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  William "Bootsy" Collins
 
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Click below for a Bootsy sample:

Stretchin' Out

Munchies For Your Love

Hollywood Squares

Bootzilla

Body Slam

Together In Heaven (pt 1)

Together In Heaven (pt 2)

 


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One of the ten most important people in the history of funk, William "Bootsy" Collins has exerted immense influence on the genre in multiple ways.  As a teenager, he grounded the original JBs and played on some of the Godfather's most crucial jams: "Sex Machine," "Talking Loud and Saying Nothing," "The Grunt."  With George Clinton, he propelled Parliament-Funkadelic into the stratosphere of funk nirvana, cowriting and performing on "One Nation Under A Groove," "Flashlight," and "Mothership Connection" among others while leading his own band.  All the while, his trademark space bass, outlandish fashion sense and multiple musical personalities have helped define the funk aesthetic.

Collins and born and rasied in Cincinnati, home to the King label where James Brown spent the most influential years of his career.  Bootsy and his brother Phelps (also known as Catfish) hung around the King studio backing various singers in the late 60s, developing a reputation as an intense and intriguing rhythm section.  Word of their prowess eventually reached Brown, who sent for the Collins brothers after firing his band during a financial dispute.  Going straight from Brown's jet to a concert, they were immediately thrust into the spotlight without having even met JB.  Regardless, they took advantage of the situation by infusing his music with a raw, young spirit that rejuvenated Brown's sagging fortunes.  Brown acknowledged their impact by highlighting them in concert and eventually recording them as the first artist on his People label.

Despite the concessions Brown made to the original JBs (no fines for bad notes, refraining from excess criticism in the studio) their boundless creativity clashed with the James Brown Formula and after finishing a European tour, they split to set up their own thang.  Stints as the House Guests and Complete Strangers followed, while billing themselves at "James Brown's Band" in order to get concert bookings. During this period, there were several 45s cut for local labels: "What So Ever The Dance," "Fun In Your Thang," "Together In Heaven," and "My Mind Set Me Free." 

In 1972, George Clinton, riding the wave of Funkadelic's cult audience, heard about Bootsy's band and tracked them down at one of their shows.  Bootsy's gang was such a mirror image of Funkadelic that by the end of the night, they were members of the Funk Mob, at one point replacing the original Funkadelic in its entirety.  Bootsy and Phelps played on the America Eats Its Young album, but they hadn't left James Brown to simply follow another leader, so they left.  After a few more years on the local circuit, mutual friend Mallia Franklin arranged a meeting and Bootsy again joined forces with Clinton, writing "Up for the Down Stroke," Parliament's breakthrough single.

Clinton and Collins became funk's Lennon-McCartney, able to complete each other's thoughts and churning out material at a very prolific rate.  Bootsy was an instrumental force on the P-Funk recordings of 1974-76 (Let's Take It To the Stage, Mothership Connection, Chocolate City, Clones of Dr. Funkenstein), but was still eager to express his own vision.  When Clinton signed with Warner Brothers, he secured a separate deal for Bootsy.  There was one problem though: there was no band.

Quickly assembling old mates Catfish (guitar), Frank Waddy (drums), horn players Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Kush Griffith and Rick Gardner and adding Joel "Razor Sharp" Johnson (keys), Robert "P-Nut" Johnson (vocals) and Gary "Mudbone" Cooper (vocals and  percussion), Bootsy cut his debut with members of Funkadelic, but they still didn't have a name after the album was finished.   A brainstorming session yielded the Rubber Band name and Stretching Out hit the streets in mid 1976, the title song leading the way up the charts.

In contrast to the deep conceptual work of Parliament-Funkadelic that required a certain level of maturity to fully comprehend, Bootsy aimed his music at "geepies," the younger group of P-Funk's fans.  To establish his identity, he chose an outrageous look built on his star-shaped glasses and recorded as the fictional charaters Casper, the Sugar Crook, and Chocolate Star.

