The P-Funk story began in 1956 in Plainfield, New Jersey, with a doo-wop group formed by fifteen-year-old George Clinton. This was The Parliaments, a name inspired by Parliament cigarettes. By the early 1960s, the group had solidified into the five-man lineup of Clinton, Ray "Stingray" Davis, Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas.
In 1964 Clinton added a backing band made up of the young Plainfield musical talent that came into Clinton's barbershop, including Frankie Boyce, Richard Boyce and Langston Booth. The 1960s were a difficult decade for The Parliaments. In a recorded interview on one of his "Family Series" compilation albums, Clinton describes how he was so inspired by the success of Motown Records that he decided to move the band to Detroit and audition for the label. Read Full Bio >>
The Parliaments did not meet with great success at this time, recording only a handful of singles for the relatively minor label Revilot Records. These included a hard-won hit in 1967 with "(I Wanna) Testify/I Can Feel The Ice Melting", but the band struggled to achieve recognition. During this time George Clinton had also written songs for several established Motown acts, including The Jackson 5 and the Supremes and band members such as Eddie Hazel and Billy Nelson occasionally worked as studio musicians.
At the end of the 1960s, Revilot folded and took the Parliaments name with it. At this point George Clinton decided to have the backing band come to the forefront. By this point the Boyce brothers and Booth had been enlisted in the US Army and sent to Vietnam, and so a new band was assembled -- Billy Bass Nelson (bass), Eddie Hazel (lead guitarist), Tawl Ross (guitarist), Tiki Fulwood (drums), and Mickey Atkins (keyboards). They became Funkadelic, and the sound and look of the band became less clean-cut, showing strong influence from some of the band's contemporaries: Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and in particular Sly and the Family Stone. P Funk's connection to the Vietnam conflict grew as former band members and friends were affected by the war, resulting in two poignant songs: Come In Out The Rain (Osmium, 1970) and March To The Witch's Castle (Cosmic Slop), 1973).
The sound hardened into a blend of psychedelic rock, R&B, and a raw Funk music sound. Through their experimentation with distortion and feedback and their outlandish live performances, Funkadelic gathered a small but devoted cult following. They recorded the underground classic album Funkadelic (Westbound Records, 1970) but widespread commercial success eluded them for the time being.
Funkadelic recorded two more albums in the following year, Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow and Maggot Brain. The same year, Funkadelic saw the arrival of master keyboardist Bernie Worrell, another Plainfield youngster and a classically trained musician, who opened up the band's sound into a whole new strange area of classically-oriented, avant garde funkiness.
Billy Nelson and Eddie Hazel temporarily left the group in 1972 due to financial disputes, and Tawl Ross left due to drug problems. William and Phelps Collins, two brothers who eventually became more widely known as Bootsy and Catfish, respectively, joined the band. Both brothers were influential in the development of the P-Funk sound, particularly bassist Bootsy, and the result was America Eats Its Young (1972), a bizarre, distorted and brilliant work.
The arrival of the Collins brothers altered the character of the Funkadelic sound, which initially did not please other band members. 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 his musical vision. He had released a selection of the band's experimental songs under the name Parliament in 1970, as the album Osmium, and a number of singles followed on Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus record label. 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, including Bootsy.
The following year, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley (also from the JBs) joined Parliament, enhancing the horns and adding a new, jazzy dimension to the music. The same year, singer/guitarist Glen Goins, a naturally talented singer rooted strongly in gospel music, joined Parliament-Funkadelic as well as drummer Jerome "Big Foot" Brailey. This was 1975, the year of Chocolate City, an album-length tribute to the group's loyal fanbase in Washington D.C.. That same year, Parliament released the classic album Mothership Connection. "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" became the second Top Ten single for the group, peaking at number five on the US R&B charts, and the album became Parliament's first LP to go gold and platinum.
