When James Brown was playing a show in Maryland in 1962, he turned to Danny Ray and asked him if he had ever been on stage. “Nah, man,” answered Ray, who at the time was working as Brown’s personal valet. “Well, uh, tonight’s your night,” Brown told him.

The regular presenter who warmed up the crowd before the flamboyant soul singer went on stage had failed to turn up and Brown turned to the first person he encountered backstage for a replacement. Ray stepped into the breach so admirably that he worked as Brown’s “hype man” for 46 years until the singer’s death in 2006, whipping the audience into a near-frenzy before the star took the stage.

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