Posts Tagged ‘Funkadelic’

The Doctor Calls!

November 25, 2013

Saturday November 23rd, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

It takes a lot to surprise me anymore, but once in a while something happens that does raise my eyebrows. This morning I received a phone call completely out of the blue from Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton! Had I been asked to predict something freakish that might happen today I highly doubt that would be in my top 1000 guesses. It was a pleasant surprise, but unexpected.

Actually it has happened before, and I didn’t expect that either. The band was on the way to do a show at Summerfest in Milwaukee in 2011, and they stopped at the Lake Forest Tollway Oasis on I-94 and George’s manager Carlon Scott saw me listed in the Lake County Visitor’s Guide.

I’ve been a member of Visit Lake County for several years, and it comes with a listing in their annual guide of businesses, attractions and events in Lake County. Carlon happened to pick up a copy and saw my name, and called to say hello. That’s proof positive that advertising does work.

I had just gotten out of the hospital from my diabetes debacle a couple of days before, and was feeling pretty weak. I almost didn’t answer the phone, but I’m thrilled I did. When I told Carlon I had just gotten out of the hospital, she had George call me back a few minutes later. He had been in the hospital around the same time, and was just out himself. He wanted to call to cheer me up.

He certainly did. How many times does anyone get to have an all time personal hero call out of the blue? It’s kind of like a famous athlete visiting a sick kid in the hospital only better. I’m a big fan, but he treated me like a peer. He asked how my shows were going and I asked all about his.

The reason he was calling today was to ask if I knew how to get in touch with artist Pedro Bell. Pedro did quite a few legendary album covers for Funkadelic in the ‘70s, and happens to be from Chicago. I tracked him down years ago and he did two CD covers for me, and the DVD cover for James Wesley Jackson. It cost me a chunk of change, but I had it at the time and I’m glad I did it.

Not only did I get every penny of my money’s worth, I got to know Pedro through the process and now consider him a friend. He’s a very talented artist, but also a down to earth person. I was very much in awe at first, but he could see I knew of his work so he opened up and we hit it off.

George is coming out with a new project, and wanted to track down Pedro to do some artwork. He knew that I had hired him recently, so he wanted to reconnect. I told him Pedro has been sick lately, and in fact James Wesley Jackson and I had discussed doing some kind of benefit show.

George asked me to keep him posted on the benefit, and I certainly will. James and Pedro have been friends for years, and when I suggested some kind of benefit I knew James would jump on board immediately. With all the other projects I’ve got going now, it has forced me to put that on the back burner for much too long along with James’s DVD. http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Hopefully this will set everything in positive forward motion again. As George said on a record years ago “Funk not only moves…it can re-move. Dig?” I’d love to be involved in anything I can do to help Pedro and work with James, but if George happens to be involved it would be a dream come true. If you need a dose of the funk, the real Mothership flies at http://www.georgeclinton.com.

George 'Dr. Funkenstein' Clinton has my number.

George ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ Clinton has my number.

Pedro Bell aka 'Captain Draw'. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

Pedro Bell aka ‘Captain Draw’. Cover artist for many clasic Funkadelic albums

This is a  bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for "Hard Luck Jollies'.

This is a bonus cartoon Pedro did when I hired him to design my CD cover for “Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson's new DVD. It's available at www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

Here’s the cover Pedro did for James Wesley Jackson’s new DVD. It’s available at http://www.jameswesleyjackson.com.

The first cover Pedro did for me was 'Hard Luck Jollies'.

The first cover Pedro did for me was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’.

Here's the original Funkadelic album 'Hardcore Jollies'.

Here’s the original Funkadelic album ‘Hardcore Jollies’.

My next CD will be 'Comedy Skeletons In The Closet'.

My next CD will be ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’.

Here's the original it was based on - 1986's 'R&B Skeletons In The Closet'.

Here’s the original it was based on – 1986’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’.

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What’s An Enviromedian?