The albums of this period had morphed into concept albums, with bizarre, space-age themes that carried elaborate and poignant political and sociological messages, and were usually linked between albums (see P-Funk mythology). In 1978, Parliament achieved its first number one single with "Flashlight" from the album Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome. The album itself was another platinum success and one of the more influential albums of the later twentieth century. Many of the songs on the album continued to be performed by the band for decades. "Bop Gun" features the last lead vocal performance of Glen Goins before he left the band in the latter part of 1977. Bass guitarist Bootsy Collins comes into his own on four of the tracks, especially on the title song "Funkentelechy". Bernie Worrell took center stage on almost the entire album, notably single-handedly revolutionizing dance music (and later new wave and rap) with his keyboard work (in particular, Minimoog bass synthesizer) on the signature hit "Flashlight". Parliament continued with a series of successful albums: The Motor-Booty Affair (1978), Gloryhallastoopid (1979) and Trombipulation (1980). The band scored another No. 1 hit in 1979 with "Aqua Boogie", from the Motor Booty Affair album.
Looking to capitalize on his group's recent successes and build an audience for future projects, George Clinton devised a stage show the following year to tour stadiums usually frequented by the largest touring bands of the time, beginning at the University of Houston's Summit Arena in Houston, Texas. This tour was known as Parliament-Funkadelic's "P-Funk Earth Tour". The show incorporated most of the elements of the P-Funk mythology, including the central part of the show which was a "spacecraft" (designed as a "flying saucer"), the Mothership. As the spacecraft "landed" on the stage near the end of each show, Clinton would emerge from it in the guise of his alter-ego, "Dr. Funkenstein." A dress rehearsal of the show was recorded in an airplane hangar at Stewart Airfield in Newburgh, New York on September 26, 1976, and released in 1995 on CD as Mothership Connection Newberg Session.
During the time of Parliament's success, Funkadelic continued to release critically-acclaimed albums, notably Cosmic Slop (1973), Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974), Let's Take It To The Stage (1975), and Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (1976), which saw the emergence of a young Michael Hampton who replaced Eddie Hazel as lead guitarist and became recognized as an exceptionally talented musician in his own right. In 1976 Funkadelic moved from Westbound to Warner Brothers, releasing the albums Hardcore Jollies (1976), One Nation Under A Groove (1978, the debut album of keyboardist and producer Junie Morrison), Uncle Jam Wants You (1979), and The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981). In this period they had two No. 1 hits: One Nation Under a Groove in 1978 and (Not Just) Knee Deep in 1979.
With help from Clinton, Bootsy Collins formed Bootsy's Rubber Band in 1976, a fiercely-funky, bass-driven group, featuring band members Catfish Collins, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, Robert "P-Nut" Johnson, Frankie "Kash" Waddy, and Joel "Razor Sharp" Johnson. Bootsy's Rubber Band signaled the beginnings of a burgeoning P-Funk family, which multiplied in the late seventies, with the building swarm of musicians recording albums released under a multitude of names - including The Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, The Horny Horns, Sweat Band, Godmoma, Zapp, and The Sterling Silver Starship Band. Parliament-Funkadelic members Bernie Worrell and Eddie Hazel also released solo albums at this time. In most instances, all of these acts' albums consisted of the same group of musicians, songwriters, and vocalists, though lead vocals were usually provided by each album's "main act."
Other P-Funk spinoff groups, including Mutiny and Quazar released albums around this time, but they were not produced by George Clinton and featured musicians who had either left, or were not generally associated closely with, P-Funk.
George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic at the Roskilde Festival, 2006.
George Clinton battled with financial problems and well publicized drug problems, while continuing to record during the 1980s. The remaining members of Parliament-Funkadelic recorded the 1982 hit album Computer Games (as a George Clinton solo album), which included the much-sampled, No. 1 single, "Atomic Dog".
The following year, George Clinton formed the "P-Funk All Stars," who went on to record Urban Dancefloor Guerillas in 1983. The "P-Funk All Stars" included essentially the same members as the 1970s Parliament-Funkadelic bands, and were so named because of the various legal issues faced by George Clinton over using the names Parliament and Funkadelic after 1980. The group name continues to the current day and has included a mix of former Parliament-Funkadelic members as well as guests and new musicians.
