Parliament-Funkadelic is a funk music collective headed by George Clinton. It specialized in the style of music known as P Funk and performed under the names Parliament and Funkadelic (two bands consisting of the same members, recording for different labels), but also in a score of offshoot groups and solo ventures. Recording under myriad names, this group had thirteen Top Ten hits in the U.S. R&B music charts between 1967 and 1983, including six number one hits in the R&B Charts. They were inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Collectively the group has existed under various names since the 1960s and has been known for top-notch musicianship, politically charged lyrics, outlandish concept albums and memorable live performances.
Today the band tours as either "George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars" or "George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic". Some former members of Parliament perform under the name "Original P".
The etymology of the term "P-Funk" is subject to multiple interpretations. It has been identified typically as an abbreviation of "Parliament-Funkadelic". Another suggested definition is "Plainfield Funk", referring to Plainfield, New Jersey, the hometown of the band's original line-up. The liner notes of CD versions of the Motor Booty Affair album suggest that the 'P' stands for 'Pure'. It has also been suggested that it is an abbreviation of "Psychedelic Funk". The breakout popularity of Parliament-Funkadelic elevated the status of "P-Funk" to describe what is now considered to be a genre of music in its own right. Fans of this genre of music often refer to it as "The P".
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.
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.
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 reportedly 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
William “Bootsy” Collins (bass, vocals, drums, songwriter, producer; born October 26, 1951) Bootsy Collins was a major songwriter, rhythm arranger and bassist for Parliament-Funkadelic during the seventies and was a major influence in the band's sound during that time. Bootsy is adventurous and original in his playing, and pioneered the extensive use of echo, distortion, and other effects on the bass guitar. He also made a substantial impact as an 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 late seventies, 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 early-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 was extremely influential in the development of the P-Funk sound, and with modern music in general, particularly in his use of synthesizers. 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 P-Funk 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 (keyboards, multi-instrumentalist, vocals, songwriter, arranger, producer; born 1954) 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) and served as a lead vocalist, producer, 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 beginning 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 on stage since the late seventies. He continues to tour with the band.
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