The story goes that soul singer Charles Bradley walked into the Daptone Records label in Brooklyn, New York for the first several times wearing plumber gear and carrying a toolbox. He worked on the pipes for a while before being discovered as a vocalist by Daptone’s Gabriel Roth, who found Bradley doing a James Brown-inspired show in a tiny local club in the Bushwick neighborhood under the name Black Velvet.
Charles Bradley grew up largely on the streets of Brooklyn, and was inspired when his sister took him to see James Brown at the Apollo Theater in the 1960s. Some compare his singing to Otis Redding, and there are some similarities. Charles Bradley’s delivery pushes the envelope of what a man’s voice can do, just like Otis. But Otis had a smooth, sailing quality that was sometimes gritty and Charles Bradley’s voice is earthy and rougher. Otis was from the country, a magnetic performer who died still starry-eyed at age 27 and Bradley is from the city and in his 60s. He’s a seen-it-all kind of man who’s been a cook most of his life, always dreamed of being a big time singer, and is grateful for all the good things finally coming his way.
Charles Bradley’s first singles with Daptone were under the name Charles Bradley and the Bullets. After only two songs were released the group broke up and most of the members formed the Budos Band. Charles Bradley and Thomas Brenneck decided to take on a concept album, recording with Daptone’s Menahan Street Band. 2011’s “No Time for Dreamin'” tells the true story of Charles Bradley waking up one day to find that his nephew had killed his brother. Brenneck encouraged Bradley to reach deep down and tell the truth with the writing. And Bradley delivers. The song “The World (Is Going Up In Flames)” says it all in simple from-the-gut soul style.
Charles Bradley misses his brother, the person who always encouraged him to keep singing. He’s thrilled that Daptone has gotten behind him, helping him to put out his first album “No Time For Dreamin'” at age 62.
Charles Bradley plays Bumbershoot this year at Seattle Center on September 5th!
DJ Michele Myers chooses the music and hosts Saturdays on KEXP from 3-6pm and every week brings you a Saturday Afternoon Artist feature with several songs in-a-row. She’s also the producer/creator of KEXP Documentaries.