May 28, 2013

Sunday May 26th, 2013 – Fox Lake, IL

  Nobody appreciates quality entertainment more than an entertainer. I’m a loyal and rabid fan of anything well done, but obviously standup comedy holds a special place in my heart and always has. I loved it before I did it, and my love for it was what drew me to it. I never grow tired of it.

   I think that makes me a perfect candidate to be a producer of product for other comedians. I am a lifelong fan of the craft, and who better would there be to inject a set of ‘fresh eyes’ into what a comedian does to best showcase his or her talent to the public? I feel as if I’m uniquely qualified.

   I got my chance a while back when I produced a live DVD project for my friend James Wesley Jackson, aka ‘The Enviromedian’. This was a thrill on many levels. First, James used to tour with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic for years. That alone puts him in my Hall of Fame for life. Anyone who knows me knows I love the PFunk – even though nobody can figure out why.

   For whatever reason, I was sucked in as a kid when I first heard it on the radio and I still love it today. It’s well done entertainment and then some, and I respect the immense effort it must have taken to pull off such a huge project. James got to witness it first hand, and still be a comedian.

   Second, James is flat out one of THE sweetest human beings I have ever encountered. He has a laid back friendliness that shines on stage, and you can’t help but love the guy. He’s got his own unique style, and the first time I met him we hit it off instantly. Part of it was the fact that I knew of his pedigree with the PFunk, and another part was two fellow comedians sharing our histories.

   Whatever the case, I wanted to start producing other performers. I can think of more than just a handful who don’t have top quality recording projects out in my opinion, and that’s not meant to be an insult. Most of us are focused on our performing and just trying to stay alive that taking the time to crank out product never manifests itself. I know how hard it was to do my own products.

    I also suffer from a common ailment of not being able to sell my own stuff well, but can go all out with someone else’s. I believe in James as a comic and a person, and it was my pleasure to be the one to head up this project. It was recorded a couple of years ago now, but my hospitalization fiasco of 2011 has held it up along with other obstacles in my path. It’s been a long time coming.

   Now, I have FINALLY gotten my head out of Uranus and had 100 promo copies made to start sending them out. I don’t know exactly who to send them to, but I have them. I invested my last nickel getting this done, but I felt I owed it to James and myself to finish what I said I would do.

   Fellow comedian Mike Preston was the technical person, and I hired him to record the show at a place called ‘Asbury’s’ in the Chicago area. It’s a country club of all things, but James knocked it so far out of the park it might as well have been Carnegie Hall. It was a very special experience to be there that night, and for once the hot show was the one that got recorded. It came out great.

   I hired legendary PFunk artist Pedro Bell to do the cover art, and fans will be able to recognize it instantly. It took a long time to get this far, but I am proud to say I did it. Now I need to stretch it further and start selling some product. Not only that, I’d love to get a chance to produce several more comedians I’m a fan of. Names that come to mind are talented guys like Bill Gorgo, Jimmy McHugh, Jim Wiggins, Tim Walkoe, Tim Northern and so many more. George Clinton produced a lot of music acts beside his own. I’d be delighted to do the same with a variety of comedy acts.

The Enviromedian is BACK!

The Enviromedian is BACK!

James Wesley Jackson

James Wesley Jackson

Maggot Brain

October 22, 2010

Thursday October 21st, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

The more things I have going, the more it makes me get behind on everything else. I’ve been out on the road and the ships, then teaching classes both at Zanies Comedy Club and Harper College, then up in Milwaukee doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ show at a couple of venues. That’s all been fun, but now I have laundry to do, calls to return and mail to send.

The old ‘for every action there’s an equal and opposite reaction’ adage is true. For every week I’m gone on the road or boats, more dirty laundry piles up. For every class I teach, it takes time away from me making booking calls or just plain hanging out with my friends.

