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City native has career with Brown



Published: Sat, August 31, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The musician has been with James Brown for more than two decades.

By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Godfather of Soul was backed by some hometown talent Friday as legendary musician James Brown thrilled spectators at Powers Auditorium.

Brown stepped, glided, scooted and slid across stage with microphone in hand, giving the audience what it expected.

To the left of the stage, behind a keyboard, was Youngstown native Jerry Poindexter -- a member of Brown's entourage for more than 24 years.

Poindexter's story starts in the Brier Hill section of Youngstown about 51 years ago. His love for music took off at an early age while he watched his mother play the piano for churches in the Youngstown area.

According to Poindexter, his mother would take a seat behind the piano every Sunday morning with his small frame to her side. Once the service began and a song of praise was played there was no leaving the piano, not even for the restroom -- that should have been taken care of before service.

The young Poindexter, however, did not mind. He took in as much as possible watching his mother's fingers ride across the piano's keys.

Start of a career

"I fell in love with music during that time when I was 6 years old and would go home and perform for the other kids in the neighborhood," he said. "I would go home from church and, if I learned a good song, have all the kids in the neighborhood having a good time."

By age 13 he was taking lessons and working on the piano whenever he could find the time. But a talent show in his late teens gave Poindexter a taste of how good love from a large crowd of spectators feels.

Poindexter said he was attending the talent competition at the Reed's arena, a former inner-city roller rink and entertainment center, but had no intentions of performing. Radio personality Frankie "Mr. Lucky" Halfacre, another former James Brown employee, called for talent, and Poindexter's friends pushed him on stage. He walked away with the $200 prize that night.

After the talent show, Poindexter played with bands around the Youngstown area until meeting Brown in the late '70s, during a performance in Anchorage, Alaska. From there he has been all over the world with the entertainer -- serving as his personal assistant, road manager and keyboard player -- and has been "educated in the James Brown University of music and showmanship."

Maintains ties

Poindexter said he has always kept ties to the Youngstown area and likes to spend his spare time serving as a role model to kids who need to see a successful figure out of an urban setting. He speaks at schools and other events whenever asked.

This weekend for Poindexter, however, is just about being home among those who care about him most.

"There is nothing like coming home and playing for my people," he said.

jgoodwin@vindy.com




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