Discover Plainfield Arts
This page is a tribute to these two bands and the founding members who got their start in Plainfield in the 1960s.
We also dedicate this to one of our Plainfield Art Council members, Ron "Big E" Eldridge, who sadly passed away recently in 2019 and who contributed so much to help us remember where the Parliament -Funkadelics got their funk from. He told us when the band had their first hit, "Testify", everyone in the neighborhood felt like they had made it too.
These two bands have have a had a long successful recording history over nearly fifty years producing 25 studio albums, 38 compilations of hits, and 39 singles. Their first hit was a single, (I Wanna) Testify which came out in 1967, which went to #3 on the Billboard R & B Chart. Over the years they produced 4 platinum and 8 gold albums. See their 1976 live performance of " Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" what has been considered the ultimate anthem of this group:
George was born in Kannapolis, North Carolina but the family moved soon thereafter to Washington, DC and to rural Virginia. In 1950 his parents, now separated, moved to Newark and East Orange, NJ. His dad had a strong work ethic and this was instilled with George always having a job as a teenager. His mom was his musical inspiration. She was always playing records, especially blues. Aunt Ruth saw his interest in music and took him to the Apollo to see such groups as The Drifters, The Chantels, and The Flamingos. Soon while in high school George formed his first doo-wop group. He married early and with two kids moved to Plainfield in 1960. George become a master hair processer stylist in Newark and those skills flourished in Plainfield where he eventually co-owned and operated the Silk Palace on Plainfield Ave. This shop became the fertile ground for early founding members of the Funkadelics to meet and rehearse. Clinton, enamored with the success of Motown, took the Plainfield sound to Detroit. They did not fit the mold of Motown but found success with another small label and scored their first hit, "Testify" there. With George's genius of promotion, presentation, and persistence both Parliament and the Funkadelics in varying iterations of artists continued to flourish until their final world tour in 2019.
George's Funk lives on with Kendrickk Lamar:
Keyboard, piano, organ, and Moog Synthesizer
Bernie, nick named “The Wizard of Woo” was born in Long Branch, NJ but moved to Plainfield in 1952 where he grew up. He was a child prodigy musician and went on to get a degree in classical music from the New England Conservatory of Music in 1967. He was asked to join the Funkadelics in 1970 sometime after release of their first album. With inspiration from such bands as Emerson, Lake and Palmer he went on to create his own keyboard language of sound. Some likened him as the Jimmie Hendrix of the keyboard. He co-wrote such Funkadelic hit songs as “Mothership Connection (Starlight)” and “Flash Light”. When he broke away from the Funkadelics he became the keyboard artist for the Talking Heads band. He also recorded five solo albums of his own.
This long interview and lecture at the Red Bull Music Academy in 2013 captures how Bernie approaches life and his music:
Bassist, Guitarist, Songwriter
Billy was born in Plainfield in 1951. As a young teenager he worked the Silk Palace barbershop and sang and danced for the patrons there. He was asked to join the backup band for the Parliaments by George Clinton and he performed as a guitarist until Eddie Hazel joined the group and then he became the bassist. Billy actually was the one who coined the name Funkadelic by merging the names of the genres of funk and psychedelic rock. He parted ways with the group in 1971, but before that he contributed the classic bass grooves in the first three Funkadelic albums. Billy went on over the years as a bassist in many famous R & B acts including The Commodores, The Temptations, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, P-Theory. In 1993 he produced his own album, “Out of the Dark” which was a tribute to fellow band member Eddie Hazel who’d died in 1992. Billy continues to tour most recently with the California band, Sons of Funk.
The Temptations needed Billy to give this tune (Co-written by Eddie Hazel) maximum funkatude:
Was born in Brooklyn, NY but his mother moved to Plainfield to escape the treachers of city life. Eddie sang in church and met Billy Nelson when he was 12. In 1967, when he was only 17, Billy recruited him to play with the Funkadelics as lead guitarist. He toured with the band and was part of three early albums. In 1971 contractual and drug related issues lead him to leave the band. Occasionally he would return to play and arrange for George Clinton. Eddie Hazel is revered a one of the greatest rock guitar players of all times by Rolling Stone Magazine and followers of the funk music scene. His 10 minute solo, recorded in one take, on the title track of the Funkadelic album, “Maggot Brain” is considered his highest achievement where with great emotion he make his guitar cry to reflect the urban decay, the horrors of the Vietnam war, and assassinations of public figures of the era. Please listen here to this famous solo:
(“Diaperman” and or “Starchild”)
Gary was born in Plainfield. He came from a very musical family, his mother father and brothers all played the guitar. They also sang together as a family as backup singers, The Shidettes, for such famous gospel singers including Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy. At the early age of seven he started going to the Silk Palace barbershop and sang for the customers. In 1969, together with his friend Cordell Mosson, he left for Canada to seek new opportunities. Together they formed a funk rock band called United Soul. George Clinton visited them and wound up producing several of their records. In 1972 Garry joined the Funkadelics full time as their rhythm guitarist. Garry co-wrote and arranged songs, including “One Nation Under a Groove” and “Atom Dog”. He often acted as tour director. Of all the early band members he stayed with George Clinton and his evolving bands the longest.
Forever the "Starchild":
Bassist, Guitarist, Vocalist, & Drums
Cordell was born in New Brunswick but grew up in Plainfield. He became a great friend of Gary Shider and the two of them left Plainfield and joined a funk bad in Canada named United Soul. In 1971 George Clinton produced several tracks for this band. In 1972 Garry and Cordell joined the Funkadelics. Cordell became the onstage featured bassist when Bootsy Collins left the group to go solo. Cordell continued to tour with P-Funk until 2011.
Danny Bedrosian's Tribute to Cordell:
Vocalist & Songwriter
Ray was born in Sumpter, South Carolina. His parents got him involved in both the youth and adult choirs. The family moved to Plainfield and as a junior in high school he was part of a doo wop group that evolved into the Parliaments. He said that in his early years he was influenced by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Pookie Hudson, The Spaniels, and The Temptations. Ray was loyal to George Clinton and stayed on when others left the group in 1977. Ray's booming bass baritone voice is best remembered in "One Nation Under a Groove" and "Flashlight", both R&B number one hits. In the mid 90's Ray became the lead bass for The Temptations after the death of Melvin Franklin. See the Best Ray Davis Moments here:
Guitarist & Vocalist
Glenn was born and raised in Plainfield. As part of his musical family he sang in their gospel group. He self taught him self to play guitar and was inspired by Jimmie Hendrix. In 1972 he got into the funk scene when he joined The Bags and they recorded a single -"its Heavy". His Plainfield friend , Gary Shider introduced him to George Clinton in 1974. He only stayed with the group for three years but his strong solos are on some of P-Funks greatest hits. In 1974 he formed his own band, Quazar but did not live to see their first album released later that year when died of Hodgkin's Disease at age 24. Many rap stars have sampled his outstanding performances. In live grand stage events he is best known for summoning the Mothership to land:
This Funkadelic concert stage prop is proudly displayed as an exhibit in Washington DC's Smithsonian- National Museum of African American History and Culture. But funk is still very much alive and this vehicle that brought funk to the human race from outer space will continue to hover.
See NPR article and videos about the the Mothership rebuilding: