Hampton as I first saw him -- playing Cosmic Slop live onstage
in Missoula, Montana 1998 wearing his black-on-white version of the
on THE ONE
One: I bought an oversized jersey at the Missoula P-Funk
concert in 1998. Mr. Hampton was wearing the white version
while I was wearing the black version. We both wore them backwards
so the letters P-FUNK 1 showed at the front. "Nice
shirt!" he said, as I introduced myself backstage after the
his ONE jersey.
all have our musical heroes, but it's rare to meet them in person.
I spoke to B.B. King by sheer accident in 2005, and purposefully
walked up to Mike Heron of the Incredible String Band
in 1975. One early Spring day I drove two and a half hours to
Missoula for a concert at the University of Montana by George
Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars. The floor seats were all
sold out, but I got a great vantage point in the first tier.
A posse from my town sat in the same row. Two highlights moved
me deeply -- Cosmic Slop; punctuated with loud ripping
guitar solos by Michael Hampton, and Maggot Brain; a
wailing instumental where Hampton flooded the entire arena with
golden sonic nectar.
is neither a review of the three-and-a-half hour show, nor a
memoir of everything I saw, heard, or felt, but some details
are in order: I had moved to Montana after studying Computer
Science in Spokane, Washington, . A great job came my way in
the town of Kalispell, where I manipulated pictures, videos,
and text via computers. I played CDs under headphones for long
stretches of time, so I constantly needed fresh music. Parliament
/ Funkadelic's extensive catalog solved my problem, and
provided a bonus of constant inspiration by mixing musical virtuosity
with humor that was out of this world -- literally. This sprawling,
amorphous multi-named group had been successful in the 1970's,
and were popular again because of the Lallapalooza tours in
the 90's. I enjoyed bonding with people less than half my age
by means of music -- so this was no ordinary concert for me.
(L to R) 'Blackbyrd' McKnight, Garry Shider, and 'Boogie' Mosson
onstage at the U of M Fieldhouse in Missoula Montana 1998 (*)
'Billy Bass' Nelson, Michael Hampton, and
Lige Curry (Front) plus Rico Lewis (Back) at
the Wilma Theater in Missoula, Winter 2001
of my favorite performers in this "band of bandleaders"
was Michael Hampton -- his clear, nuanced guitar solos were
the highlights of chart-smashing singles like One Nation
Under A Groove and Knee Deep. He took the stage in
Missoula and knocked the young crowd off their feet.
I was transfixed like everyone else by the huge sound of his
Flying V guitar and the sheer beauty of his playing.
Michael Hampton was and IS one of my personal guitar heroes,
along with his P-Funk predecessor Eddie Hazel, and other electric
masters like Vernon Reid, Tony McAlpine, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani,
Jeff Beck, and Jimi Hendrix.
I decided to go backstage afterwards, and once again observed
the purposeful chaos of tear-down and load-out that I knew from
long-ago days as a theater tech.
The first P-Funk All-Star I met was Cordell 'Boogie'
Mosson -- I asked his name, then told him I'd been listening
to his music every day for the last three years. Boogie stood
stock-still for a moment, and asked me for a hug.
It was my turn to be stunned next when I saw Michael Hampton
standing with a small crowd of college students around him.
I felt like I was in communion with history -- Mr. Nelson founded
the group Funkadelic before it became interwoven with Parliament.
He was really pleased when I mentioned his appearence with The
Rascals during their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance --
he even SMILED, which is supposedly uncharacteristic of him.
he finished talking, I spoke up -- "Mr. Hampton!"
He smiled, and I said "I'm a Michael too." I had purchased
an oversized jersey at the merchandise table. Mr. Hampton was
wearing the white version while I was wearing the black version.
We both wore them backwards so the letters P-FUNK 1 showed
at the front. "Nice shirt!" he said. I can't remember
the conversation word for word after that, but he was very pleasant.
I remember saying how Montana residents might live far away
from big population centers, but they knew country, rock, and
blues -- and LOVED a well-played guitar. He invited me to stay
in touch on the Internet, and suggested a website in New Orleans
which happened to be One Nation, run by Melissa Weber
-- the fan site I already visited regularly. As we walked towards
the bus, he introduced me to 'Billy Bass' Nelson.
Hampton, Curry, 'Clip' Payne, McKnight, Garrett Shider,
Belita Woods, Garry
Shider, & 'Razor Sharp' Johnson
I went back down the tunnel to enjoy the backstage scene, and eventually
met the leader of the band -- George Clinton took a moment to talk
to me, and I told a story which made him laugh -- but all that stuff
belongs to another page -- THIS one belongs to Michael Hampton.
Michael Hampton (middle) plays an adventuresome version of
Maggot Brain at
the Wilma Theater
(Center) Getting in tune with co-lead guitarist 'Blackbyrd'
(Right) Cosmic Slop is one of Hampton's showcase songs,
and is often George Clinton's cue to take it to the stage!
Hampton is to the left of Clinton, whose arms are raised --
'Boogie' Mosson is at the right
He came up to me
and we spoke for awhile. He gave me his phone number, and told me
to contact him when "those pictures" were ready. It
has been a long time, but they're on the Internet now, Mike!
years later, P-Funk appeared in Missoula again, and I was there.
I had some messages from former bandmate Gabe Gonzales, and
a press pass from their publicist Marcy G. since I was reporting
for the Flathead Valley Community College newspaper. When I
delivered Gabe's notes in the late afternoon, I met DeWayne
McKnight, who shares lead guitar duties in the band, and Hampton's
cousin Lige Curry, who pointed out that Michael was curled up
asleep near the mixing board. One of the tour busses had broken
down on the way from Hailey, Idaho. (That's family for ya'.)
I'd lived on the road myself, so I quietly left.
Watching the gig from the wings of the Wilma Theater that night
was a special treat. When I shifted from one side of the stage
to the other, Michael Hampton looked up from his guitar and
recognized me. He shot a welcoming smile, and I was mightily
impressed -- I hardly recognize MYSELF after taking an afternoon
nap, but HE remembered me after several years.
The P-Funk All-Stars played their multi-hour playlist, with
most of their standards that cold winter night, but there was
a free-form section in the show which was divinely inspired
-- Michael Hampton's guitar must have caught fire, because it
was SMOKIN'. Later he performed Maggot Brain in a new
arrangement that went beyond the original E Minor blues. After
the show, I tried to congratulate him for taking chances, but
he gently let me know that Maggot Brain didn't quite
work out that night. (The changes are a good idea anyway!)
Hampton looked up from his guitar and recognized me.
digital images made from personal photos and drawn from memory. All color
pictures by Michael Evans, except (*) by an unknown FVCC photographer
in 1998. Web page copyright 2006 by
Michael R. Evans