Fred Wesley (Born in Mobile, Ala.,July 4, 1943) is an American jazz and funk trombonist, who played with The Ike And Tina Turner Review in 1962 and Hank Ballard and the Midnighters before his best known period as musical director and arranger for James Brown's backing group The J.B's in the late 60's through early 1970s. Beginning in 1968 as a pivotal member of James Brown's hard working band, Fred Wesley played on numerous hit recordings including "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud", "Mother Popcorn" and co-wrote tunes such as "Hot Pants".
Beginning in 1968 as a pivotal member of James Brown's hard working band, Fred Wesley played on numerous hit recordings including "Say It Loud - I'm Black And I'm Proud", "Mother Popcorn" and co-wrote tunes such as "Hot Pants".
The lineup would shift occasionally and Wesley who'd left Brown's group for a period in a pay dispute, rejoined as official leader in 1970 beginning a very fruitful period that lasted through 1975.
The J.B's scored several instrumental hits in the early 70s, including "Pass the Peas," "The Grunt","Gimmie Some More," and the #1 R&B "Doing It To Death" on Brown's People Records imprint distributed through Polydor. In 1974 they had three top 40 hits "Same Beat," "If You Don't Get It The First Time, Back Up And Try It Again, Party," and "Damn Right I Am Somebody".
While the JB's sound has most often been associated with three hornmen in particular -- Wesley. along with saxophonists Maceo Parker and Alfred "Pee Wee" Ellis, other key JB's in the group included at one time or another tenor saxman St. Clair Pinckney, saxophonist Jimmy Parker, and a trumpet section consisting of Jerone Jasaan Sanford, Russell Crimes, and Isiah Ike Oakley.
Others who played on key recordings included Bobby Byrd on organ, bassists Fred Thomas or William Bootsy Collins and his guitarist brother Phelps Catfish Collins, other guitarists included Hearlon Cheese Martin and Jimmy Nolen.
Drums were played by either John Jabo Starks, or John Morgan joined by conga player Johnny Griggs.
Wesley, along with saxophonist Maceo Parker, helped define the instrumental potentials of funk and are heavily sampled by Hip Hop producers & DJ's. Both men left Brown's band in 1975 and spent several years playing with George Clinton's various Parliament/Funkadelic projects, like Bootsy’s Rubber Band and they recorded a couple of albums specifically focused on their talents as the spin-off group, The Horny Horns featuring fellow J.B refugee Pee Wee Ellis.
The various members of the J.B's occasionally would get back together for reunions and side projects including a stint in the 90's performing as The JB Horns, and they recently released a single in 2008 admonishing black youth to have some dignity and Pull Your Pants Up!!