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Reflections on Michael Hampton
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Michael Hampton as I first saw him -- playing Cosmic Slop live onstage in Missoula, Montana 1998 wearing his black-on-white version of the ONE jersey.

Putting on THE ONE

Part 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 gig.

The Author &
his ONE jersey.
We 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.
This 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
One 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.
Once 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 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.
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.
(Left) Michael Hampton (middle) plays an adventuresome version of Maggot Brain at the Wilma Theater
(Center) Getting in tune with co-lead guitarist 'Blackbyrd' McKnight (front)
(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
Three 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!)

Michael Hampton looked up from his guitar and recognized me.
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!
More of "Those pictures" in: Putting On The ONE (Part 2)

Monochrome 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