maceo Parker

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 18 customer reviews
A very down to earth man and as fine a musician as you can find.
Andrew R. Ebon
It is positively hilarious to read Fred's accounts of disciphering James Brown's grunts into music that could be played by the band.
Richard Z. Johnson
This book has clearly been dictated rather than written, but it makes for an engaging, fun, and interesting read.
John Roshell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Richard Z. Johnson on October 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I finished reading the book yesterday. It was a VERY interesting book......one that I recommend every aspiring professional trombone player or other aspiring professional musician to read.
The autobiography covers Fred's musical career from his musical beginnings learning or rather attempting to learn piano as a child to his present day professional musical career. We learn that Fred played professionally as a teenager with a jazz big band. His father was a high school choral director and profesional jazz pianist. His grandmother was a piano teacher.
He covers his days playing for Ike and Tina Turner, James Brown, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton and their bands of Parliament/Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band. We learn of his playing days with the Count Basie Band.
Wesley is very candid regarding what he feels are the good points AND the bad points in his playing. He talks about his failed audition for a college band scholarship because of his playing shortcomings. He also talks about the major adjustment that he made from being a member of the Parliament/Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band bands to taking over the second chair that was previously vacated in the Basie band by Al Grey.
Wesley is also candid about the dual temptations of women and drugs that are faced by those musicians who are world famous or who are sidemen to the world famous. In addition, he talks about the ruthlessness of the music business, not only the managers and record company owners but also some of the fellow sidemen and the superstars that employ the sidemen.
The major thrust of the entire book is that Wesley managed to persevere with a combination of talent, hard work and a smattering of luck.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jasoneducator on June 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book! I've seen Fred Wesley live playing with Maceo Parker and the JB horns. He's down with the funk and he's been everywhere and seen everything. JB, Maceo, Ike and Tina Turner, LA and trying to make it playing an acoustic instrument soulfully in an age of production. The great thing about this book is that Fred seems to write with a minimal agenda. He's not a charting artist who's trying to magnify his own star, he just lays it down honestly. Anybody down with James Brown will gain from his insights on why musicians stuck through and put up with James' abuse and degradation.
Surprises for me were the tales of Count Basie and his life in LA. I didn't realize that he had overcome so much personal stuff by the time that I had seen him. This is a very readable insightful book that I recommend without qualification to anybody interested in funk. Let's hope Fred gets his due and we get more books from the perspectives of the musicians that make the music we love happen.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By trawic11 on April 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fred Wesley is "THE MAN". Here is a musical funk legend who has really paid his dues. He was the glue that kept the Funk going strong despite of James's legendary self-righteous super-ego and his harsh tyranny ways that interferred with the creative freedom and progressive potential of the most talented musicians that God has ever put on earth. James invented Funk which I will give him the credit he rightfully and respectfully deserves, but he definitely didn't do it on his own (thanks to the talented musicians of Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Alfred 'Pee Wee" Ellis, St Clair Pinckney, Waymon Reed, Richard 'Kush' Griffin, Jimmy Nolen, Al 'Country' Kellum, Clyde Stubblefield, John 'Jabo' Starks, Melvin Parker, Fillyau Clayton, Bootsy and Phelp Collins, Bernard Odum, Sweet Charles Sherrell, Johnny Griggs; the talented singers of Marva Whitney, Vicki Anderson, and the late great Lyn Collins; last but definitely not the least, I can't forget Bobby Byrd because if not for him, James life would have taking a bleaker turn since Byrd and his family not only helped James get out of prison and on parole, but got James into his gospel group which James would later become the frontman of and, with his ambition and talent, would take the group further than they had ever imagine. There are other James Brown musicians names that I can't remember but had a major influential impact on builting the structural foundation on the sound we now know as 'Funk'. This book honestly puts everything on the table with his experiences as a professional musician as well as how shady the music industry really is.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Lincoln Ross on February 13, 2007
Format: Paperback
I am a 57 year old Washington, DC trombonist with many years of "chittlin circuit" experience. Reading Fred Wesley's account of his life as a sideman really hit home with me. So far, I have purchased (at last count) twelve copies of this fascinating book and distributed them to fellow musician friends who I know would also appreciate it. This really feels good and also therapeutic that our story is being told and documented. Older musicians always used to talk about paying dues. Well it seems that we never stop paying them, and Fred really spells it out in a clear, brutally honest, and what I find to be a very humorous and entertaining fashion. I would highly recommend this book to musicians young and old and to anyone else interested in learning what it is really like for the majority of us in this bizarre and crazy business.

Lincoln Ross
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