The music world and South Walton lost a legend last week when they lost Jab'o Starks.
Starks played drums with the Red Bar Jazz Band since the mid 1990s and many of us were lucky enough to be present when occasionally he would grace us by singing "What a Wonderful World." After hearing him sweetly croon that, it truly was a wonderful world.
Starks died last week at his home in Mobile after losing his battle with leukemia at age 79.
Long before he met Starks, Franko Jackson came of age knowing who he was as Jackson watched him perform on stage in Oklahoma.
Starks grew up listening to gospel and blues music and taught himself to drum. He played with his school's band and at a local club he played with some of the biggest blues musicians of the era and eventually joined Bobby "Blue" Bland's band in 1959. He drummed to Bland's biggest hits, including "Turn On Your Love Light" and "I Pity the Fool," before joining the infamous James Brown in 1965.
Starks played with Brown until 1972.
Starks played in Brown's live band and joined him in the studio for some of Brown's biggest hits. He worked on classic albums such as "I Got the Feelin'," "Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud" and "Cold Sweat." Starks also drummed on singles such as "The Payback," "Super Bad," "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine."
In the mid '70s, after splitting with Brown, Starks began touring, recording and performing with B.B. King.
He later reunited with drummer Clyde Stubblefield, forming a duo called the Funkmasters that toured for two years and recorded music, instructional videos and helped craft the music for the 2007 comedy "Superbad."
Jackson first heard that the James Brown drummer was living in Mobile around 1990.
When Jackson began working at the Red Bar in 1996, Starks was there playing with the Red Bar Jazz Band.
"Jab'o was there every day holding court with people and telling stories," remembers Jackson. "He used to sit in the back with the ladies rolling silverware. He had such a history. He had an illustrious career."
Through the years, Jackson was able to occasionally play on the Red Bar stage with Starks, which he calls an honor. Starks sat in with Hubba Hubba at the fundraiser held for Jackson in May 2016, which enabled Jackson to receive a new liver.
"When Jab'o came in there was an energy about him. He was a character," said Jackson.
Starks last performed at the Red Bar in March.