And who the hell has time for daily exercise and diet planning? And don’t even think of having a relationship. How can anyone squeeze everything into one single life? Now I can see why celebrities have such a hard time with keeping their marriage together. It’s rough.

I’m not even close to being a celebrity, though my schedule sure feels like it. I have all kinds of commitments and  places to be, and  I admit I’m the reason for it. I like all kinds of different things so I have all kinds of activities to coincide with them. The result is that my free time is limited, so when I do get some I tend to just let everything else sit and rot.

That’s pretty much what I did today. I had a mountain of  paperwork to sort, and I really didn’t do much of anything other than sit around and listen to music and relax. To me, it’s a day in heaven. I had no place to be other than a dinner date later with a total sweetheart.

I haven’t had a day to really listen to music in a long time, and I loved every single song I played. I have some headphones that sound great and just laid back and let it rip. I enjoy a pretty wide variety of music but today I picked out my very favorite songs of all time.

If I had to pick just one song I could listen to for the rest of eternity, it would have to be the Funkadelic classic “Maggot Brain”. It’s an amazing piece of music, and if you haven’t heard it I can’t really describe it in words. It’s a heavy rock guitar solo that sends chills up my spine every time I hear it. I can’t think of another song I’ve ever heard that’s similar.

Supposedly, George Clinton told master guitarist Eddie Hazel to play a guitar solo as if his mother had just died, and it’s just oozing with emotion and passion and an energy that cut through to the soul of a white boy from Milwaukee. That song just talks to me, even if I’m not sure what it’s saying exactly. I feel the emotion, and I never get sick of hearing it.

There are about a dozen different recordings of it that I know of, a few tried by imitators that fall extremely short. The one I love most is a live version that’s smoking hot and just melts into my psyche whenever I hear it. It’s my #1 favorite song ever, without a doubt.

Supposedly it’s made to be listened to on drugs, but I’ve enjoyed it just fine sober all of these years. I sure enjoyed it again today, and the dinner date was wonderful. I do have to get to some of my piled up work, but for one day I relaxed and enjoyed a little bit of life.

The Luck Of The Germans

July 23, 2010

Thursday July 22nd, 2010 – Milwaukee, WI

One year ago today, I made my national television debut on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” on CBS. Tonight I made my featured festival debut in my hometown of Milwaukee at German Fest in front of three people, and then it rained so hard the festival closed and the grounds were evacuated. This was a downpour of epic biblical proportions.

All I could do to retaliate was laugh, and the crescendo came when the ominous tornado sirens started going off. At least I had the only covered stage at the festival, and it came in quite handy tonight. Here I stood in my home town in front of an empty seating area made for at least a couple thousand people, in the rain, talking over a tornado siren to just three.

“Hello, Craig? Yeah, it’s Dobie. Dobie MAXWELL. Mr. Lucky, you know. Yeah, I did your show exactly one year ago today and I was wondering…uh, do you think there might be any chance of getting back on soon? I’ve got no shortage of great stories to tell you.”

Actually, I found Craig Ferguson to be a genuinely nice person. I think he’s very funny, and every interview I’ve heard or read makes him come off like a down to earth good guy in every way. That’s fine for him, now I need to get some of that for me too. A good start would be to get an actual interview somewhere. I haven’t had one of those in a long time.

I’m not looking for minute details to nitpick about, or bellyache about my poor, woe is me life. Not at all. Actually, things are going pretty well right now. This last year has not been bad at all. I’ve worked constantly, doing interesting things I really enjoy. I’ve gotten many accolades for not only my appearance on The Late Late Show, but others as well.

I had a nice ‘mini run’ by doing Byron Allen’s “Comics.TV” show after the producer of it saw me on The Late Late Show. Then I got to do “The Daily Buzz” with my old buddy Mitch English who I knew from Salt Lake City. All in all, this has been a land mark year. I think it’s important to stress when good things happen, not just complain about the bad.

