Bootsy Collins presents a Tribute to James Brown on latest tour

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:: Bootsy Collins :: Tribute to the Godfather of Soul :: Ogden Theater :: May 25 ::
NOTE: THIS SHOW HAS BEEN POSTPONED - No future show info is available as of yet

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By Timothy Dwenger

Bootzilla to some, Casper the Funky Ghost to others, funk bassist Bootsy Collins is known for outrageous outfits, psychedelic, booty shaking jams, and an outrageous sense of humor. What many don’t know is that Bootsy Collins is a critical link between the soul and R&B of the ’60s and the wild funk music that came to be so closely associated with the ’70s.

Collins’ foray into the unpredictable world of funk started when he was about 15 years old, living in his native Cincinnati, Ohio. Collins and his brother Catfish had founded a band they called The Pacesetters and with their furious energy and youthful exuberance the band had gotten noticed by producers such as Charles Spurling and Henry Glover, who began to book the band for recording sessions with some of the biggest stars of the day. “We became the session band at King Records because we were the new, exciting, electric, and energetic, rhythm section that had this rhythm going on that nobody could touch,” said Collins in a recent interview with The Marquee from his home in Cincinnati.
It wasn’t long before King Recording artist James Brown took notice of the sound The Pacesetters had going on and when he was in Cincinnati working on “Licking Stick” he called Collins in to lay down a bass line when his band was at lunch. While they never got to put the part to tape, the session turned out to serve as an audition of sorts.

In early 1970, when Brown’s backing band walked out after a pay dispute, Collins got the call that he never dreamed was coming. “When that happened James was like, bang, ‘I need Bootsy now, call him up, get on a plane and go get him,’” said Collins. “Bobby Byrd came to Cincinnati and picked us up in the Lear jet and we flew to Columbus, Georgia. The next thing you know, we’re on the set with James Brown! It was like, no, this is unbelievable man, you can’t tell nobody this. Ain’t nobody gonna believe this!”

It was baptism by fire as the band was forced to take the stage with no rehearsal and just like that, The J.B.’s were born. Though this lineup of The J.B.’s only backed up James Brown for 11 months before moving on, Collins was quickly schooled in performing and touring as a big-time musician. One of the most memorable moments of his time with Brown was “when he told me about the one, and how he told me. I can still remember his exact voice and everything,” said Collins. “He said, ‘Son, you’re playing a whole lot of thangs. I like all them thangs you are playing, but you ain’t playing on the one.’ I said, ‘On the one, what you mean, on the one?’ ‘Look here son, you gotta do everything on the one. Give me the one, play all them thangs you playing, and just give me the one and you my man, you my man.’” It was, incredibly, that speech that pushed Collin’s to another level of playing and led to two of James Brown’s top 20 hits, “Sex Machine” and “Superbad,” both of which featured The Original J.B.’s (as opposed to other lineups that followed under the same name).

Brown’s “on the one” lesson has stuck with Collins for his entire career as a musician and formed the backbone for the psychedelic funk that defined the genre in the ’70s. After parting ways with Brown, Collins and his brother moved to Detroit and hooked up with George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic family.

When Collins joined Clinton’s groups he brought with him everything that his year on the road with James Brown had taught him, but most importantly, he brought with him Brown’s “on the one” idea. “People think that Parliament Funkadelic were the originators of the ‘on the one’ concept, but the truth is that I took that from James and brought it to Parliament Funkadelic,” said Collins. “Everybody rants and raves about what we did as Parliament Funkadelic but it was really James Brown’s idea.”
With the huge impact that Brown had on Collins’ musical style and career, he feels he owes something to the legend that passed away Christmas Day of 2006.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of his passing Collins put together a James Brown tribute concert that featured The “Original” J.B.’s rhythm section. “I think what sparked it was doing the Superbad soundtrack together. It was a pleasant surprise for all of us to be back in the studio together like we used to do at King Records and realize that we still had it together,” said Collins.

The show went off in true funk style with appearances by city officials, a red carpet and, of course, a whole hoard of performers ranging from Brown’s most recent band, The Soul Generals, to Public Enemy frontman Chuck D. The event was so well received and was so much fun for everyone involved, that Collins decided to package the show and put it on the road. After several months of planning, things have come together, dates have been booked, and a huge funky posse will be embarking on a world tour this spring.

Joining Bootsy and The Original J.B.’s rhythm section for select dates will be Tony Wilson, who Brown himself acknowledged as the “Young James Brown,” Bobby Byrd Band, Escapism Band, Venisha Brown (the daughter of James Brown), FreekBass, Zion Planet 10, ICandi, Djizzle and special guests, Fred Wesley, Buckethead, Afrika Bambaata and Chuck D.

“It’s mind-blowing how many bands and artists are actually going to go out on the road with us. All of our sponsors turned us down, saying, ‘Man, you all are crazy! Everybody else is cutting back and you guys are adding on.’ But only the funk would do the thing you ain’t supposed to be doing,” laughed Collins. “I’ll probably take a loss on this but I’m gonna have some fun doing it.

James Brown gave me my first gig so I feel like if I can put a lot of these cats to work doing this, I’ve got to. It’s keeping the James Brown legacy alive and that’s important because he changed so many people’s lives.”

Collins’ enthusiasm about the tour is infectious and if the shows even come close to living up to the billing that he is giving them, they are going to be over the top. “People want to come out and party, they want come out and have fun. I mean fun, fun, like we used to have,” Collins said. “I’m not gonna deprive people of that. I want them to come out and have some good old fashioned funkin’ fun.”

:: Bootsy Collins ::
:: Tribute to the Godfather of Soul ::
:: Ogden Theater :: May 25 ::

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• James Brown
• George Clinton & The P-Funk Allstars
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