Posts Tagged ‘Garry Shider’

Twice As Funky

June 24, 2013

Saturday June 22nd, 2013 – Country Club Hills, IL

   The only thing I can think of that’s better than a funk fix is a double dose. That’s exactly what I got tonight in Country Club Hills, IL as I attended a live show featuring my two favorite musical acts of all time Cameo and George Clinton. That doesn’t happen often, so I had to see the show.

   I had never even heard of Country Club Hills until quite recently, but it’s a far southern suburb of Chicago that built a really nice outdoor concert facility. The weather could not have been any more perfect, and it was an ideal scenario for one of the best live shows I’ve seen in a long time.

   I’ve seen Cameo at least a dozen times, and they’re headliners in their own right. They’ve had double digit R&B hits, but their biggest crossover by far was ‘Word Up’ in 1986. I have all their CDs, and am a huge fan. They’ve got a strikingly distinct eclectic style, and I’ve always loved it.

   Their lead singer Larry Blackmon is known for wearing a codpiece on stage, and it has become his trademark. I’ve thought about trying it myself, but I don’t think comedy is ready for that just yet. It works for him though, and he and the rest of the band put on a rock solid hour long show.

   Unfortunately it wasn’t a sold out house, but those who were there loved it. I don’t know what the place holds, but I’d guess it was about half full. I had a great seat, ten rows back dead center. I could see and hear everything perfectly, and it made my 70 mile one way drive worth the effort.

   There was some tear down and set up time between the acts, but that’s to be expected. It wasn’t horrible, but by the time the transport vans pulled up behind the stage with George and the band in them, everyone was ready for the main course. It still wasn’t sold out, but we were all into it.

   I’ve seen George live probably 40-50 times now, but I have to say this was one of the very best performances I’ve ever seen. George has always been a master showman, but tonight he cranked it up to the limit and the more he did it the more we loved it. Nobody walked away disappointed.

   I read an article once where George said one thing he was always good at was hiding the fact if anything was going wrong either personally or with the band. It was always about the show. That can be extremely hard to pull off, and I know from plenty of firsthand and personal experience.

   In the last year or two, George has experienced a lot of passings of people close to him. He lost both his mother and one of his sons, along with guitar players Garry Shider and Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson. He also lost singers Belita Woods and Mallia Franklin. It has been a very tough stretch, but nobody would have known it tonight. He came out with a vengeance and took no prisoners.

   He made his customary grand entrance with the song ‘Cosmic Slop’, but then took it to another level by going up into the crowd at the outdoor theatre. I’ll bet he went a dozen rows up slapping hands, and it won the crowd over immediately. I’d seen him do similar things before, but not like this. It was like he was a man possessed, and was bound and determined to give us his best show.

   The band was on fire tonight, and they only played the biggest hits. They switched the order of how they usually do it, and that was good to see because I switch my order of bits around when I read the audience. I’m glad it’s not just me. George was soaked in sweat by the end of the night, but he made sure we got our money’s worth and more. He was all over that stage, and on a level I’ve rarely seen. He made everyone forget he’s 72. This was a night to remember. What a show!



Dr. Funkenstein - still funky at 72

Dr. Funkenstein – still funky at 72


Still Funky

April 30, 2013

Sunday April 28th, 2013 – Chicago, IL

   I received last minute word that George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic were performing in Chicago tonight, so of course I had to rearrange my schedule so I could attend. It’s impossible to ever know for sure when the last time will be for me to see them live, so I always go when I can.

   George always has been and still is a master showman, and I never get sick of watching him do what he does. He’s a world class entertainer and a master of his craft. Even into his 70s he takes command of the stage from the second he walks onto it, and never lets go the rest of the evening.

   I hadn’t seen the P-Funk in a while, and even though I had a lot of other things I could’ve done instead, I made it a point to catch the show. It was too late to reach out to George’s manager who has always been nice enough to put me on the guest list, so I knew I would have to pay to get in.

   There aren’t many acts I’d pay to see, but George will always be one of them. He’s my favorite of all time, and I can’t see anyone knocking him off that perch at least in this lifetime. I have yet to see any live music act come within three planets of touching them when they’re on their game.

    I tried to count in the car the exact number of times I’ve seen them live, but there’s no way I’d ever be able to figure that out now. I do remember the first time I saw them was in 1989, and that was a magnificent show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that before or since. I loved it.

   Since then, I’ve seen them at both ends of the spectrum. Sometimes they are other worldly, and once in a while they’re painfully human. But even at their worst, I’d still prefer them to any other band of all time. Keep your Beatles and your Rolling Stones. Even Led Zeppelin. I love the funk.

