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Fred Wesley

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Fred Wesley
Background information
Born (1943-07-04) July 4, 1943 (age 80)
Columbus, Georgia
GenresFunk, P-Funk, soul music, R&B, soul jazz
Years active1960s–present
Fred Wesley at Funk n Waffles Bar in Syracuse, NY, March 30, 2007.

Fred Wesley (born July 4, 1943)[1] is an American trombonist who worked with James Brown in the 1960s and 1970s, and Parliament-Funkadelic in the second half of the 1970s.


Wesley was born the son of a high school teacher and big band leader in Columbus, Georgia, and was raised in Mobile, Alabama. As a child, he took piano and later trumpet lessons. He played baritone horn and trombone in school, and at around age 12 his father brought a trombone home, whereupon he switched (eventually permanently) to trombone.[2]

During the 1960s and 1970s, he was a pivotal member of James Brown's bands,[3] playing on many hit recordings including "Say it Loud - I'm Black, and I'm Proud," "Mother Popcorn" and co-writing tunes such as "Hot Pants." His slippery riffs and precise solos, complementing those of saxophonist Maceo Parker, gave Brown's R&B, soul, and funk tunes their instrumental punch. In the 1970s, he also was band leader and musical director of Brown's band the J.B.'s, and did much of the group's composing and arranging. His name was credited on 'Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s' recording of "Doing It to Death," which sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in July 1973.[4] He left Brown's band in 1975 and spent several years playing with George Clinton's various Parliament-Funkadelic projects, even recording a couple of albums as the leader of a spin-off group, The Horny Horns.[3]

Wesley became a force in jazz in 1978 when he joined the Count Basie Orchestra. He released his first jazz album as a leader, To Someone, in 1988. It was followed by New Friends in 1990, Comme Ci Comme Ca in 1991, the live album Swing and Be Funky, and Amalgamation in 1994.

In the early 1990s, Wesley toured with his colleagues from the James Brown band, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker, as the JB Horns. With the departure of Ellis, the band became the Maceo Parker Band. Wesley was featured as a trombonist with Parker until 1996 when he formed his own band, The Fred Wesley Group, now known as Fred Wesley and the New JBs.

Wesley recorded an album with San Diego soul-jazz luminaries The Greyboy Allstars in 1994 called West Coast Boogaloo, and toured with the band in 1995, 1996 and again in 2012.[5][6]

Backstage in Cologne/Germany 1998

Wesley's career includes playing with and arranging for a wide variety of other artists including Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Randy Crawford, Vanessa Williams, The SOS Band, Cameo, Van Morrison, Socalled and rappers De La Soul, to name a few. Many other artists have sampled his work. In 2002 Wesley wrote Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman, an autobiography about his life as a sideman. Also in 2002 he recorded an album entitled Wuda Cuda Shuda.

Wesley was an adjunct professor in the Jazz Studies department of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro from 2004 to 2006, and now works with students as a visiting artist at numerous other schools, including Berklee College of Music and Columbia College of Chicago. In addition to performing with his own band, he tours as part of a collaboration called Abraham Inc. along with Klezmer artist David Krakauer and Klezmer/hip-hop artist Socalled.

In 2007, Wesley accepted an invitation to contribute to Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino (Vanguard). He participated with Lenny Kravitz, the Rebirth Brass Band, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker to contribute their version of Domino's "Whole Lotta Lovin'."

In 2010, Wesley contributed to Kings (Freestyle Records), the fourth album by Israeli funk and groove ensemble the Apples. Specific sessions on the album were dedicated to working with Wesley, one of the group's heroes.[7]


As leader[edit]

As sideman[edit]

With George Benson

With James Brown

With George Clinton

With Bootsy Collins

With Hank Crawford

With Deee-Lite

With Pee Wee Ellis

  • A New Shift (Minor Music, 1996)
  • What You Like (Minor Music, 1997)
  • Live and Funky (Skip, 2001)
  • The Spirit of Christmas (Minor Music, 2013)

With J.B. Horns

  • Doing It to Death (1973)[10]
  • Pee Wee, Fred & Maceo (Gramavision, 1990)
  • Funky Good Time/Live (Tokuma, 1992)
  • I Like It Like That (Soulciety, 1993)
  • Bring the Funk On Down (ZYX Music, 1999)

With Maceo Parker

  • Roots Revisited (Minor Music, 1990)
  • For All the King's Men (4th & Broadway, 1990)
  • Mo' Roots (Verve, 1990)
  • Life On Planet Groove (Minor Music, 1992)
  • Horn Riffs for DJ's (Tuff City, 1992)
  • Horn Riffs for DJ's Volume 2 (Tuff City, 1993)
  • Southern Exposure (Minor Music, 1993)
  • Maceo (Minor Music, 1994)
  • Funkoverload (ESC, 1998)
  • My First Name Is Maceo (Minor Music, 2003)
  • Live in Funky Good Time (Sounds of Ordinary Madness, 2008)
  • Roots Revisited The Bremen Concert (Minor Music, 2015)
  • Life On Planet Groove Revisited (Minor Music, 2018)

With Parliament

With Bernie Worrell

With others


  • Fred Wesley (2002). Hit Me, Fred: Recollections of a Sideman. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822329093.


  1. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Allmusic Biography". AllMusic. Archived from the original on July 13, 2023. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "Audio interview with Fred Wesley – WCPN 90.3". WCPN, ideastream.org. April 14, 2009. Archived from the original on August 23, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (1993). The Guinness Who's Who of Soul Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 0-85112-733-9.
  4. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 338. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  5. ^ "Greyboy Allstars Live at Stone Coast Brewery on 1996-06-26" (Sound recording). Uploaded by RLBayers. Portland, Maine. July 31, 2019 [Recorded on June 26, 1996]. Retrieved March 1, 2022 – via Archive.org.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  6. ^ "TENOR MAN: Karl Denson On The Greyboy Allstars' Humble Beginnings, 'West Coast Boogaloo', & 'Como De Allstars' [Interview]". Liveforlivemusic.com. 15 September 2020. Archived from the original on Feb 5, 2022. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  7. ^ "Review: The Apples - Kings - out on Freestyle Records". parisdj.com. September 27, 2010. Archived from the original on July 12, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015. Wesley contributes to several tracks.
  8. ^ "The J.B.'s / Fred Wesley / Fred Wesley & the J.B.'s – Damn Right I Am Somebody". AllMusic. 1974. Archived from the original on July 21, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  9. ^ "James Brown – The CD of J.B: Sex Machine & Other Soul Classics – credits". AllMusic. 1985. Archived from the original on April 7, 2013. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  10. ^ "The J.B.'s – Doing It to Death". AllMusic. 1973. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  11. ^ "The Apples – discography". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 23, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.

External links[edit]