Other P-Funk artists continued with their own projects, while Clinton produced a series of solo albums during this time, which were generally met with critical acclaim. As the 1980s continued, P-Funk did not meet with great commercial success as the band continued to produce albums under the name of George Clinton as solo artist, such as You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish (1983), Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends (1985), R&B Skeletons in the Closet (1986) and The Cinderella Theory (1989). It was at this time that Hip hop music began to extensively sample P-Funk music, so remnants of the music were still heard regularly, now among fans of Hip Hop.
By 1993, most of the old Parliament and Funkadelic albums had been re-released. The same year saw the return of a reconstituted P-Funk All-Stars, with the re-release of Urban Dancefloor Guerrillas as "Hydraulic Funk", and a new hip hop influenced album Dope Dogs. In 1994, the group toured with Lollapalooza and appeared in the film PCU.
P-Funk's fortunes seemed back on the rise when in 1996 they released T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M.(The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership), which served essentially as a reunion album featuring contributions from the band's most noteworthy songwriters from the earlier eras (Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, and Junie Morrison).
It would be 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. On July 23, 1999 George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, along with former bandmates Bootsy and Phelps Collins and Bernie Worrell, performed on stage at Woodstock '99. In 2002, Bootsy released the album Play With Bootsy.
Clinton says he plans to release an album of new P-Funk material in early 2009. He is also at work on a 40th anniversary album consisting of motown covers featuring members of Parliament and Funkadelic. Lastly, Clinton is also releasing a solo album in September 2008 that also consists largely of covers, as well as two new P Funk tracks.
In May of 1997, George Clinton and 14 other members of Parliament-Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Parliament/Funkadelic #56 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In February 2002, Spin Magazine ranked Parliament-Funkadelic #6 on their list of the 50 Greatest Bands of All Time.
P-Funk's effect on modern popular music is immense. Besides their innovation in the entire genre of Funk music, George Clinton and P-Funk are still heard often today, especially in hip-hop sampling. The song Atomic Dog is commonly known as one of the most sampled songs in the History of hip hop, especially in G-Funk, the rap music continuation of Funk. Their influence can also be heard in contemporary artists such as Outkast and Erykah Badu. Detroit techno has also been linked to the Clinton influence. The vast majority of the P-Funk albums were recorded in Detroit at United Sound Studios on Second Avenue. Detroit has been an integral part of the development Funk.
George Clinton (vocals, songwriter; born July 22, 1941) George Clinton has been, since its inception, the driving force behind the development of the P-Funk sound. Though some may remember him 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; 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.
William “Bootsy” Collins (bass, vocals, drums, songwriter; born October 26, 1951) Bootsy is a versatile bassist, capable of playing many styles. He is 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". Collins stopped performing with the band to focus on his solo efforts in the mid-eighties, though he continued to contribute on studio albums for many years.
Eddie Hazel (guitar, vocals, songwriter; born April 10, 1950, died 1992) 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 composed much of Funkadelic's music during the early seventies and also contributed as a vocalist. Along with childhood friend, Billy Bass Nelson, Hazel developed psychedelic funk rock, mixing blues, rock and roll, soul, Motown and pop music. Hazel recorded and toured with P-Funk sporadically from the mid-seventies until his death on December 23, 1992.
Bernie Worrell (keyboards, vocals, songwriter, arranger, born April 19, 1944) Bernie Worrell, joined Funkadelic 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. Of particular importance is his pioneering use of deep, heavy Moog synthesizer sounds to reinforce the bassline, something that had not been done before and was introduced on the song Flashlight. 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. Worrell left the band in 1981, though he continued to contribute on P-funk studio albums after that time and on occasion he appears live with Parliament-Funkadelic as a Special Guest.
