NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Soul Generals, the band that backed musical icon James Brown for his last 20 years, will carry on the Godfather's legacy with a series of appearances this year.

The 17-piece band, with three backup singers, will begin the shows on Brown's birthday, May 3, at the Apollo Theater in New York. The theater is where a raucous celebration was held after Brown died - and the same stage for a 1956 concert that launched him into the international spotlight.

"We're the only ones who can keep his legacy alive," said his son, Daryl Brown, lead guitarist and band leader of the Soul Generals.

Members of the band have done a couple of informal shows since Brown died Dec. 25, but the group is now booking public appearances by the full band for the first time since his death.

"We'll bring the music back," Daryl Brown said in a telephone interview from Augusta, Ga.

There will be no attempt to replace "the Godfather of Soul" with the same single performer out front during the whole show. Instead, band members will take turns in the spotlight.

"Everyone will do a song special to them," Daryl Brown said. Venisha Brown, a daughter of James Brown, will be one of the performers featured.

"She dances better than he did," said Waldo Weathers, a sax player in the band for the past 15 years.

Daryl Brown said he expects the band to be booked for the rest of year. (There was no information at presstime on whether the band will stop in Philadelphia.)

His father, 73, died of heart failure in Atlanta while hospitalized for treatment of pneumonia.

His hits, such as "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" inspired generations of soul, funk, disco, rock and rap artists. *