George Clinton and The Funkadelics

Antiwar songs by George Clinton and The Funkadelics
MusicBrainzMusicBrainz DiscogsDiscogs United States of America United States of America

George Clinton and The Funkadelics"P-Funk" is the name given to a distinctive strain of Funk, consisting of the two primary bands, Parliament and Funkadelic, as well as a great many offshoot groups and solo musicians.

P-Funk is part abbreviation of "Parliament-Funkadelic", part abbreviation for "pure funk," a genre of music embodied by the Clinton bands; and part abbreviation of "Plainfield Funk", referring to Plainfield, New Jersey, Parliament's hometown. The breakout popularity of Parliament-Funkadelic also led to a broader application of "P-Funk" to mean something in its quintessence, of superior quality, or ''sui generis'', as in the lyrics from "P-Funk", a hit single from Parliament's album Mothership Connection:

History of P-Funk

Early Development
The P Funk story begins in Plainfield, New Jersey, 1956 - with a doo-wop group built around George Clinton, Ray "Stingray" Davis, Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas. These were The Parliaments, the name inspired by Parliament cigarettes). Their backing band was made up from the Plainfield talent that came in to Clinton's barbershop on West 3rd Street. The band, composed of Billy "Bass" Nelson (bass), Eddie Hazel (lead guitarist), Tawl Ross (guitarist), Tiki Fulwood (drums) and Mickey Atkins (keys) wound up calling itself The Funkadelics, trying to capture the freaked-out psychadelic Funk essence they were aiming for.

P-Funk Goes To Motown
But the 1960s brought little success for the prototype P-Funk act. Despite moving to Detroit and getting an audition with Motown Records, they ended up recording only a handful on singles for the minor label Revilot Records. These included a hard-won hit in 1967 with 'I Wanna Testify', but the band struggled to really take off. In the meantime George Clinton was writing songs for the established Motown acts, including The Jackson 5; and band members such as Eddie Hazel and Billy Nelson were recording on the occassional track in the Snakepit, on the QT.

Transition to Funkadelic
At the end of the 1960s, Revilot folded and took The Parliaments name with it. Things were looking bleak for the Funk Mob. But it was at this point that George Clinton decided to take the muzzle off of The Funkadelics. They became Funkadelic, and started taking over the show. The sound and the look both became gradually less clean-cut, and more R&B music, more of a psychedelia-influenced rock groove. Their experimentation with new sounds, combined with an almost obnoxious attitude toward gigging till they were the only people left in the room, meant that early Funkadelic had a small and devoted cult following. They recorded the underground classic album Funkadelic for Westbound Records in 1970, but they were still to find widespread commercial success elusive.

Funkadelic recorded two more albums in the following year, Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow and Maggot Brain. The first saw the arrival of keyboard genius Bernie Worrell, another Plainfield youngster and trained classical musician, who opening out the band's sound into a whole new strange area. The second featured the incredible 'Maggot Brain', as played by Eddie Hazel.

Arrival of the Collins Brothers
Billy Nelson and Eddie Hazel temporarily left the group in 1972 due to financial disputes, and Tawl Ross left because of a bad LSD trip. William and Phelps Collins, two brothers who eventually became more widely known as Bootsy and Catfish Collins|Catfish, respectively, hopped aboard. Bootsy first met George when he was tripping out on acid, spouting jibberish. They had been playing with James Brown as part of the [JBs], but had tired of his tyrannical attitude. Bootsy described how he knew straight away that he wanted to work with Clinton because, as he describes, "he was tripping like a mug" (BBC Soul Deep). Both brothers were influential in the development of the P-Funk sound, particularly the maverick Bootsy, and the result was America Eats Its Young (1972), a bizarre, distorted and brilliant work.

The Reemergence of Parliament
But there were tensions behind the scenes. The arrival of the Collins brothers changed the tone of the Funkadelic sound, and not everybody was happy. Bootsy left briefly after that album, while Catfish was an on-and-off member who eventually wound up playing mostly for his brother's solo efforts.

By the time Bootsy came back in 1974, Clinton had decided to open up another front for The Funk. He had released a selection of the band's tripped out, experimental songs under the name Parliament in 1970, as the album Osmium. But the Parliament name languished for four years after that, until Clinton resurrected it in 1974 for Up For The Downstroke, which was basically recorded by Funkadelic, plus Bootsy.

The following year, Parker and Fred Wesley|Wesley (also from the JB's] joined Parliament, enhancing the horns and added a new, jazzy dimension to the music. The same year, the incredible young light of Glen Goins joined too, a naturally talented from a hugely talented family, rooted strongly in the gospel. And so too did Jerome "Big Foot" Brailey on drums. This was 1975, the year of Chocolate City.

