George Clinton says there's only one misconception about him.
"I ain't that cool," says Clinton.
History would indicate otherwise. Clinton is at the foundation of funk. After James Brown laid the first stones, it was Clinton who came along to build the house of funk. With his acts Parliament and Funkadelic (two acts that originally had different styles they merged, spawned offshoot projects and became known fans as P-Funk), Clinton made funk an essential part of the disco age and every danceable pop music that came afterward.
In 1997, Clinton and 15 members of Parliament/Funkadelic were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the largest number of musicians in a group to ever be inducted.
"Funk is the DNA in hip-hop, techno and dance music, period. Funk is the common denominator. Pop, it's still in there. All you have to do is get near the funk and you'll start smelling! It's gonna come out and you just want to make things funkier!"
Even when Clinton's recordings aren't being played the way he created them, his music is still getting out. Samples of P-Funk songs have been staples of rap artists and Clinton's song "Atomic Dog" has been called "the most sampled song in history."
"Every generation has another reason for relating to it," says Clinton. "It's like blues was to rock 'n' roll in the 1960s merged together. Our era of Motown and doo wop is merging into the 21st century. Here it is 2013 and we're a whole new entity to a lot of people."
Parliament, in fact, started as a doo wop group in the 1950s when Clinton was living in New Jersey. The band had a hit in 1967 with "I Wanna Testify." Clinton started Funkadelic with musicians who were backing up the Parliaments on tour to compete in the rock world. On tour, the merged groups were a 10-member act that could play as long as four-hour sets.
Any fan new to the band's music would have a surprising musical archaeology dig. Late 1960s/early 1970s Funkadelic was a psychedelic romp. The album "Maggot Brain" is filled with wild rock guitar jams along with the funk. One album was recorded while the group was tripping on acid.
"That was during that rock period of Funkadelic history. That sound came alive a few years ago with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. They very much reminded me of 'Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow.' I had to get reacquainted myself!"
The group members are a fluctuating entity. Clinton says that the band members are always playing even when it's not an official P-Funk show and are always learning or re-learning songs so that the fully reunited band can play just about anything.
Of course dealing with that many musicians is something else.
"That's when your referee comes into play," says Clinton with a chuckle. "Once you got them there you just gotta keep them on the right pace with each other. All those things feed off each other and that's what makes it good!"
Clinton says part of the band's success on the road is the wide variety of ages in the band.
He has grandchildren and children in the group. Garry "Diaperman" Shider also has a son in the group. Guitarist Michael Hampton, who joined the band in 1973, is still in the band.
Clinton says he's currently attempting to regain rights to his music.
"It's a choice of fighting for ownership of your music or fighting for the right to get high," says Clinton. "I haven't been high in two years."
Clinton says it still feels good to deliver the funk to crowds.
"We are still having fun. We still maintain three- to four-hour shows. We play new music, old music, older music, music we'd forgotten about!"
George Clinton with Parliament/Funkadelic
:When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 16
Where: The Valarium, 112 Ramsey St.
Tickets: $25, advance, $28 at the door ($3 surcharge for patrons 18-20), available at www.thevalarium.com
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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