Three ... Bernie Worrell and Maceo Parker come to town!
The story continues after New Year '99 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Two
of the finest musicians in the field of Funk and Jazz brought their
bands to the area on the last weekend of January. Bernie Worrell is
one of the most accomplished keyboard masters of the latter 20th Century.
He played with Keith Richard, Sly & Robbie, and the best lineup
of the Talking Heads. He also co-wrote P-Funk's greatest songs. Maceo
Parker was James Brown's legendary sax soloist, who also shared the
road and studios with P-Funk...
"Bootsy" Collins from an autographed photo
'99 was part of a season of hard work and little pay for me.
(Things were starting to change however, and the upcoming Spring
would be much better.) I had some money in the bank, though,
and time on my hands, so when I heard that Bernie Worrell, one
of my favorite musicians in the entire world, would perform
two shows, I was as happy as I could be that moment. The next
thing I heard was that Maceo Parker would play at the Zephyr
Club with a band that included Rodney "Skeet" Curtis
and Greg Boyer -- all three had played with P-Funk over the
years. Maceo had also been a star in James Brown's various road
bands, and recorded the most famous solos on his hit records.
odd circumstance came to pass -- Patti Collins of Bootzilla
Productions asked me if I would spread some of Bootsy Collins'
promotional items around my musical contacts in Salt Lake City.
Bootsy had released a new CD in the United States called Fresh
Out Of "P" University, and was also working with
his old mentor James Brown again, at least in the studio. I
was honored by the request -- I'd been a card-carrying fan club
member for about four years, but there's STILL more to tell
about it below.
at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, while buying tickets
for Bernie Worrell's concert at Steeps:
was Monday the 25th of January in 1999. Winters in the Salt
Lake Valley can be dark and cold from air pollution and temperature
inversions. The mountains are blessed with warmer weather
and sunshine. This was the case when I drove up to Park City
to scope out the place where Bernie Worrell would be playing
The Sundance Festival is famous now, but it was once the modest
Park City Film Festival, before Robert Redford rode to it's
rescue. The most notorious entry that year was Sex; The
Annabel Chong Story. It was playing at Prospector's Square,
the first theater off the highway, so I stood in line to see
if there was any room -- there wasn't. However, director Gough
Lewis arrived when I did, along with Grace Qi (AKA Annabel
Chong). They were both very friendly people. I told Grace
about Bernie's concert and she interjected "P-Funk!"
when I mentioned his history. She invited me to the Q&A
session after the movie.
During the intervening two hours I drove up to the delightful
chaos of Park City's Main Street, where I guided Troma Pictures
chief Lloyd Kaufman to the Wasatch Brewery, and saw cast members
of The Blair Witch Project signing autographs. The
latter movie would be a big media sensation a few months later.
As I drove back, I stopped at the Jack Ass Coffee Bar for
an espresso. When I told the crew I was going to meet "Annabel,"
they gave me about ten bucks worth of coupons for coffee and
snacks for her. She accepted them with a big smile.
Sights on the streets of Park City, Utah: (Clockwise L to R)
Grace Qi was promoting a documentary called Sex; The Annabel
Chong Story about her own career in the porn industry. Stars
of The Blair Witch Project signed autographs, and Troma's
Lloyd Kaufman promoted his book.
for Bernie Worrell's concert at the Ritz Club --
Which was next door to a popular bowling alley.
my Bernie Worrell tickets at the Park City Resort after Gough
and Qi finished their presentation. They spoke frankly about
extreme hardcore porn with an emphasis on "consent."
It was an interesting, if disturbing, meeting. Grace asked
me to visit www.annabelchong.com.
It still exists, even though Ms. Qi has long since retired
from the sex industry.
After I drove back down into the gray muck of Salt Lake, I
got to work on making some computer graphics as gifts for
Bernie Worrell, Maceo Parker, Skeet Curtis, and Greg Boyer.
Skeet and I had already exchanged emails about meeting at
the Zephyr Club that Sunday.
On Tuesday morning the mailman brought me a package from Bootsy
and Patti Collins. There were three copies of "P"
University, some EP-style CDs featuring his latest single,
a large number of promotional tapes with the EP on one side,
and James Brown on the other, plus some autographed postcards,
a color photo, and a black T-shirt with Bootsy Collins' face
and name on the front.
