Thursday, July 23, 2020

THROWBACK THURSDAY: George Clinton is 79

George Clinton plays The Downs at Santa Fe in 2007
Yesterday was the 79th birthday of founding funk forefather George Clinton.

Happy birthday, Atomic Dog!

There might be a handful of people -- perhaps those raised in a bomb shelter or cult survivors who just escaped -- who aren't familiar with Clinton or his wonderful bands Parliament, Funkadelic, The P-Funk Allstars, etc.

Well bless your hearts. You've got some catching up to do. Hey, start HERE with a blog post I did a couple of years ago, which contains videos of some his greatest tunes.

But on this Throwback Thursday, let's throw back even further and look at an earlier music group Clinton was part of starting in the 1950s -- a New Jersey doo-wop combo called The Parliaments.

Inspired by Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Clinton formed The Parliaments while running a barbershop in Plainfield, N.J.

Yes, a real-life barbershop quartet -- but one that didn't suck.

In the group's earliest form, they would entertain customers who came in to get a hair cut. There were some personnel switcheroos in the early days, but eventually the lineup solidified into Clinton along with fellow barbers Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas. These guys would be the core of Clinton's groups in the Cosmic Slop heyday of funk.

According to Allmusic

In 1967, the Parliaments scored a number three R&B/number 20 pop ranking on the Billboard charts with "I Wanna Testify" for Revilot, and signaled the coming changes in R&B. In 1968, the Parliaments had a dispute with Revilot and refused to continue working for the label. To avoid waiting for some kind of settlement, Clinton hastily renamed the group Funkadelic, with the only musicians listed being the original backing band for the Parliaments. Revilot soon folded and the Parliaments' contract was sold to Atlantic. 

Here are a few of The Parliaments' song, in those years before they boarded the Mothership.

The first couple, "Poor Willie" (1959) and "Lonely Island," (1960), capture Clinton and group's doo-wop roots

By the mid 60s, the influence of Motown Records -- where Clinton got a gig as a songwriter and producer -- became obvious in The Parliaments. "Heart Trouble" is from 1966.

This is The Parliaments' biggest hit "I Want to Testify, from 1967."

And by 1968, the group started incorporated more funk-ready, psychedelic adjacent sounds, as heard on "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg."

In a couple of years Funkadelic and Parliament would emerge. The world would never be the same!

Happy birthday, funky George.

George Clinton & The P-Funk Allstars in Santa Fe 

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