Perhaps it was the LSD – Bootsy Collins says he dropped acid every day for two years during the early Funkadelic era – but a misstep in planning his current concert tour means he won’t be playing Atlanta this summer, according to a spokesman.
“Bootsy’s plans for an Atlanta show [in June] had to be canceled due to his set time at Bonnaroo the day before and resulting changes to his travel plans,” said PR representative Tyler Cannon.
Cannon said the funk master had tentative plans to play June 12, and early press releases listed a June 12 engagement in “Buckhead” but no venue was mentioned and apparently none was secured.
Nonetheless, the larger-than-life bassist, a creator of the Parliament-Funkadelic sound, stopped in Atlanta recently to talk up his new album and tour – the one that skips Atlanta – and to describe the evening in 1970 in Columbus, Ga., when he first performed with James Brown.
In the fanciful Collins theology of funk, Brown is the Father, George Clinton the Son, and Bootsy the Funky Spirit, a rhythmic trinity that Collins discussed during a sit-down at the W Hotel in Midtown. Attended by his wife Patti Collins in striped stockings and crinoline miniskirt, Collins cut a dashing figure, sporting glitter glasses, sequined top hat and platform boots.
Copies of his new CD, “Tha’ Funk Capitol of the World,” sat on the hotel room’s black granite counters.
According to Collins, 59, he and his band, including Kash Waddy, Phillipe Wynne and his late brother Phelps “Catfish” Collins, did not know they were being hired to replace Brown’s backing band when they flew down to Georgia in Brown’s private jet on that spring afternoon in 1970.
“James Brown was our hero, the band were our heroes. We’d never think about crossing a picket line to play with him,” he said.
“When we got to Columbus Ga., we started to get a funny feeling, funny vibes. The other band was looking at us like ‘those dirty suckers.’ Then Mr. Brown told us, ‘I done fired the band and y’all the new band.’”
Though they knew all the songs, it was a terrible way to have your wish come true, said Collins. “It was real strange. It felt great on the one side, but then on the other side, to see our heroes faces like we done stabbed them in the back . . . That part of it was a mess.”
Playing with Brown for a year, and recording tunes such as “Soul Power,” “Super Bad” and “Sex Machine,” was a critical part of his education, said Collins. For starters, it taught him how to stop sounding like a guitarist and start sounding more like a bass player. “I didn’t know anything about the bass.” Brown told him to lean on the first beat of the measure, which made the music come together.
He’d listen to Collins playing his highly-decorated lines, stick out his lower lip and say (here Collins expertly imitated Brown’s rasp): “Nah, You ain’t doing it. You gotta play the ONE. If you play that one, you can play all that other stuff, ‘cause I like what you’re doing. But you gotta play that one.”
This was a schooling that he needed, said Collins. “I wanted to learn how to be disciplined. I came from a home with no father in it, and I needed that ‘man’ discipline — in a way that only James Brown could do it. It was right on time and just what I needed.”
Collins’ new record includes a host of guests, with banjo from Bela Fleck, rap from Snoop Dogg, spoken word from Samuel L. Jackson and Al Sharpton and a voice-of-God appearance by Princeton professor Cornel West.
“We had been talking for some time,” said Collins of West. “He had this voice, this intelligence, that needed to be heard. I thought if I only got the right track, it would be a whole new world for both of us.” That track turned out to be a number called “Freedumb.”
When they got to the studio, West asked him, “What you want me to do?”
Collins said “Well, we got all these smart phones, but we’re still making dumb decisions.”
“I got you,” said West. “Turn the tape on.”