SHAMAN ENLIGHTENS MONTANA
George Clinton and
the P-Funk All-Stars
at the Wilma Theater -- Missoula, Montana; February 28, 2001
in the Army of Uncle Jam
George Clinton (Right) cues some of the P-Funk Guitar Army;
(From L - R) Michael Hampton, Billy 'Bass' Nelson, DeWayne McKnight,
and Garrett Shider.
(With Michael 'Clip' Payne singing from the riser.)
"It was TIGHT!" said Doc, the guitar tech.
Yes, the Missoula show was very good, but he was talking about the tour
bus that broke down in Idaho.
"We were buddying up," said Ron Wright, one of the tag-team drummers,
"We usually have three busses, but we had to squeeze into two,"
"It's a commitment -- everybody shows up and does what they've proven
they can do - again and again, " said Doc, about life spent traveling
from venue to venue.
So this was backstage at a P-Funk show - a combination of laughter and
concentration that's been on the road since the late 60's when Billy "Bass"
Nelson started backing up a Doo Wop group called "The Parliaments." He
teamed up with a mercurial electric guitarist named Eddie Hazel, and named
the band "Funkadelic." George Clinton was in both groups as a singer and
producer, and as time progressed the term "P-Funk" was used to describe
the vast amount of music that was made in association with this ever-expanding,
Photo) George Clinton, bass-master Lige Curry, and Robert 'P-Nut'
Johnson tear up the stage in the free-form 'Parliament' section of
the Missoula show. (Right Photo*)
'P-Nut' calmly awaits his turn and plays the Wilma's baby grand piano
near the stage door, while out front the Guitar Army totals the audience's
ears with "Mommy, What's a Funkadelic?"
by Garrett Cheen
by Michael Evans
Earlier that night I'd met Derrick Drisdale, the Road Manager. He had
a backstage pass all ready for me, due to their publicist Marcy Gurgossian,
and the Internet.
"I've got some letters for Billy Bass and Blackbyrd McKnight," I said.
"Billy's eating," said Derrick, from the stage, "But Blackbyrd's back
here. Come on up!"
I spoke with McKnight, one of P-Funk's two lead guitarists, as he opened
the message from his friend Gabe Gonzales, a former P-Funk drummer, who'd
also played with them at Woodstock '99, and thundered behind Blackbyrd's
guitar on the instrumental opus "Dog Star (Fly On)."
I checked out the rapidly-filling theater, but the best place to shoot
pictures was in the wings of the stage, so I made sure it was OK, and
stayed out of the way as the show unfolded.
to R) Cordell Mosson came on board with Garry Shider, Billy 'Bass'
Nelson co-founded the band, Michael Hampton succeeded Eddie Hazel
on lead guitar, ex-Headhunter DeWayne McKnight plays second lead,
and steps out on 'Dog Star,' a firestorm solo number. 'Boogie' Mosson
sings 'All Your Goodies Are Gone' from Parliament/Funkadelic's earliest
days, while Frankie 'Kash' Waddy creates an earthquake on drums. Kash
was among Clinton's first recruits from James Brown's band, where
the funky rhythmic cue 'On the One' was perfected.
Michael "Clip" Payne started by giving a brief "P-School" chanting lesson.
Garry Shider came out in his trademark diaper, plugged in his guitar and
"Mommy What's A Funkadelic" thundered throughout the Wilma -- the heaviest
kind of Detroit Rock started assaulting the audience.
Later, Garry told me how he was 'counting the echoes in the hall,' and
adjusting the tempo of the band's playing.
Clip said, "My ears cleared up all the sudden, and the crowd went nuts!
The pace slowly quickened as the vocalists started parading their skill
at the microphones.
"All Your Goodies Are Gone" featured 29-year veteran Cordell Mosson, "Soul
Mate" featured Sheila Brody. The guitarists started ripping their Jazz
licks - McKnight led the way, and Michael Hampton started wailing on top
The "Guitar Army" was in full force when they launched into the powerful
"Cosmic Slop," dedicated to everybody's mother, and George Clinton strode
onstage to make his grand entrance at the screeching climax. Everyone
was out of their seats, and surging forward.
by Garrett Cheen
Clinton (Center) greets the crowd at the keening climax of 'Cosmic
Garry Shider (Right) leads the singing in this Curtis Mayfield-inspired
ballad of big-city survival.
