For decades P-Funk have been touring galaxies in the mothership defending the Funkmosphere with a clone army strapped with with bop guns, all with the goal of licking your funky emotions. George Clinton‘s mad project has been a perfect amalgamation of musical innovation, philosophy and visual concept earning a legacy far beyond that of the some of the greatest Rock bands in history. As a Doo-Wop group in New Jersey called The Parliaments the group travelled to Detroit in hopes of Motown fame only to be rejected. Inspired by the 60’s Psychedelic movement and Detroit’s Proto-Punk scene (Iggy and The Stooges, MC5) they changed their name to Funkadelic, expanded to an ensemble band and explored a different creative avenue. Ultimately signing 2 separate contracts as both Parliament and Funkadelic for what was essentially the same group, one Rock and one Soul, the two sounds eventually merged and they become one, P-Funk.
An ever changing roster saw some of the greatest musicians of the 70s join the Morhership as they toured non-stop in Grateful Dead fashion taking performance art to new levels with their drug and sex meets science fiction personas. Everyone knows George Clinton as the Ring master but here’s a short list of some of the others who were responsible for changing R&B, inspiring Hip-Hop and beyond.
1. BOOTSY COLLINS
A Cincinnati native, Bootsy cut his teeth playing bass in James Brown‘s backing band, the J.B.’s, along with his brother Catfish. After moving to Detroit Bootsy was introduced to Clinton and jumped on board the Mothership throughout their 70’s heyday. His Star Child persona with star shaped bass, platform boots and signature sunglasses made him a standout so in 1976 he formed Bootsy’s Rubber Band releasing the classic “I’d Rather Be With You”. To this day, Bootsy is the only member able to tour with his own P-Funk band playing all the classic hits he was a contributor to.
2. BERNIE WORRELL
One of the founding members from New Jersey, Worrell has been the key backing musician, co-producer and arranger of the group throughout their history. The primary keyboardist, his synth sounds have been the most recognizable and copied element of the bands signature Funk. The most historic move made by Worrell was to use the Moog keyboard instead of a traditional bass on the 1978 classic “Flash Light”, a decision that echoed throughout the music industry and dramatically altered the sound of R&B music (and later Electronic music) going into the 80’s. He later worked with The Talking Heads.
3. MACEO PARKER
Another expat of James Brown’s J.B.’s, Parker joined P-Funk with Fred Wesley in the mid 70’s. He is no question the most iconic single horn player in Soul music history due to his contribution to both ensembles. He has continued to tour on occasion with Clinton as well as other icons including Prince.
4. EDDIE HAZEL
A significant original member in the transition from Doo-Wop group The Parliaments to Rock band Funkadelic, Hazel’s guitar playing brought the edge. His legacy is the title track on the 1971 album Maggot Brain, a 10-minute improvised guitar solo that infused everything great about stoner Rock and 60’s Jazz. Despite passing in 1992 he was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame as a core member of the group.
5. GARRY SHIDER
The main guitarist of the crew from 1971 to the 80’s, Shidder played on all the hits from “Mothership Connection” to “One Nation Under A Groove”. Live, he was a standout as the guy in the diaper, a signature costume well into the 90’s. Hazel gets the glory thanks to “Maggot Brain” but Shider was a key vertebrae in the collective’s backbone.
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic are performing at the Legendary Howard Theatre on Thursday, November 19th. All you Funkateers can purchase tickets at Ticketmaster or at the Howard Theatre box office.
photos: The Music Vibes, Sneakshot Photography, GeorgeClinton.com