As the opening act on P-Funk's Mothership Connection tour, they whipped people into a frenzy during their brief set, leaving many astonished at the power of this "new" act.  But many people just didn't know that the core members of the Rubber Band had decades of collective experience, most of them with one of the most demanding men in music. 

The more developed Ahhh...the Name is Bootsy Baby benefited from the additional seasoning of the Band.  Funk throbs "The Pinocchio Theory" and "The Name Is Bootsy Baby" dominated side one before mellowing out on the flipside.  Bootsy always had a unique take on what constituted a ballad, and that was nowhere more evident than on the awesome "Munchies For Your Love," nine minutes of lurve talk that culminated in an orgasmic bass solo.   "Munchies" became one of his signature songs despite not being issued as a single.  The more accessible "Can't Stay Away" featured P-Nut and Mudbone trading vocals with Bootsy and hit the top 20.  Like its predecessor, Ahhh went gold.

By now, Bootsy was a headliner in his own right, rotating with P-Funk on twin bills and doing his own stadium dates.  Player of the Year took the Rubber Band over the top.  Collins memoralized himself as a doll on "Bootzilla," his first number one single.  Aided by Bernie Worrell's classical arrangements, "Very Yes" and "Hollywood Squares" were perhaps the Rubber Band's most fully realized ballads.  Bootsy appeared to be on top of the world, a position he'd longed for since the JB days.  Yet all was not well in paradise.

The huge success of the group, plus the pressure that came along with it, eventually grated on Bootsy.  He became withdrawn, tired of playing his alter egos all the time with no time for William Collins.  Drug use came into play as a release from the stress.  Demands from Warner Brothers meant a new album would be forthcoming, but 1979's This Boot Was Made For Funkin suffered from Bootsy's lack of interest and worsening relationship with the band, with only "Jam Fan" making any noise on the charts.

His downward slide continued when Bootsy absurdly lost the rights to the Rubber Band name to a country band out of Texas.  Rather than come up with a new name, the Rubber Band broke up and Collins issued Ultra Wave under his own name.   For the new decade he came up with a new look of braids and sunglasses instead of his customized gear, but the album didn't sell.  An offshoot act, the Sweat Band, was another commercial failure.  His label was holding all of Bootsy's profits in order to pay off the legal costs from the Texas lawsuit, and with P-Funk being on the verge of collapse and Catfish back in his Ohio fishing hole, this was probably the lowest point of his career.

The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away brought an unsatisfying end to his Warner Brothers tenure.  The album had nearly completed its chart run when David Todd and Nick Martinelli remixed one of its songs and renamed it "Body Slam."  The song was Bootsy's biggest hit in years, but because it was only available as a 12-inch single, One Giveth didn't reap the benefits of a top 10 record.

Bootsy retired from the industry for much of the next six years. He made his comeback on Columbia with the appropriately named What's Bootsy Doin?   To answer his own question, he took to guesting on records by Deee-Lite, Sly and Robbie and Bill Laswell, who gave Bootsy multiple opportunities to record. He has since formed a new Rubber Band with some of the original members, releasing albums that retain that imitable Bootsy flavor while working in a contemporary setting.  

Bootsy's Deepest Grooves

Stretchin Out in Bootsy's Rubber Band (Warner Brothers, 1976)
With extensive contributions from Michael Hampton, Bernie Worrell and Garry Shider, this almost qualifies as a Funkadelic album, as the Rubber Band lineup hadn't been solidified yet.  This places more responsibility on Bootsy, who comes through with the serious "Psychoticbumpschool" and "I'd Rather Be With You," the source of one-shot wonder Adina Howard's hit "Freak Like Me."   Check Bootsy's underrated drumming on the title track, which he says was inspired by memories of a trip to Africa during his stint with James Brown.

