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P-Funk: An Empire In The Making

Parliament Funkadelic

Probably more than any other legendary musical act, Parliament-Funkadelic has had to endure decades without receiving proper recognition for the various innovations they introduced into the popular music landscape. Indeed, we’re talking about a musical collective that has never been nominated for a Grammy, American Music Award, or even an NAACP Image Award. No cover stories in Rolling Stone, Hit Parader, People, or other pop culture magazines of the time. Yet during their commercial peak, they were filling stadiums and arenas with virtually no crossover audience. A hugely significant achievement, no matter how you look at it.

There are many fascinating chapters to the history of P-Funk. Each chapter is defined by boundary-crossing musicians and vocalists that helped to chart the collective’s future. What you’re about to examine is a deep dive into the various chapters of that history. A process of Funk evolution that made the collective the untouchable “thang” of their day.

1959-1969-The Doo Wop/Detroit Soul era

Defined mainly by the singers, but also defined later by co-writers Sidney Barnes, Pat Lewis, and Mike Terry. The move to the Revilot label produces a top 20 hit, “(I Wanna) Testify.” None of the principal instrumentalists that define the P-Funk sound of the 1970s are present, with the exception of Billy Bass Nelson and Eddie Hazel’s growing presence near the end of the decade.

1970-1974-The Acid Funk Era

Eddie Hazel and Bernie Worrell establish themselves as the primary collaborators to George Clinton’s lyrical madness. Regardless of his lack of consistent presence, Eddie defines the instrumental foundation of Funkadelic. In terms of this period, he is the only instrumentalist to have co-written an entire album (Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On). No other instrumentalist achieves that distinction.

Bootsy Collins and his band enter the scene in 1972 and proceeded to take the band in a more Street Funk groove direction, obviously inspired by their period with James Brown. Garry Shider and Boogie Mosson do their thang to further what Eddie and Billy Bass Nelson laid down while also striking a balance with the contributions of Bootsy and his band. Pedro Bell’s artwork delivers the band’s philosophy in a way that no other album illustrator has ever done.

1975-1978 The Mothership/ Earth Tour Era

Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell played an extremely crucial role in the resurgence of Parliament and the establishment of the most successful P-Funk spin-off act, Bootsy’s Rubber Band. A musical development that could not have been done with either Bootsy or Bernie by themselves (or George Clinton, for that matter). It is the Clinton/Collins/Worrell songwriting fusion that sets the entire P-Funk concept on fire.

Having Glenn Goins, Fuzzy Haskins, Ray Davis, and Garry Shider lead the vocal charge is what sells the formula to the record-buying public. Overton Loyd and Stozo Edwards add invaluable creativity to the P-Funk artistic stroke. The arrival of Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns truly help to tighten up the Parliament/Bootsy recordings. The expansion of the empire, including the formation of the Brides of Funkenstein and Parlet helped to cement the concept of a wide-ranging musical structure, not just a band.

1978-1981-The arrival of Junie Morrison

Supplying Funkadelic, an aspect of the PFT Thang that previously lurked in the shadow of Parliament, with two of their biggest hits, further confirms that a musical institution is taking shape. He remains in the P-Funk organization just long enough to define a pivotal period in the band’s history.

1982-1986 The Capitol Era

This period is largely defined by David Spradley, Garry Shider, and, near the end, Steve Washington. Even though they are operating in a more diminished capacity, they’re still able to release the highly influential single, “Atomic Dog.” While the band doesn’t tour after 1984, all of the albums produced in this period help to keep P-Funk in the public eye.

1989 to the present

Probably the longest-running comeback in music history is characterized by studio recordings that feature a handful of individuals from the touring entourage. Blackbyrd, Trey Lewd, and Amp Fiddler emerge as lead collaborators as the band finally receives industry recognition in the form of their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1997 and later, their Grammy Lifetime Achievement award in 2019.