I just wish it would have happened fifteen or twenty years ago so I could build on it the right way. It was a nice start for sure, but unless I find a way to keep it growing, this may well be all I’ll ever do in the big scheme of life. When the Packers won the Super Bowl in 1997, their GM Ron Wolf called it ’a fart in the wind’, as that’s the only title they won.

Everyone picked them to do much greater things and have a dynasty but the one trophy is all they could manage. They lost the next year’s Super Bowl and that was it. They still had good teams for a while, but eventually it all played out and then to make it all uglier, Brett Favre had to turn heel and start up his whiny little diva act. And that’s where it sits.

Was my one little five minute appearance on national TV all I’m ever going to do? I’m extremely grateful for that opportunity, but I know I’ve got a lot more in me than that – or at least I think I do. I’m sure those Green Bay Packers including Brett Favre thought they had more in them too, but it didn’t happen. Disappointment has a way of dousing fires.

That fact hit me hard today as I stood on that big stage staring at the empty seating area of a festival that’s never had a comedian before. I’m not angry at anyone, in fact quite the contrary. My grade school classmate Robert Deglau went out of his way to suggest me to the board of directors of German Fest, and everyone there couldn’t have been any nicer.

I’m very grateful for all that, and Robert felt horrible there weren’t people at the stage at the time I was supposed to go on. He introduced me, and had to go take care of other stuff since he’s in a position of power at the festival. No worries from my end, and that’s never been the issue. The problem is me. I should be working more on getting back on the tube.

Have I sent out any inquiries? NO. Have I put together a promo package to send out to a list of the top agents in Hollywood? Double no. Well, who do I have to blame but myself for all of that? Nobody else but me. I can’t expect things to just fall into place by accident without planning. I’M the one who controls it, and for whatever reason I can’t get it done.

I guess I could beat myself up forever about it, or just relax and take a step back to see a bigger picture view. Where am I now? Where am I headed? Where do I want to go? That will be what makes the dreams come true, not pissing and moaning about what all failed.

I feel bad for German Fest, as it rained so hard they lost the entire day’s revenue. I have another scheduled appearance on Saturday at noon, but that’s not going to be any kind of career maker either. I’ll go there and have fun with whomever shows up, but what I really need to be doing is keep building on that foundation of the TV appearance. I can do more.

The cruise ship opportunity was fun too, but that’s not the big time either unfortunately. It’s not bad, and I hope I get more, but the real essence of what I want to do is create good solid original standup comedy, and present it to an appreciative audience who pays for it.

That sentence felt good to write, because it’s probably the first time I shaped it into real words, at least recently. I’m getting in there to the core, and that’s where the good stuff is. If I really want to be a success, I’ll get in there and bring my very best up to the surface so I can use up whatever talent and ability there is in there. I don’t want to leave any unused.

George Clinton is a perfect example of someone like that. I think I’m such a huge fan of his because his body of work is amazing. He kept cranking out albums under record deals for the groups Parliament, Funkadelic and a lot more. When that ran out, he kept the flow going under his own name. And he kept touring and still does even now. That’s a career.

I’m sure George has regrets and has made mistakes, but he didn’t quit. He’s a legend in the business, and those who know him give him his due. Today is also his birthday and he is still an inspiration to me to this day. He’s the creative lightning rod for a crew of talent.

I’m not going to let one rain storm stop me from building what I want. I want to have an opportunity to get back on TV and share my comedy with as many people as I can. I have a limited time in my prime, and I’m still in it – for now. Time to get serious about funny.

Color Coordination

May 23, 2010

Saturday May 22nd, 2010 – Lake Villa, IL

No gig tonight but this time it’s ok. Last night’s show was so hot I got my fix and I have a lot of work coming up in the next few weeks that will keep me plenty busy. My plan for today was to keep tabs on my daily chores like emails and calls and make sure those kinds of things don’t get out of hand as they tend to do quite frequently. It’s a constant struggle.

