It was the night that soul legend James Brown proved he was the king of the castle at Crathes after a Banchory blow-dry.
Brown was booked to headline Live on the Lawn at Royal Deeside 20 years ago following Van Morrison’s appearance at the inaugural event in 2000.
The Godfather of Soul went to great lengths to ensure his mane was looking mightily impressive when he performed on the 16th century castle’s lawn.
Brown’s tour rider included a steam iron, ironing board, fine champagne and a professional-grade hooded hair dryer.
It took hours of hair engineering to create Brown’s helmet of hair.
Plenty of chemicals, hair straightening techniques and, most importantly, one of those hair dryers that fit completely over the head like a space helmet.
Tour riders outline all the terms that a venue must meet and event organisers asked Banchory stylist Lisa Neill if they could borrow a Wella dryer.
The salon owner was offered two tickets to the sell-out show in return for use of the £1,000 dryer which was put backstage along with two full-length mirrors.
When you read Brown’s biography you wonder how he survived his childhood in a house of ill-repute and his imprisonment as a teenager.
With no education, he became the biggest soul star in the USA and travelled to Deeside for the August 17 gig with his 40-strong entourage which included his legal team.
The last time someone called Brown created such a sensation in the area was when he was courting Queen Victoria.
But not even the mournful monarch could have failed to be amused by the soul spectacular served up by America’s own King James.
More than 4,000 fans paid £28 to see Brown strutting his stuff on stage along with support acts The Christians and funky Aberdeen band The Afronauts.
A stack of soul dynamite
Brown showed off his dance moves during the two-hour show, even continuing to play through a technical glitch which left the stage in darkness for 10 minutes.
Brown seemed to enjoy himself at Crathes Castle and really did excel on some of the old soul songs like It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World which was a single in 1966.
Evening Express reviewer Neil Horne said: “If there had been a roof he would not only have raised it but sent it soaring towards the stars.
“Cynics had said The Godfather was only to be on stage for 20 minutes.
“But that was nonsense.
“The senior citizen of soul came on much earlier than expected and kept the fans on their feet for two solid hours.
“Even when the stage lights failed for 10 minutes the trooper carried on regardless, his gold sequinned jacket catching the late evening glow.
“He promised to spark off a stack of soul dynamite and did just that by getting the massive crowd to clap, stamp and chant to order.
“He didn’t give as many hits as would have been expected but he gave the stage over to his backing singers and musicians with great effect.
“At the end his Sex Machine routine sent the crowd on its way smiling and singing.”
Scots rockers Deacon Blue went on to headline the second night of the weekend-long event which organisers said had been a resounding success.
What happened to the dryer?
The stage was pulled down and the castle lawn was returned to normal but Lisa’s Banchory salon was still awaiting the return of its dryer.
The Sex Machine was now performing in Germany.
But was Lisa about to say auf wiedersehen to her £1,000 blow-dryer?
Lisa said: “By the following Wednesday the dryer had still not been returned and I was getting a bit worried because it was the only one I had.
“James Brown must really like the dryer if he has kept it this long – but I need it back.
“We had a really good laugh about it but it is really annoying all the same.
“We are coming up to our busiest time of the year and we need the dryer for the Christmas party season.”
By the following Wednesday the dryer had still not been returned and Lisa was getting a bit worried because it was the only one she had.
She contacted the event organisers only to be told it had “fallen off the back of a lorry and been damaged”.
Event One Management promised to reimburse Lisa for the cost of the disappearing dryer and offered its apologies for what was described as “a mix-up”.
Aberdeenshire MSP Alexander Burnett’s family gave the castle and surrounding land to the National Trust for Scotland in 1953.
He said: “Crathes has had some stellar names playing over the years.
“James Brown was music royalty so performing for fans in Royal Deeside was perfect for him.
“He had influenced musicians for decades and was the consummate showman at 68 years old.
“It was like history colliding.”
Bryan Ferry, Paul Weller, Katie Melua, Runrig, Jamie Cullum, Michael Ball and Jools Holland have all played at Live on the Lawn since Brown’s appearance.
The Godfather of Soul continued to record and perform until his death aged 73 at a hospital in Atlanta on Christmas Day in 2006.
The King of Pop
His death certificate blamed a heart attack and fluid in the lungs and among the mourners who paid their respects at his funeral was Michael Jackson.
Reverend Al Sharpton was helping plan the funeral with Brown’s daughters when he received the news that Jackson had flown in from Bahrain.
He wanted to see Brown one last time.
Rev Sharpton said: “I got a call from the mortician and he asked me if it was alright if Michael Jackson could come by the funeral home and see James Brown’s body.
“I said: ‘But Michael’s in Bahrain’.
“And he said, ‘No, he’s here’.
“A couple of hours later, I called and the mortician said, ‘He just left. He was here (for) about an hour and he was re-combing Mr Brown’s hair.
“‘He felt that I had combed the hair wrong’.
“People didn’t realise he was really into James and he actually styled his hair the way it was buried.”
Brown’s legacy is that of innovator, perfectionist, outspoken advocate of social justice, electrifying dancer, and immeasurable musical talent.
He earned the nickname The Hardest Working Man in Show Business but for some he will always be known as the King of Crathes Castle.
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