Walter “Junie” Morrison (multi-instrumentalist, vocals, songwriter, arranger, producer) Junie Morrison joined P-Funk in early 1978 as musical director after having success in the early Ohio Players and as a solo artist. Though primarily a keyboardist, Junie composed or co-wrote several of the band's hits at the height of their popularity (e.g. One Nation Under a Groove, Knee Deep, Let's Play House, Theme from the Black Hole). He also served as a lead vocalist, producer, and arranger, and played several instruments on many of the band's songs. Morrison stopped touring with the band after 1981, but contributed on many subsequent albums. During his time with P-funk, much of his work was credited under the name J.S. Theracon.
Garry "Starchild" Shider (vocals, guitar; born July 24, 1953) Shider is probably the most well-known vocalist of the group. He performed leads on many of their most famous songs ("Cosmic Slop" being particularly notable). Shider is generally considered the band's lead vocalist and is known for the diaper he wears on stage during live performances. Shider has also composed a number of the band's songs and is one of the many guitarists in the group. Shider continues to tour with the band.
Michael "Kidd Funkadelic" Hampton (guitar; born November 15, 1956) Mike Hampton has been the lead guitarist for P-Funk since 1976. He is a renowned, technically brilliant guitarist who favors a heavy metal type sound. His innovative guitar work was featured very prominently in the late seventies Funkadelic albums, most notably One Nation Under a Groove and Uncle Jam Wants You. Hampton continues to tour with the band.
Dewayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight (guitar, band director) McKnight played with P-Funk since the late seventies and was known for his flashy technique and versatile guitar style. Along with Hampton, McKnight was prominently featured in live shows as lead guitarist. After a 30-year association with Parliament-Funkadelic, McKnight retired from touring with the band in early 2008.
Glen Goins (vocals, guitar; born 1954; died 1978) Born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey in a family of talented musicians, this master vocalist with the strong, haunting gospel voice was perhaps best known for calling in the Mothership in the P Funk live shows. Goins was one of the first of many musicians to leave the group in reaction to what was perceived as Clinton's bad management and poor treatment of musicians. With Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, he formed Quazar in 1978 to be a renegade Funk outfit, which also featured his younger brother Kevin Goins. Glen died from Hogkins Disease in the same year, aged only 24.
Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey (drums and percussion; born August 20, 1950) Brailey was one of several talented drummers associated with P-Funk. He co-authored "Tear the Roof Off" and his distinctive style was evident on many Parliament-Funkadelic songs during the mid seventies.
Ramon "Tiki" Fulwood (drums, vocals; born May 23, 1944, died 1979) Original Funkadelic drummer Fulwood was featured on early-seventies albums and his style laid the foundation for much of what was to come in terms of P-Funk's rhythm sections.
“Billy Bass” Nelson (bass, guitar; born January 28, 1951) The original Funkadelic bassist, Nelson left the band in the mid-seventies, and returned for 10 years in the mid-nineties.
Cordell “Boogie” Mosson (bass, guitar, drums; born October 16, 1952) Mosson joined Funkadelic at the time of the America Eats Its Young sessions. Although he has been recorded playing bass almost exclusively, he has most frequently played rhythm guitar and drums on stage since the late seventies. He continues to tour with the band to this day.
Phelps "Catfish" Collins A strong rhythm guitarist, Catfish Collins's ability to "lock onto a groove" has made him one of the most influential rhythm guitarists in musical history. An example of his innovative rhythm guitar playing can be found on the 1978 R&B number one hit single "Flashlight". Collins toured with Bootsy's Rubber Band but only very rarely with Parliament-Funkadelic. He has retired from touring.
Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins (vocals; born June 8, 1941) Original Parliament vocalist
Ray "Stingray" Davis (vocals; born March 29, 1940, died July 2005) Original Parliament vocalist. Known for his distinctive bass voice.
Calvin Simon (vocals; born May 22, 1942) Original Parliament vocalist
Grady Thomas (vocals; born January 5, 1941) Original Parliament vocalist << Less Bio