That was my plan, but I got so far off of it it’s ridiculous. I don’t know how it happened and I sure didn’t plan on it, but I ended up spending about eight full hours today coloring. Yes, COLORING – as in filling in a black and white picture with markers and hoping not to go outside the lines. I thought for sure my coloring days were over, but I was mistaken.

What’s next, a game of hide and seek? Some graham crackers? Nap time? Am I back in kindergarten? I wasn’t very good at coloring back then, so why did I revert back to it over forty years later? Necessity. I needed to add color to the cover artwork of my new CD. It’s been bothering me since I got it, and I had to see what it would look like in living color.

My original plan was to do a tribute to the Funkadelic album “Hardcore Jollies”. I chose that particular one not only because “Hard Luck Jollies” fits it perfectly, but also because it’s a very wildly drawn busy cover with all kinds of vibrant pinks and purples all over it.

Pedro Bell’s style is quite striking, and I have to believe he’s sampled his share of LSD, plus yours and mine too. He must have done about twenty albums throughout the heyday of their peak years, and they really do stand out. One of the reasons why is that they’re all bursting with an array of colors. That‘s what I‘d pictured my project to be, but it wasn’t.

I really feel bad that Pedro’s ink person ripped him off, but I paid for a finished product and I didn’t get it. Whoever was at fault isn’t important. What matters is, I needed to get a product out so I made due with what I had. It doesn’t look horrible at all, and most people who’d probably be fans of mine have no idea who Pedro Bell or Funkadelic are anyway.

Still, if I’m going to do something, I want to do it right. I know nobody cares, but I want to hopefully do another print run eventually, and that one should have a colorized version of the cover. I played around with several versions until I finally nailed what I had wanted in the first place, but it was worth it. The colors just leap off the page and it’s a lot better.

My friend Jay Bachochin owns an Alpha Graphics in Vernon Hills, IL and he said he’ll be able to scan the color drawing and reproduce it as needed. I could see this even being a t-shirt eventually, or maybe even a poster. It’s very unique and I’m glad I took the time to get it finished the way I imagined it to be in the first place. This was worth all my effort.

Hopefully, I’m now done with my coloring career and can go back into retirement. I am glad I did this though, because the results will pay off for a long time. Plus, I also colored a back cover drawing Pedro did, which I think I can tweak into the front cover of the next CD. I paid for it, why not use it? Anything that can set me apart in a good way, I’ll take.

Jerry Lewis And The Naked Gun

March 17, 2010

Tuesday March 16th, 2010 – Chicago, IL

Belated birthday wishes are still trickling in and every one of them makes me feel good. Who doesn’t like to be recognized, especially on or around their birthday? Today happens to be Jerry Lewis’s 84th birthday and he’s been on my radar since grade school. I can still remember how the other boys in my class all loved him. I can’t speak for any of the girls.

As much as I tried, I was never able to find him funny as a kid. I think I watched all the same movies my friends did, but they never made me laugh. I felt like an outcast, but I’m not going to lie. I eventually gave up on him and just accepted the fact he didn‘t wow me.

My whole opinion has changed since I became an adult, and especially a comic myself. The truth is, Jerry Lewis is brilliantly creative on many levels, and very few in history can compare to his list of accomplishments. That says a lot, even though his movies still don’t make me laugh. Just because I don’t like them doesn’t mean I don’t respect his creativity.

He was born into a family of performers, and has been around show business his whole life. That can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on the individual. I’m sure he could have easily dropped out and done something else, but to last for over three quarters of a century and still be a household name, positive or not, is about as difficult as it gets.

It’s very easy to bash his brash and abrasive personality, his telethon or just about all of his solo movies, but I see how much he accomplished onscreen and off and have nothing but the utmost respect. It’s not easy to succeed in show business at all, much less last for several generations. Say what you will, the one thing that can’t be disputed is his tenure.