   It’s got to be hard to keep it together for such a long time though. If you’ve never seen George, he’s the leader of a musical circus. There are probably 30-35 people on stage at any time, and it’s an amazing experience when everyone is on the same page. There are an army of super guitarists plus slick horn players and enough backup singers to start another band, and George leads it all.

   I have a hard enough time keeping myself on track as a comedian. I can’t imagine what George deals with on a daily basis. He has had to deal with a lot of loss of late as well. Just last week one of his longtime bass players Cordell ‘Boogie’ Mosson passed at the age of 60. Before that, Garry Shider died last year. He was a talented guitarist known for appearing on stage in only a diaper.

   It’s beyond belief they’re still touring, and that’s why I catch them whenever I can. They aren’t playing the greatest of venues these days, and that’s an absolute shame in my opinion. I wouldn’t have wanted to work in the venue they played tonight, but if he was upset George didn’t show it.

   The sound was horrific and the stage was tiny, but that didn’t stop George and the P-Funk from proceeding to scorch the paint off the walls. Wow, were they on tonight. George has dropped his wild multi colored hair look in favor of a suit and tie, but it didn’t matter. He was on red hot fire, and we all got our money’s worth and then some. That was a lesson and a half in showmanship.

   Every time I think I have my own thing figured out, I see something like this and it informs me I’ll never be finished learning no matter how long I hang in there. If George or the group was not happy about anything, none of the audience could tell. They came out like it was a Carnegie Hall debut. Who knows if or when I’ll get to see them again? If this was it, it was sure worth my time.

Dr. Funkenstein Before

Dr. Funkenstein Before

George Clinton After

George Clinton After


Star Child Passes

June 18, 2010

Thursday June 17th, 2010 – Champaign, IL

Fans of comedians pale by far in comparison to fans of musicians. I’ve never had even one fan throw any panties toward the stage or pass out when I walked past them. I haven’t seen it with any other comedian either, and I’ve been around a lot of them. It’s not reality.

Music is different. I’ve seen rabid fans of all kinds of music sleep out overnight in front of a ticket office hoping to see a favorite band. There are packs of nomadic people touring across country hawking cheap trinkets and LSD so they can scrape up scratch to gawk at a remnant of The Grateful Dead. I doubt if even one fan has ever walked a mall to see me.

That being said, I’m a fan too. I like George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, and it’s been a life long pursuit. I’m sure Elvis and Beatles fanatics are the same, as are rabid fans of Led Zeppelin, Springsteen, Kiss, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks or just about anyone.

It almost becomes a way of life. One gets to know the band’s music first, but then it’s a constant piecing together of bits of information, trivia, news, rumor, hearsay and nuggets compiled from various sources that combine to produce a body of knowledge about every facet of someone’s favorite band. I don’t think it’s anywhere close to that with comedy.

I’ve always read up on what’s going on with the P-Funk, and since there’s been such an enormous amount of members constantly going in and out, there’s usually some kind of a storyline going on somewhere. Plus, I’ve seen them live so many times I feel like I’m part of the band myself. Everyone has their favorites in every field, and in music this is mine.

It was especially sad to hear of the passing earlier this week of one of the band’s iconic members who has been highly visible since 1972 named Garry ‘Star Child’ Shider. He is known for appearing on stage dressed only in a diaper, but he was also the music director of the band, and co-wrote some of their biggest hits including ‘Atomic Dog’ and others.

Casual fans knew him only as ‘the diaper guy’, but he was a huge part of the live shows and had a big part in the history of it all. George Clinton is so charismatic that he tends to take most of the attention, but the whole group is loaded with talent. I’ve seen them when they’re ‘on’, and there’s nothing like it. I’m sorry Garry will be gone, and he was only 56.

I did a show tonight in Champaign, IL at a sports bar that has a really nice upstairs stage facility. This was their first night, but nobody planned on a game seven of the NBA Finals when they decided to do comedy a few months ago. That, on top of it being summer drew a crowd of maybe 25 in a room that seats 250. Not only that, they all sat in the back rows.

Is this what comedy is coming down to? I sure hope not. I don’t want to see anyone lose money, but I’m sure they did tonight – at least with our show. The downstairs was full for the game, but that’s not the answer. The trick is to get people in the door to make comedy pay for itself and turn a profit. Starting in the summer probably doesn’t help either. It’s an uphill climb in the north. People want to be outside in the warm weather. I know I do too.