Ahh...The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! (Warner Brothers, 1977)
My first Bootsy album and still probably my favorite.  Every song here is slamming, with the title song replicating the experience of a live show (since sampled by Eazy E for "We Want Eazy") and the Rubber Band showing their chops on "Pinocchio Theory" and "Can't Stay Away."  "What's A Telephone Bill" is one of Boot's lost ballads.

Bootsy? Player of the Year (Warner Brothers, 1978)
Loaded with "Hollywood Squares," "Bootzilla" and "Roto Rooter," the album is a showcase for Catfish Collins, who unleashes achingly beautiful and funky crystal-clear lines throughout the album.  This could also be P-Nut's and Mudbone's strongest vocal showing, just listen to "Very Yes" for proof.

This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N (Warner Brothers, 1979)
You get the sense that had Warner Brothers not been demanding an immediate followup to a number one album, this would have been delayed by at least a year.   Based on the results, perhaps they should have let him take a break.  Not horrible by any means, but his most dispensible album of the 70s.

Ultra Wave (Warner Brothers, 1980)
Getting back on the right track, this is one of the most underrated albums in the P-Funk canon.  "Mug Push" was a top 30 hit, but "F-Encounter" is a more devastating groove and "Sacred Flower" continues his winning streak of warped ballads.

The One Giveth, the Court Taketh Away (Warner Brothers, 1982)
Just think how much more this would have sold had the label put "Body Slam" on here.

What's Bootsy Doin? (Columbia, 1988)
Reunited with members of the Rubber Band for the first time since the end of the 70s, this bears all the markings of a late 80s release (lotsa keyboards, drum programming) but it's still a solid record.  "Party on Plastic" cracked the top 30 and "First One To The Egg," a synopsis of human reproduction, shows he still has a sense of humor.

Jungle Bass (4th and Broadway, 1990)
Extended ep that was hooked up by Bill Laswell.  The Horny Horns are back, and Laswell's oft-criticized production actually works well here.  He may be the underacknowledged force behind P-Funk's resurgent career.

Blasters of the Universe (Rykodisc, 1994)
Dedicated to Eddie Hazel, this is 2 cds of tunes recorded in Bootsy's studio over a number of years.  Certainly not essential, but there are a couple of songs with Eddie Hazel on guitar, which are some of his last performances. 

Back in the Day: The Best of Bootsy (Warner Archives, 1994)
All of the hits are here, and it was surprising that it took this long for a Bootsy compilation to be released.  This gets bonus points for the inclusion of a live version of "Psychoticbumpschool" and "What So Never The Dance," an early cut from the House Guests.

Keepin' da Funk (Rykodisc, 1995)
A live show from the New Rubber Band highlighted by a 10 minute version of "I'd Rather Be With You."

Fresh Outta P University (WEA Germany, 1997)
More new Bootsy, this time bringing in guests like MC Lyte and Fatboy Slim (!) along for the ride.

Live in Louisville 1978 (Disky, 1999)
Whoa!  Out of nowhere comes a complete live show during the height of his popularity.  Recorded from the soundboard, the quality is excellent.  This is a must for any funk collector.

Glory B Da' Funk's on Me! The Bootsy Collins Anthology (Rhino, 2001)
A more exhaustive compilation with crucial album cuts to go along with the hits.  No pre-Rubber Band work, but you get the highlights from the early 80s albums, plus a song from the Sweat Band.

Play With Bootsy (Warner Brothers, 2002)
Extremely underrated set from the master, his best in over 20 years.   Bootsy unites with some of today's top talents (Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe, Rosie Gaines, Macy Gray, One) to demonstrate the enduring power of the funk.  The modern production may throw longtime fans for a loop, but the record's consistency proves that Bootsy has adapted to the times much better than George Clinton.  Essential jams include "Groove Eternal," "Don't Let 'Em," and "Love Gangsta."  

Christmas Is 4 Ever (Shout Factory, 2006)

Copyright 2001, 2007 AllThingsDeep.com.  All rights reserved.

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