There’s a fascinating interview with him from the David Susskind show from probably the mid ‘60s which really won me over. He was amazingly sharp, and went off on a lot of subjects that showed how intelligent he really is. He’s never seemed happy whenever I’ve seen or heard him interviewed, but I guess genius and happy have never come as a pair.

Being a student of the comedy game doesn’t mean I have to personally like everyone’s work. In many cases, I just don’t. It doesn’t move me. Comedy and entertainment itself is subjective, and whoever sees it gets the opportunity to make up his or her own mind as to whether that individual enjoys it or not. If I don’t enjoy something I can still respect it.

One thing I’ve always personally enjoyed are the series of Naked Gun movies made by the Zucker Brothers and Jerry Abrahams. I’ve always been a fan of theirs, at first because they were also from Milwaukee but later because I just found their style to be hilarious.

I’ve seen most of their movies but Leslie Neilsen’s Frank Drebin character never fails at making me laugh out loud. I found a DVD of the first movie at the thrift store today, and I popped it in because I hadn’t seen it in a while. It still made me laugh and I watched for a lot of other things I really hadn’t noticed before, like pacing, laughs per minute and how it all ties together as a movie rather than just watch individual scenes. Those guys are great.

Not only did the movie hold up, I was amazed all over again at how they cast actors that weren’t at all previously known for being funny. All of them. Leslie Neilsen was a serious actor, as was George Kennedy. Ricardo Montalban played a great villain, and he’s usually very likeable in all the roles I’ve seen him play, especially Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island.

Priscilla Presley and especially O.J. Simpson aren’t even known for acting at all. Still, it all fell together perfectly and I thought laugh for laugh it was right up there with any other movie I can think of that was released in the last twenty years. They should be proud of it, and I’m sure they are. Watching it again made me take inventory of everything I‘ve done.

That, coupled with the body of work Jerry Lewis cranked out made my little career feel like a bug fart by comparison. I can’t be cocky because I really haven’t done anything yet, other than wish I could catch a break sometime. Do I have any ideas for movies? Yes, but I’m nowhere near close to being able to even present them to anyone. I’m way off course.

All I can do is continue down the path I’m on and do the best I can with whatever time I have left. I’m never going to have the career of a Jerry Lewis or the Zucker Brothers, but I can still keep working on what I’m doing. I’ve got a new CD on the horizon and that’s the product to focus on now. It’s not a movie and I’m not a legend in France, but it’s a start.

Greg Phelps sent the proofs of the CD package today and I had to make a few small but important corrections. The font wasn’t very readable in my opinion and there were a few typos, but other than that it looked pretty good. We were able to use the artwork I paid for from Pedro Bell, even though it’s not colorized. I had to go with what I have, but it’s ok.

Greg and his artist Chad colorized the title of the CD which is ’Hard Luck Jollies’ and a logo for my name Pedro Bell drew that looks like the logo for Funkadelic. I doubt if many people will recognize it, but those who do will really be impressed. I was, and that’s good enough for me. It looks very unique, and it’s not just another thrown together hack piece.

I’m really going to have to scrape together cash to pay for this, but I think I’ll be able to sell enough of them quickly to get my money back. It’s an investment in myself, so that’s never a bad thing. I think I’ll get some attention from it, as it’s a product I can be proud of that will sound and look professional. I’ve been overdue for another product for a while.

I’ve also got enough material recorded where I think I can have another one done by the fall. That would be great, and it’s already in the can so it’s not like I need to record any of it again. In a perfect world I’ll keep creating CD projects every year for as long as I can be creative enough to keep thinking of material. Every artist should always keep on growing.

Maybe I will get around to doing movies eventually, maybe not. As long as I keep up an honest effort to do my best, I’m sure my path will take me where I need to go, even if that isn’t necessarily where I wanted to go when I started out. A big movie career sounds great but who really gets that in the end? Not many. Does it mean I’m a failure if I don’t have it on my resume? No, not at all. Failure is not trying. I’m trying hard, I’m just farther back.