The consensus is clear with no room for second-guessing. You’re looking at the 60-year timeline of a single musical entity. This is a musical institution. Like Shock G of Digital Underground once said, “a college.” A structure that was built for long-term existence with a revolving door policy for some of the industry’s top musicians. Instrumentalists whose presence dictated the direction of the music, while still being dedicated to the philosophical idea of P-Funk. And none of these musicians could produce by themselves what they produced together (very much like the Beatles). Indeed, we will more than likely never see another musical collective like Parliament-Funkadelic in our lifetime.

-Tim Kinley

Photo: Getty Images

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31 comments on “P-Funk: An Empire In The Making

  1. Funkadelian

    Good one!

  2. Only 1 P-Funk. Indeed, what are they doing today my behind. Well said my funk brotha very well said.

    • Member MARK KATELY


    • Michael K Dees

      I’m from the old school of funk i got pee funk bumping in my trunk!

      • Denetrins Stringer

        Seen the mothership land in Birmingham I will never forget just the other day. I was playin maggot brains when you go to a P funk concert be prepared to get funk up just like this song say if you ain’t gonna get it on take your dead ass home make my funk the P funk George spoke words follow your mind, and your ass will follow the music been around for a long time is old and new, but in reality is vintage I still get fucked up when I hear it.

  3. Excellent article 👏🏽 Teach Tim Teach the awesome power of a fully operational mothership

  4. Keith E McDuffie

    All the other “artists” that have had successful careers just from Sampling P-Funk would be legacy enough. Flea, Vulpeck & many others have spoken in awe of P-Funk. Back in the day, musicians used to almost get into fist fights arguing about who had the greatest musicians Earth Wind & Fire or Parliament/Funkadelic. All other groups were measured by that standard!

    • Your absolutely right about that can’t go wrong with those two Titans EWF & parliament were thee premier Bands of the 70s

  5. Terence E Avant

    I had all the lp’s… and seen p-funk 10 or 12 times in concert. First time was my b-day 1977.

  6. I have been a Parliament Funkadelic fan since I was 16 I’m now 60 and a certified lifelong Funkateer. The lyrics, awesome horns, baseline and just a overall vibe to the music these guys were some serious musicians. I seen them in 1979 and to this day I can still picture me being there. Your so right not a magazine cover to their name the music industry should be Ashamed!!!! At any rate I still ride the Mothership Connection. For the younger generation grab your favorite drink or other turn the lava lamp on mellow lighting and groove to the sound of P-Funk you’ll never look back….Give a Horn Blow be Ready to Go!!!!! P-Funk for Life

  7. Michael T Huie

    From songs such as “Maggot Brain” to “Mathematics,” the personalities encompassing the George Clinton brain trust were very unique and ahead of their respective time. Their collaborations created a universal musical environment for enjoyment by all!

  8. Thank you for the history. Truly forgot about I Just Wanna Testify. I get to see this phenomenal band once again in the QC. A birthday present. I cant wait. America Eats Its Young is still an album favorite. The Mothership flies forever.

  9. Sheila Brody

    This is Sheila Brody Amuka Head.
    It was Steve and Sheila Washington Tim Kinley, to give the fans the correct story.
    We were a package deal and we were responsible for the re-awakening of George Clinton after a little hiccup in his career.
    We were all in Detroit and we got busy with The Godfather of Funk who believed in us.
    I am so grateful George trusted us and our talent to pull off some supernatural miracles!
    We wrote new songs with George and our Publishing company came into play.
    This truth seems to be lost in translation but not anymore.
    It’ll be in my book “Dancing in Heels Across the Galaxies Right From the Mothership…”

    I brought Steve to George when his career definitely needed a pick me up and that’s exactly what our involvement did.
    Steve introduced the whole concept of reversing the track or the backwards track concept with “Do Fries Go with that Shake,” and others.
    David Spradley reversed the track when he created Atomic Dog.
    Steve and I breathed new life into PFunk Allstars.
    That’s my family.
    We just did what families do, look out for each other.
    We absolutely turned it all around thanks to God almighty who I praise every day and Give God the Glory.
    We wrote Do Fries Go With That Shake, You always Break My Heart, Hey Good Looking, All or Nothing and many more hit singles.

