Eddie Hazel: Ultimate Anti-Guitar Hero

“George (Clinton) and I both tuned into extraterrestrial forces. I believe that I’m programmed from above.”- Eddie Hazel, 1977.

There has never been a shortage of phenomenal guitarists within the storied history of rock. Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Eddie Van Halen have all expanded the language of the guitar. Parliament-Funkadelic amped up this tradition by cultivating a virtual guitar army within one musical collective. Indeed, when witnessing the band, one would likely see as many as five guitarists on one stage.

During the late 1960s going into the early 1990s, one guitarist (or “axe molester” as they’re referred to in the U.S. Funk Mob) who was a near-constant presence in the guitar army was Brooklyn-born, Plainfield, NJ-raised Edward “Eddie” Earl Hazel. Eddie Hazel was the prime guitarist for P-Funk dating back to around 1967, having been recruited into the band by the group’s bassist Billy “Bass” Nelson.

Over the years, Eddie has been lauded as one of the world’s top guitarists, but one that most people have never heard of. Even when guitar magazines include Eddie in their lists of great players, they use a picture of another P-Funk guitarist. Proper recognition has eluded Mr. Hazel.

Funkadelic’s tenure at Westbound Records would showcase Eddie’s perfect axe molestation capabilities. While the first two album releases, the self-titled debut and Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow, showcased Eddie’s psychedelic Blues approach, it would be the band’s third album, Maggot Brain, released in 1971, that established him as one of Funk’s leading guitar players.

As the story goes, producer George Clinton asked Eddie to imagine that his mother just died. Then, to imagine how he’d react if he learned it wasn’t true. Due to Eddie’s reputation as a very emotional individual, those questions would result in one of the most incendiary guitar instrumentals ever committed to tape. A fellow P-Funk guitarist once described Eddie’s performance on “Maggot Brain” as “a brother crying his soul out.”

Fast forward to 1974. Funkadelic releases Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On. For this particular release, Eddie shared writing credits with George Clinton on the entire album (Bernie Worrell receives a writer’s credit for the track “Red Hot Momma” along with George and Eddie). The title cut alone represents one of the hardest slabs of funk-rock ever aimed at the dance floor. Both “Maggot Brain” and “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On” remain staples of P-Funk’s setlist.


Released July 29th, 1977

Between 1974 and 1977, Eddie was involved in an incident during an airline flight. That landed him in jail for somewhere between one to two years. Upon his release, Eddie got to work on a solo album, the only album released by Eddie during his lifetime.

Like most P-Funk albums at the time, it featured the crème de la crème of Parliament-Funkadelic musicianship. Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Garry Shider, Billy “Bass” Nelson, Tiki Fulwood, and Jerome Brailey all provide “maliciously musical” accompaniment, with the soon-to-be Brides Of Funkenstein (yet another P-Funk spin-off act) and Gary “Mudd Bone” Cooper supplying playful background vocals. Eddie’s gospel-defined lead singing lifts “California Dreamin’” to a higher realm. In many ways, Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs represents the missing Funkadelic album for 1977.


Released on July 25th, 1994

On December 23rd, 1992, at the age of 42, Eddie Hazel succumbed to liver cancer. Less than two years later, a compilation of vault tracks recorded in 1975 would appear primarily in record stores in Japan. Rest In P is a collection of instrumentals that didn’t make it to the Game, Dames…project and would feature the same musicians. “Purple Hazel” is a nod to the Jimi Hendrix track “Isabella,” while the track “No It’s Not!” serves as a continuation of the 1976 Funkadelic track “Comin’ Round The Mountain.” Even though Rest In P is continually sought out, it’s still only available in Japan.

After 1984, Eddie Hazel’s presence in P-Funk became sporadic. He would occasionally appear at P-Funk gigs, often unannounced. One of his last appearances with P-Funk occurred at the Ritz in NYC in September 1992. At this appearance, he would rip into a rendition of “Maggot Brain” that was noticeably different than any other live version he’d done. It’s almost as if he were conscious that it would be one of the last times he’d be able to present his instrumental masterpiece to the public.

Eddie’s last appearances on record were two tracks featured on the double CD set, Funkcronomicon, produced by avant-garde musician Bill Laswell. The passionate “Pray My Soul”/”Sacred To The Pain” are instrumental and vocal versions of the same track (the vocal version featuring Umar Bin Hassan of the Last Poets). It represents a brother crying his soul out one last time.

Edward Earl Hazel (April 10th, 1950-December 23rd, 1992)

-Tim Kinley

Photo: Fair Use promotional photo of Eddie Hazel

2 comments on “Eddie Hazel: Ultimate Anti-Guitar Hero

  1. Harry S.

    As a guy that grew up on hard rock and metal, I was blow away by Eddie Hazel. What an amazing guitarist! If you love great guitar playing, you’ve got to give Eddie his due. Love it.

  2. Basheer Muhammad

    I personally remember one of P-Funk’s performance featuring the late Eddie Hazel. It was some lost / found arena between San Diego / Orange County, California. A small arena. Eddie played his soul, as it was prior talk, that Eddie only had a small fraction of a functioning liver, left. Peace and Best wishes to our fallen soldiers, both male & female. Additional compassion and expressions, also to those still with us.

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