Clyde Stubblefield (born April 18, 1943 in Chattanooga, Tennessee) is a drummer best known for his work with James Brown.
Stubblefield's recordings with James Brown are considered to be some of the standard-bearers for funk drumming, including the singles "Cold Sweat", "There Was a Time", "I Got The Feelin'", "Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud", "Ain't It Funky Now", "Mother Popcorn", and the album Sex Machine.
His rhythm pattern on James Brown's "Funky Drummer" is among the world's most sampled musical segments. It has been used for decades by hip-hop groups and rappers such as Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., N.W.A, Raekwon, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and Prince, and has also been used in other genres. Stubblefield was featured in a PBS Independent Lens documentary, Copyright Criminals, which aired January 19, 2010.
Stubblefield grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a youngster his sense of rhythm was influenced by the industrial sounds of factories and trains around him. He was inspired to pursue drumming after seeing drummers for the first time in a parade. In 1965 he joined the James Brown band. Over the next six years the band had two drummers, Stubblefield and John "Jabo" Starks who had joined the band two weeks earlier. Starks' style was influenced by the church music he grew up with in Mobile, Alabama. The two drummers had no formal training. According to Stubblefield, "We just played what we wanted to play (...) We just put down what we think it should be." The two "created the grooves on many of Brown's biggest hits and laid the foundation for modern funk drumming in the process."
Stubblefield has lived in Madison, Wisconsin since the 1970s. For over twenty years he played Monday nights with his band, The Clyde Stubblefield Band, in downtown Madison. The band featured his longtime friend and keyboard-organ player Steve "Doc" Skaggs, along with soul vocalists Charlie Brooks and Karri Daley, as well as a horn section and supporting band. Stubblefield retired from the Monday shows in 2011 due to health issues, leaving the band in the hands of his nephew Brett Stubblefield.
Since the 1970s Stubblefield has worked with a variety of musicians in the Madison area such as keyboardist Steve Skaggs, guitarist Cris Plata, jazz violinist Randy Sabien, country trio Common Faces and jazz group NEO. He performed and recorded with members of The J.B.'s including Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and "Jabo" Starks. The group released the album Bring the Funk on Down in 1999. From the early 1990s to 2015 he performed on the nationally syndicated public radio show Whad'Ya Know?
Stubblefield's first solo album The Revenge of the Funky Drummer was released in 1997. The album was produced by producer-songwriter Richard Mazda. In 2002 he released a 26 track break-beat album titled The Original Funky Drummer Breakbeat Album. Stubblefield's third solo album The Original was released in 2003. All compositions were based on Stubblefield's drum grooves and the album was produced by Leo Sidran.
Stubblefield collaborated frequently with "Jabo" Starks. As the Funkmasters, the duo released an album in 2001 called Find the Groove and an album in 2006 called Come Get Summa This. The duo also released a drumming instruction video in 1999 titled Soul of the Funky Drummers. In December 2007, the duo joined Bootsy Collins in Covington, KY, Madison Theater for the first tribute concert in memory of James Brown. Stubblefield and Starks played on Funk for Your Ass, a tribute album by fellow James Brown orchestra alum Fred Wesley. The album was released in 2008. Later that year Toontrack Music released an expansion named "Funkmasters" to their EZdrummer software with samples recorded by Stubblefield and Starks.
In 2009, Stubblefield was in need of a kidney transplant and underwent dialysis treatments. Musicians in the Madison area organized fundraiser events, donating the proceeds to supplement his dialysis treatment and subsequent medical bills. Stubblefield has coped with health issues since the early 2000s including cancer. His girlfriend, Jody Hannon, has been a source of support in managing his health.
In 2011 Stubblefield performed "Fight the Power" on the Jimmy Fallon show along with Chuck D and members of The Roots and Eclectic Method. In 2012 he gave an autobiographical talk and played some of his favorite beats at the Madison Ruby software conference in Madison, WI.
In 2014 Stubblefield was named the second best drummer of all time by LA Weekly. According to the LA Weekly, "Stubblefield is one of the most sampled drummers in history, the man whose uncanny ability to deconstruct pop music's simple 4/4 rhythms into a thousand different sly syncopations laid the foundation not only for funk, but for most of hip-hop, as well." In 2013 Stubblefield and Starks received the Yamaha Legacy Award. In 2000 Stubblefield was inducted into the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Hall of Fame. In 1990 he was named Drummer of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine. A set of Stubblefield's autographed drum-sticks are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Self-proclaimed nerdcore rapper MC Frontalot paid tribute to Stubblefield in his song "Good Old Clyde". Hip hop artist Black Thought of The Roots rhymes "I'm cooler than Clyde Stubblefield, drummer for James" in the song "Stay Cool". According to Questlove, drummer of The Roots, Stubblefield is the one "who defined funk music."
Ben Sisario of The New York Times writes, "on songs like 'Cold Sweat' and 'Mother Popcorn' he perfected a light-touch style filled with the off-kilter syncopations sometimes called ghost notes." According to the National Public Radio, "the grooves the two drummers (Stubblefield and Starks) created have inspired generations of artists -- not just in funk, but in hip-hop, where their steady but intricate patterns make natural material for sampling."