Born in Gainesville, Florida in 1948 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Charles Bradley spent the better part of his childhood living on the streets. One of the more optimistic moments of his childhood came in 1962, when his sister took him to see James Brown at The Apollo. Brown’s energy formed a lasting impression on Charles. He went home and immediately began practicing microphone tricks with a broom attached to a string, imitating the Godfather’s every move. With his newfound inspiration came an urgent desire to get off the streets and make something of himself.
Charles spent over 20 years in California, making his living as a chef, all the while playing music on the side. He had no regular band, but he played pick-up gigs when they came along and sat in on recording sessions to feed his musical cravings.
Charles finally found an audience when he began making appearances in local Brooklyn clubs performing his James Brown routines under the alter ego “Black Velvet.” At 51, he was finally making a life for himself back home.
Gabriel Roth of Daptone Records happened upon him performing his Black Velvet act at the Tarheel Lounge in Bedstuy. Roth recognized his raw talent and directly brought him into the Daptone “House of Soul” studios for a session with the Sugarman 3. “Take It as It Comes” was Charles’ first single on Daptone and it proved him as a worthy vocalist. Roth eventually brought Charles out to Staten Island to see Dirt Rifle and the Bullets, a young funk band playing James Brown and Meters influenced songs. Thomas Brenneck, songwriter and guitarist for the Bullets, hit it off with Charles and they began working together. They released two singles on Daptone under the name “Charles Bradley and the Bullets,” but the Bullets soon dismantled in order to form the afrobeat influenced Budos Band.
Brenneck had put together a small bedroom studio and was working on instrumentals with a new group soon to be named Menahan Street Band. His new sound was the perfect compliment for the heartfelt and troubled lyrics that sprang from Charles’ story. Brenneck had just launched Dunham Records, a division of Daptone, and would release Charles’ “The World (Is Going Up in Flames)” and “Heartaches and Pain” as it’s second single. A departure from his Black Velvet act, the songs showed a new side of Charles as a compelling artist in his own right and proved to be a great success. Many late night writing and recording sessions later, he and Brenneck completed their first full-length record, “No Time for Dreaming”. Charles always knew he was born to entertain, but in the making of this record he discovered a proclivity for songwriting as well.
The record was a labor of love for both Charles and Brenneck. After years of working together, “No Time for Dreaming” is due for international release on Dunham Records. In the meantime, Charles has been touring with the Menahan Street Band and honing his passion as a singer and an entertainer. If you know Charles today, then you know one of the most loving, humble, honest and genuine human beings you will ever know. Charles Bradley spent most of his life dreaming for a better one, and now there is no more time for dreaming, just time for singing, dancing and loving.