“Alan Leeds was a protegé of James Brown and a true historian of the world that nurtured the great entertainer. Alan was a witness to the vibrant black music scene of the ’60s and ’70s—whose book is both a memoir and a document of a lost world of sound.”—Nelson George, an American author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker
A behind-the-scenes look at the Chitlin’ Circuit during American’s most vital period of soul music—from the eyes and ears of a young, Jewish kid from Queens who joined the team of the hardest working man in show business and learned the art of the music business at the hand of the performer who mastered it.
In the mid-’60s, Alan Leeds was a young DJ looking for his way into the music business. An interview with James Brown to promote a local show in Virginia led to an opportunity to promote one of Brown’s concerts, which then led to Brown hiring him to help run his tours. Soon Leeds was wearing many hats and traveling around the country as Brown battled a complicated web of local promoters and managers, all too willing to try to rip him off.
In this riveting book—part memoir, part history—Leeds weaves a wholly new and remarkable portrait of Brown as an idiosyncratic iconoclast, determined artist, and forceful businessman. It is a rare look into a world little known to white America immediately following the Civil Rights Movement. Leeds discovers that Brown is a fascinatingly complex man and their experiences, both business and personal, range from emotional to humorous. All the while, they navigate the complicated world of popular Black music in America, told by someone who actually lived it.
“Over the course of his long life in music as a tour manager, archivist, writer, and fan, Alan Leeds had a ringside seat for some of the greatest moments in soul and funk history—from James Brown in the sixties to Prince in the eighties to D’Angelo in the first years of the 21st century. His eye for detail and his abiding love for the music shine through in this affectionate, inspirational memoir. Alan is one of my all-time heroes!”—Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson
“Alan Leeds is one of those cats that absorbs the situation & can recite it back to u word for word, always on point with details & graphics. That is what drew me closer to observing him, other than his big red Afro! We all started with James Brown around the same time. I didn't know what all Alan was doing at the time, but I knew if JB hired him he had to be on Heel & Toe or else u got to Blow! That was one of JB's famous expressions to me while he was laughing, but u knew he was serious. To this day, when Alan speaks about something that happened back in our JB days u can just about take it to the Bank! Thxs Mr. Leeds for helping to preserve that funky & sometimes funked up history.”—Bootsy Collins
About the Author
Writer-producer-tour manager, New-York-born Alan Leeds is a music business veteran. First hired by James Brown as a publicist in 1970, Leeds was soon Soul Brother #1’s tour director. From 1975 until 1983 Leeds was a freelance tour manager, working with Kool and the Gang, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass, Kiss, and Cameo. In 1983 he moved to Minneapolis to begin a ten-year stint as Prince’s personal tour manager and then president of his Paisley Park Records joint venture with Warner Brothers. In 1992 Alan formed a tour management company whose clients have included Sheila E., Bootsy Collins, Morris Day and The Time, the late Barry White, Maxwell, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Roy Hargrove, Renee Neufville, and Chris Rock.
As a writer-producer Leeds has a long-standing consultancy agreement with Universal Music to co-produce their ongoing schedule of James Brown-related product, including writing liner notes and helping compile over thirty different albums. He has also contributed to the production and liner notes for CDs by Prince, Weather Report, Funkadelic, Mavis Staples, Hugh Masekela, D’Angelo, Bootsy Collins, Eddie Palmieri, LP Music, and Bob Belden.
Leeds won a Grammy Award in 1992 for his liner notes to the James Brown Star Time box set. Alan was also a regular contributor to Wax Poetics magazine and in 2008, Penguin Books released the critically acclaimed The James Brown Reader, edited by Leeds and Nelson George.
Alan currently resides in Minneapolis with his wife of thirty-one years, Gwen.
"Alan Leeds was a protege of James Brown and a true historian of the world that nurtured the great entertainer. Alan was a witness to the vibrant black music scene of the '60s and '70s whose book is both a memoir and a document of a lost world of sound." — Nelson George
"Over the course of his long life in music as a tour manager, archivist, writer, and fan, Alan Leeds had a ringside seat for some of the greatest moments in soul and funk history, from James Brown in the sixties to Prince in the eighties to D'Angelo in the first years of the 21st century. His eye for detail and his abiding love for the music shine through in his affectionate, inspirational memoir. Alan is one of my all-time heroes!!!!" — Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson
"I learned, I laughed and I saw myself in Alan's history with my father. Alan's business and personal experiences with Dad will enrich each reader. Mr. Leeds may not be a doctor, but he's a great writer!" — Deanna Brown Thomas, daughter of James Brown
"One of Alan Leed's greatest gifts is that of a storyteller. There Was A Time: James Brown, The Chitlin' Circuit and Me is one of the most entertaining, informative and gripping memoirs I've ever read. Mr. Leeds continues to inspire generations of musicians and music fans with his insights and innate hipness." — Christian McBride, Grammy-winning bassist & bandleader
"There Was a Time is a panegyric to an era in which Brown's career and art flourished even as he was fending off Jim Crow at every turn, carving out a singular career one heartstopping show at a time." — Wall Street Journal