And the year that followed, 1976, was the year of The Mothership Connection. The year that "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up The Funk)" became the first Top Ten single for the group, peaking at number five, and the album became the first gold P-Funk LP.

Two year's later, 1977, Parliament won its first No. 1 hit with "Flashlight", off the album Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome.

P-Funk On The Rise

Clinton had signed Parliament to Casablanca Records. In 1977 he moved Funkadelic from Westbound to Warner Brothers, angering some of the original members.

But Funkadelic would go on with mounting confidence and popularity throughout the 1970s, recording a string of excellent albums - Cosmic Slop (1973), Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974), Let's Take It To The Stage (1975), Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (1976), Hardcore Jollies (1976), One Nation Under A Groove (1978), Uncle Jam Wants You (1979), and The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981). In this period they had two No. 1 hits of their own: One Nation Under a Groove in 1978 and (Not Just) Knee Deep (song)|(Not Just) Knee Deep in 1979. As the years went by, their strengths were boosted by the constant attraction of new talent - including Eddie Hazel-a-like guitarist Michael Hampton, Ohio Player's genius Junie Morrisson, and even Sly Stone.

Parliament went on through the 1970s with a series of successful albums: The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein (1976), Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome (1977), The Motor-Booty Affair (1978), Gloryhallastoopid (1979) and Trombipulation (1980). The band scored another No. 1 hit in 1978 with "Aqua Boogie", off The Motor-Booty Affair album. The albums of the period had morphed into concept albums, with bizarre, spacy themes that carried elaborate and pointed political and sociological messages, and were usually linked between albums (see P-Funk mythology). The two most notable additions to the group during this period were Junie Morrison and Skeet Curtis. Junie in particular played several instruments, wrote, produced and arranged many of the most-respected songs on two crucial albums, One Nation Under a Groove and Motor Booty Affair.

Bootsy's Rubber Band & The P-Funk Family
With help from Clinton, Bootsy Collins formed Bootsy's Rubber Band, a wacky, bass-driven group, along with Catfish Collins, Mudbone Cooper, the Horny Horns and, at times, Bernie Worrell and Joel Johnson.
The Rubber Band was the beginning of a burgeoning P-Funk family, which multiplied in the late seventies, with the building swarm of musicians recording albums were released under a multitude of names - including The Brides of Funkenstein and Parlet, and most notably The Horny Horns with Fred Wesley. Bernie Worrell and Eddie Hazel also released excellent solo albums.

The changes that happened in 1977 with the move to Warner Brothers, and the string of No. 1 hits, saw the emergence of the lavish P-Funk tours that would eventually became legendary, involving huge elaborate props, costumes, routines and even a massive flying Mothership landing on stage, called in by Glen Goins. These tours became ever more and more elaborate and expensive, resulting in dire financial straits. In 1979, Funkadelic launched the Anti-Tour, scrapping much of the lavishness. This was where Dennis Chambers and Blackbyrd McKnight joined the group.

As the 1970s drew to a close, bad management had put the whole empire in jeopardy. George Clinton's tendency to neglect the very people who had helped him build the P-Funk sound also meant that many of the greatest musical talents turned against him. Glen Goins left to form renegage P Funk band Quazar; Jerome Brailey left to form the equally renegade Mutiny; and the original Parliaments formed a renegade Funkadelic of their own. The P Funk mob began to splinter, which the foundations started to crumble.

Parliament's final album - Trombipulation - came out in 1980, and Funkadelic's - The Electric Spanking Of War Babies in 1981.

End For The Funk?

Casablanca Records folded in 1982. Like Revilot in the 1960s, it took the legal rights to the name Parliament with it. Meanwhile Warner Brothers seemed to have lost interest in Funkadelic, becoming prudish, fussy, negative and penny pinching, despite all the band's years of success. With the Funk Mob in chaos already, the end of the P seemed nigh.

But... P-Funk Lives!

George Clinton battled with financial problems and addiction to keep recording during the 1980s. The remaining Funk Mob recorded the 1982 hit album Computer Games, which included the much-sampled, No. 1 single, "Atomic Dog". The following year, he formed The P Funk All Stars, who went on to record Urban Dancefloor Guerillas in 1983 and toured regularly throughout the rest of the 1980s.

Other P-Funksters continued with their own projects, including Sweat Band with Bootsy, and later O.G. Funk with many members of Funkadelic. Clinton produced a series of solo rap albums too during this time, of mixed quality.

As the 1980s continued, with an industry hostile to it, The Funk began to slip out of the popular consciousness. But Hip Hop kept the flame alive, the growing genre of funk-sampling street music.

