A former chef and handyman, Charles Bradley recently earned a long-awaited record deal.
A former chef and handyman, Charles Bradley recently earned a long-awaited record deal. Kisha Bari
You've got to hand it to the folks at Daptone Records — they find talent in seemingly unpromising places: a Rikers Island prison guard/wedding singer (Sharon Jones), somebody's maid (Naomi Shelton) and now a James Brown impersonator, Charles Bradley. Word has it Bradley worked on the plumbing in the Daptone offices before being "discovered" performing under the stage name "Black Velvet" at a tiny club in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Like his labelmates, Bradley had harbored hopes of performing for a wider audience, but his dream was deferred for more than 40 years from the time he first saw James Brown at the Apollo in the 1960s.
Bradley appears to have suffered enough hard knocks to give his howling soul music a haunted quality. He cried the day I met him, overcome with excitement at his first big radio appearance and still suffering from the loss of his brother — the man who believed in Bradley's dream enough to insist that he follow it.
Surely, soul music lovers will be glad he did.