"It gets deeper and deeper as long as the show goes on," Ron Wright had
said, "They start in their seats, but they get it on!"
Things got wild - the hits like "One Nation Under A Groove," and "Knee
Deep" came early, and a funky free-for-all developed with Belita Woods
scat-singing Les Brown's "Sentimental Journey." Trumpeter Bennie Cowan
split some ears with his super-high notes. Billy Bass Nelson THREW DOWN
a ripping solo (on bass) about 2 1/2 hours into the show. (Michael Hampton's
cousin, Lige Curry, held down bass chores through most of the performance.)
The heavy hitter of the evening was LaShonda Clinton, who started rapping
"Something Stank, and I Want Some." George hugged his granddaughter as
Clinton destroys whatever resistance is left with "Somethin'
Steve Boyd joins in, and the crowd is over the edge.
"She was so demure," said my friend Leah afterward, "but she sure got
confident and nasty when she took the Mic."
The dust wasn't even beginning to settle when Hampton began "Maggot Brain,"
the famous Blues solo. Michael and the band were changing keys from the
normal E-minor, and finding new colors. Blackbyrd took over with "Dog
Star," and everyone got onstage for the finale -- "Atomic Dog" -- probably
their biggest song, as far as airplay goes. "102 Dalmations" even has
it in the soundtrack. All the women were encouraged to join the band onstage
and dance to the stomping rhythm -- and dance they did!
by Garrett Cheen
P-Funk also boasts a first-rate horn section --
led by trumpeter Bennie Cowan, with Scott Taylor and Greg Thomas (Left),
who does a fabulous round of scat-style singing during 'Knee Deep,'aided & abetted by
(L to R) Clip Payne, George Clinton, Garry Shider, and 'Soul Mate' Sheila Brody.
As the Wilma emptied, there were some calls for more, and the Guitar Army
even started the mighty "Red Hot Mama" riff, but too many booties
were pointing the wrong way and leaving.
Bravo Productions of Missoula was clearing the stage, and Bravo's crew
chief was bellowing orders to the beautiful young women who were still
onstage. "All you girls OUT through the dressing room!" he shouted, "I
OWN this stage!"
The friendly P-Funk musicians were obviously thinking 'alright,' but they
quietly and politely escorted their fans down the concrete pit of a stairway
at the Wilma Theater, and chatted for awhile as they went about their
The night was horribly cold, but everyone got the sweat off downstairs,
and made it to the cars for next day's trek to Spokane. Michael Hampton
came up and had a friendly talk with me. (He later played a solo gig in
San Francisco on March 23rd.)
during the show, Solana dances to Hampton's 'Maggot Brain,' Courtney
& Jennifer laugh about some dam' thang. Eric McFadden, Chris Ogelsvie,
Doc, and Derrick stand in the back.
after the show (Left to Right) Garrett Shider, Garry Shider, Detroit
Disco Diva Belita Woods, Frankie "Kash" Waddy, Jennifer Fanning, and
'Soul Mate' Sheila Brody.
Frank "Kash" Waddy, the first drummer in the 3-man tag team made sure
I knew how much he enjoyed playing in Missoula." Damn, I like this place!"
he said, "I've been back here since '94, and I always have a good time!"
Eric McFadden, the acoustic player within the Guitar Army, talked about
his own critically-acclaimed band in San Francisco, and asked if he could
be heard out front when he played mandolin and wooden guitar. (The
Mercury's Garrett Cheen said 'No.' Scott O'Connor from the audience said
"George is such a Teddy Bear!" said Courtney, who'd danced an improvised
waltz with the Funk Overlord earlier in the show. She and her friend Solana
stuck around to talk with a fully-dressed Garry (Diaperman) Shider, who's
been with Parliament/Funkadelic since 1972, and shares the stage with
his son Garrett.
"He doesn't know you, yet," Shider said to me -- then made sure Garrett
and I met.
Vocalist Michael (Clip) Payne was on hand, along with Carlos McMurray,
who'd knocked the audience off their feet with his dancing as "Sir Nose."
Carlos was trying to converse with a young lady from South America, but
the gulf between her Spanish and his English was pretty wide.
"Write this down!" ordered Garry, looking right at me, "Write that Carlos
has a number one record in Atlana!"