I gave Fresh Out of "P" University to an
independent dance DJ, the Disco Drippers, and KRCL FM. The
rest of the promotional stuff was passed out to every music
store and head shop between Salt Lake's East Side and Park
Alley Funk: When I located the Ritz Club the next night,
it was in a hall next to a bowling alley on Salt Lake's main
drag. With my artwork under my arm, I walked inside. A friendly
guy started talking to me as I passed the pool tables, and
I found myself raving about Mr. Worrell and his music. After
I thought to ask his name, he told me it was "Daffy."
I asked if his name was also "Fitz" -- and he nodded.
Greg "Daffy Ducking" Fitz was also in Bootsy's Rubber
Band, as I remembered from CD covers. "You even have
your Funk Card!" he said with amazement, as he saw my
fan club membership.
When I showed him my image of Bernie, he introduced me to
the boss himself, who grinned broadly when he saw his picture,
and escorted me in turn to meet his manager and wife Judie
While the audience filtered in, I saw Randy Block, the Funk
DJ from KRCL-FM, and let him know about the promotional "P"
University CD coming his way. My friend Chris Snarr from
the Disco Drippers showed up, and I met Drippers' bassist
Tosh Brown for the first time that night.
I was in Funk Heaven when Bernie and his band, the Woo-Warriors,
did their sound check by playing full-length versions of Red
Hot Mama and Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On
-- two of my all-time favorite Funkadelic tunes. I sketched
and listened while Vinyl played a long opening set. They were
actually co-stars on the tour, and Chris
and Tosh had come to see THEM rather than Bernie Worrell.
They made very pleasant, well-played dance music, but I liked
my Funk with a harder edge, and got it when the Woo-Warriors
took the stage.
Master Bernie Worrell as "Vulcan On The Mothership"
The first of my digital assemblages for that weekend.
male vocalist and Bernie's keyboard protoge, Greg Fitz was the
first member of the Woo Warriors I met. He started talking to
me as I wandered in by the pool tables where he and female vocalist
B.J. Nelson were sharpening their skills with the cue sticks.
of Putting On The ONE is getting too long: Read about the
Bernie Worrell's Park City show in Part Four!
band Vinyl, from Florida, was on tour with Bernie Worrell.
Sherri Berg and her friends turned up at every show that
weekend -- and they came to DANCE!
met the other Woo Warriors one by one -- Donna McPhearson,
Michael Ruben, Brenda Nelson, and the remarkable Gabe Gonzales,
who became a valued friend of mine.
Bernie Worrell is simply one of the best musicians to ever
touch the keys of a synthesizer, organ, or piano. The music
that boiled over from his side of the stage that night was
beyond my ability to praise in execution or originality.
His band impressed me as well -- Donna's nuanced bass lines
took full advantage of those long electrified strings on her
instrument. Every little touch and pluck was rich and resonant.
"Daffy" turned out to be a capable lead singer as
well as supplying horns and effects on his own keyboard. Michael
called himself "Moon," and had a pair of the surest
hands I've ever seen on a guitarist -- whether is was rhythm
or lead, he was right there with clean lines of melody, or
precision strokes on his chords. Brenda had a trained Gospel
voice, and shared vocal chores with Greg Fitz.
Bernie, though, my favorite player was drummer Gabe Gonzales
-- his skill and flair for rhythm were on par with greats
like Chester Thompson, and he induced a nasty wiggle in the
hips of every lady who heard him.
I even danced a little that night, and would dance more the
following evening, but I spent a lot of the last part of the
show hovering around Bernie's array of keyboards, pedals,
and equipment -- he amazed me by stepping from one instrument
to another, triggering sound after sound, and generating more
music than any one man had a right to make.
As the concert finished, I spoke with a lady who had danced
near me for awhile. Her name was Sherri Berg, and in the course
of our conversation, I learned we were neighbors on Capitol
Hill, and that she and her friends would be in Park City for
Bernie's next show. Gabe Gonzales came up to us wearing a
hand-puppet, and joined in the small-talk. Sherri left soon
afterwards, still laughing about Gabe's Praying Mantis puppet
(named Zeke). Bernie, Gabe, and I sat for a long time
talking afterwards. Bernie signed some CDs I brought -- including
a fabulous jam with Jazz great Pharoah Sanders.
images by Michael Evans
Pictures from the Sundance Festival
are from then-current publicity, or drawn from memory with the aid of
alumni and Woo Warriors are montaged primarily from photographs by David
Brooks. Original image of Vinyl from their website: Vinylgroove.com,
and digitally altered by ME. The original sketch of Sherri Berg was drawn
by Michael Evans.