    Im curious why there is no mention of any of the females who definitely helped to sculpt the sound of all the songs with vocals garnering acclaim. You definitely know who we are Tim. I’m confused why we were not mentioned…

    We were left off the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees list when PFunk was inducted and we were left off the list for the Grammy Achievement Award when they received that award too.
    It leaves me speechless that the women of PFunk have been deliberately overlooked as if we are all invisible. We are not!
    This has prompted me to release a new song entitled, “I Am Not Invisible,”to bring light to these situations where people are made to feel that way. I guess it’s my Aquarian nature that makes me care about others. I have to stand up for what I know is right. Straight facts, no Chaser.

    • Wow! Good to see that you’re still writing new music. Don’t worry about recognition from the “awards” people. True P-Funksters know that the ladies were the backbone of the operation. Much LOVE to you and yours…and FUNK ON!

  10. Sylvester Wilson

    I’m from old school and I listen to it every day and God bless the whole group

  11. Gerald Ferguson


    • Jesse R Bridges Jr

      When you’re taking every Kind of Pill….
      [Peck me lightly – like
      a woodpecker with a headache!]
      The light sensation will help cure your ill.
      Yo – this is Mood Control,
      Sayin’ that you might as well
      (b’cuz u can’t afford Free Speech!)

      Mood Control is designed to render
      Ideas bought to you by the makers of
      ::::::::::::::::::: Mr. PRoLoNG::::::::::::::::::::
      ÷×÷×÷×÷÷better known as÷÷×÷×÷×÷
      Thanksgiving to THE ONE
      Here beyond EONS & PEONS
      B4 the days of The Funk-a-puss
      Surpassed nights of the Thumpasaurus
      Awaiting ever so patiently throughout the
      Along with the co-inhabitants
      to release the Supergroovalisticprosifunksticationary
      Proshitbackwhaspychotic enematics
      Created in the Devine image of those
      Those maniacal maggots

  12. Phillip Frederick Sherrod

    I’m old school too pfunk pushed me through the rough times and absolute best times my teens I’ve a funkateer since I was twelve now I’m 62.Aint no fungus among Us you Dig!

  13. Ben W Shinhoster Jr

    Great article Tim , just like they say you are the P-Funk Mane ,
    I plan to make framed copies and give them to all my grandchildren. Ages 2y to 13🤘🏿💀
    ” jump up in the air.
    stay ‘dere ’til I FLASH THE LIGHT “

  14. There’s no funk like P-Funk: deep, wide, heavy and electric. The Combo of Clinton-Collins-Worrell is as important as any in the history of modern music.

    Great article. Much appreciated ✌🏼👍🏼

  15. Derrick Herbert

    Was introduced to the funk at Edgewater park in 1969. Nothing was ever the same. Who said a rock band can’t play dance music.

  16. Pasquale Spremulli

    Only 1 thing I like about the Funk, everything.

  17. Brian Langford

    I am a ORIGINAL FUNK-A-TEER since before George stepped in.1969-1970

    • My name is Timothy Luther McNair from the Great Northwest, The City of Roses 🌹, Portland Oregon, and I am a PFunkateer for Life. I would love to promote a PFunk concert here in The MODA CENTER.

  18. Charles buggs

    Funk on!!!

  19. christopher Lewis

    I have seen George Clinton and the Parliament funkadelics over 20 plus times…P Funk Mob

  20. That’s a shame they give today’s artist a Grammy just for nothing !but we true funkateers don’t sweat that we know who’s the boss !!!we love ya Mr George Clinton!!!!thank you for all you have given us and then some!!!!

  21. ds689642@gmail.com

    I’m a Pfunkateer for life looking back at my 70’s day riding through neighborhoods with my MindBlowers bumping that P-Funk days gone,but will never be forgotten.

  22. George Brooks

    I been into the funk for 50th years now iam 66.funk will live for ever in me.go George Clinton and the P Funk Allstars.

  23. Pfunk4life

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