'EM WITH THE BOP GUN! Carlos McMurray sheds the 'pimp' hat and fur
coat of 'Sir Nose' (D'Voidofunk), inspiring the crowd with his athletic
dancing, and still wearing his nose!
(L to R) S. Boyd, Keyboardist Jerome Rogers, G. Thomas, G. Clinton,
Bassist Lige Curry, G. Shider, Drummer Rico Lewis, Carlos, S. Brody,
'P-Nut' Johnson, Eric McFadden, Clip Payne, & Paul Hill.
It's my pleasure to report this - I knew that McMurray had a CD, and was
glad to know that it was being heard. He adds a visual dimension to the
show with pimp hat, fur coat, and his double-jointed, perfectly-developed
body. (The dark-skinned Spanish beauty was also a fine dancer, and the
two looked great onstage.)
As the conversation continued, I learned that Garry Shider was not only
recording his OWN music, along with Clip, but that his wife Linda Shider
had a vocal group named "Leggs," that was releasing a CD soon. "My next
project is my granddaughter," Garry said proudly, "She doesn't know it
yet, though. She's only two -- but she's got it!"
Shider (Foreground) takes a rest while Michael (Clip) Payne
looks back at P-Funk's long-time concert master.
Acupuncturist Jennifer Fanning, a guest on the West Coat tour, mentioned
that Clip and Garry also had a group called "Drugz" that was booked into
New York's Wetlands club later in March. "Chuck," the Production Manager,
joined in the fun as we talked about trafficking "Drugz" on the East Coast.
Clip Payne has been with the group since the late 70's. Besides shadowing
George Clinton on MC duties, he's a producer/engineer, and gets musical
credit for synthesized "Man In The Box" rhythms. When he's home in Woodstock,
New York he does "Tripfest" webcasts, and runs a company called
"WEFUNK" with others in the band. He made a fabulous CD called "Cacaphonic
Funk Mob" in Paris, France two years ago that was on sale at the souvenir
When Garry and Clip talked about the evening's show, their vocabulary
went into an abstract universe - communicating sound, and audience, dynamics
in a cryptic, suggestive way that was treated VERY seriously by both men.
I can't quote them, but it was very clear that they counted echoes and
beats, and gauged EXACTLY what moved any crowd they had to entertain.
Clinton and an un-named Missoula fan -- as usual, the funky conductor
gets all the credit for a job well-done by everyone!
George Clinton was accepting hugs and kisses from everybody between bites
of cantaloupe. He was most impressed when one of the young guys told him
P-Funk had been on National Public Radio's "Afro-Pop Worldwide" that evening.
Short Interview with George Clinton
Are you glad the tour's about over?
Oh yeah, I can get some fishing in! I still go deep-sea fishing off the
coast of Florida. I've been doing it since 1973! I lived in Florida for
4 years now, but I've been serious about fishing for years before it."
Do you have anything to say to 2000 college kids up in Kalispell, some
of who drove two hours to see you?
A: Keep the Funk alive - keep on coming back, and we'll be here!
What's your take on being described as a "shaman?"
A: I'm just a referee, an OLD referee! We've been doing it for so long,
the cues are so subtle…
Do you travel separate from the band?
A: Sometimes -- today I'm traveling with 'em. Right! It's going to be
close quarters; one of the buses is broke down.
What was it like playing Bruce Willis' place down in Hailey?
A: Oh, I loved it - he came to the show the other night himself (in Boise).
Garry Shider hears a whole room - do you do it the same way?
A: (laughs) I hear both sides of the stage 'cause I'm up front!
Do have any barbershop stories to tell?
(George Clinton's original vocal group "Parliament"
formed in his New Jersey barbershop, where he specialized in 'conking,'
or straightening hair in the 50's)
A: You know when people dye their hair? Well, if
we tried to straighten it -- it would fall out! You had to watch out -
couldn't do it if they dyed it!
Web authoring by Michael R. Evans. All text by Michael Evans; All Black
and White audience photos by Garrett Cheen; All color photos by Michael
Evans, including * (originally in color). Portions were previously published
in the 'Mercury News' of Flathead Valley Community College Kalispell,
Montana, March 19, 2001.
This version contains new material and photographs, and constitutes a
completely new work of art that is protected under all international copyright
laws -- country of origin: USA. All images were made by permission of
the management of George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars for exclusive
use in this article. (Thanks Marcy!)