New in the collection: ‘New Bag’ title strip

Sheet of paper with multiple labels with the words "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag, James Brown, Part 1, and Part 2"

James Brown’s funk-fomenting recording session at Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte has been painstakingly analyzed, but what about another musical innovation, one that upgraded jukeboxes across the land?

Yes, I’m talking about the printed title strip. Until 1949 jukebox titles were individually typewritten. “The average typist can only type 250 to 300 title strips per hour,” the president of Star Title Strip Co. told the trade paper Cash Box. “The [jukebox] operator can now buy, under our new plan, 300 neatly printed title strips for only 30 cents. Surely, anyone’s time in this day and age is worth a lot more than 30 cents per hour.”

Star Title Strip remained in business at least into the 1980s, but today’s surviving “juke ops” (in Cash Box speak) can easily generate title strips on the internet.

At Arthur Smith Studios, James Brown birthed ‘funk’

“On February 1 [1965, James] Brown and his band stopped by Arthur Smith Studios in Charlotte, North Carolina, en route to a show, and laid down ‘Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ in a hour…. They did it in one take. It was suppose to be a run-through, but Brown knew he had to leave it as is — because everyone in the studio was dancing to the playback. He writes in his memoir [“I Feel Good,” 2005] that even though he was a soul singer, it was on this night that he started going off in his own unique direction.

” ‘I had discovered that my strength was not in the horns, it was in the rhythm. I was hearing everything, even the guitars, like they were drums. I had found out how to make it happen. On playbacks, when I saw the speakers jumping, vibrating a certain way, I knew that was it: deliverance….Later on they said it was the beginning of funk.’

“The lyrics of ‘New Bag’ are simple — just Brown trying to get a ‘new breed’ babe to dance with him by showing that he can do the Jerk, the Fly, the Monkey, the Mashed Potato, the Twist and the Boomerang. But the phrase ‘new bag’ came to symbolize the new Black Power approach many activists were embracing, along with a new way to deconstruct the blues for the next generation of musicians. With the song, as music critic Dave Marsh wrote, ‘Brown invented the rhythmic future we live in today.’ ”

— From 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music” by Andrew Grant Jackson (2015)