By 1993, most of the old Parliament and Funkadelic albums had been re-released. A new generation began to pick up on the power of The Funk. The same year saw the return of a reconstituted P-Funk All-Stars, with the re-release of Urban Dancefloor Guerillas as [Hydraulic Funk], and a scandalous new Hip Hop influenced album [Dope Dogs], including the excellent 'All Sons Of Bitches'. In 1994, the group toured with Lollapalooza.

P-Funk's fortunes seemed back on the rise. In 1996 they released T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.. But legal problems flared up again, and it would be another ten years before another album would be released. In the intervening time, successive tours would slowly restore some of the broken ties between the original band members, together with an accumulation of new talent, slowly rebuilding that old confidence and audicaty.

In 2002, Bootsy released Play With Bootsy.

And in 2005, Clinton released the latest P Funk All Stars album How Late Do You Have 2BB4UR Absent? in time for the 50th anniversary of the founding of the original Parliaments.

Funksters of Special Importance on the Development of the P-Funk Sound

George Clinton
George Clinton has been, since its inception, the driving force behind the development of the P-Funk sound. Though he may be remembered today more for his rainbow hair and outlandish costumes than his music, his influence on generations of musicians has been remarkable. Clinton's artistry encompassed more than mere entertainment. In an era of growing black awareness, political ferment, social protest and societal upheaval, Clinton, like scores of his contemporaries (Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions; the Temptations; Donny Hathaway; Marvin Gaye; Edwin Starr; Oscar Brown, Jr.; The Staples Singers/Swingers; The Voices of East Harlem; Nina Simone; etc.) took African-American popular music (long concerned with issues of social, political and economic justice) to new levels of political outspokenness, public visibility and artistic accomplishment, tackling such complex subjects as the Vietnam War and the War on Drugs with intelligence and awareness.

Bootsy Collins
Bootsy is a versatile bassist, capable of playing many styles. He was adventurous and original in his playing, and has become known as a legendary virtuoso of the bass guitar. He also made a substantial impact as a songwriter and uncredited guitarist and drummer on several studio tracks. Like many of Clinton's bandmembers, he is also known for his outlandish stage wear, especially gaudy glasses. Bootsy also had a successful solo career, during which he often used the stage and production names "Bootzilla" and "Casper".

Catfish Collins
A strong rhythm guitarist, versatile like his brother, Catfish Collins's ability to lock onto a groove and keep it going through the epic live jamming the group is known for has made him one of the most influential rhythm guitarists in musical history. He was able to keep a stable rhythm, thereby allowing Worrell and others to go off on musical improvisatory excursions while keeping the music stable and grounded.

Eddie Hazel is considered one of the most influential guitarists in musical history. Though he was never as flashy as many others, his playing was always intense and unconventional. "Maggot Brain", a ten-minute solo, is widely cited as an emotional masterpiece of the guitar. He wrote many of the guitar riffs for the band, and did some singing as well. Along with childhood friend, Billy Bass Nelson, Hazel developed psychedelic funk rock, mixing blues, rock and roll, soul, Motown and pop music.

Garry Shider
Of all the Funksters, Shider is probably the greatest vocalist of the group. He performed leads on many of their most famous songs ("Cosmic Slop" being particularly notable).

Bernie Worrell
Bernie Worrell, keyboardist, was added after the release of their first album. He deserves a special mention as an especially important influence in the early development of the P-Funk sound. Even before officially joining the group, he helped out on many of the recording sessions. Eventually, he became responsible for many of the musical arrangements, and produced most of the later albums.

Glen Goins
Born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey in a family of talented musicians, this master vocalist with the strong, haunting gospel voice is perhaps best know for calling in the Mothership in the P Funk live shows. Glen was one of the first to leave the group in reaction to Clinton's bad management, and poor treatment of musicians. He formed Quazar in 1978 to be a renegade Funk outfit, which also featured his younger brother Kevin Goins, now performing with PTheory. Glen passed away from Hogkins Disease in the same year, aged only 24.

See also: List of P Funk Members

Songs by the P-Funk crew

*"''Atomic Dog''" (George Clinton)
*"''Do Fries Go With That Shake?''" (George Clinton)
*"''Flashlight''" (Parliament)
*"''(Not Just) Knee Deep''" (Funkadelic)
*"''Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)''" (Parliament)
*"''Up For The Down Stroke''" (Parliament)
*"''One Nation Under a Groove''" (Funkadelic)
*"''Chocolate City''" (Parliament)
*"''Ride On''" (Parliament)
*"''Comin Round the Mountain''" (Funkadelic)