Pied Piper Bootsy led way to funk, now heads to Rialto

2012-12-13T00:00:00Z Pied Piper Bootsy led way to funk, now heads to RialtoGerald M. Gay Ggay@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
December 13, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Bassist Bootsy Collins likes to think of himself as a bit of a Pied Piper.

"I bring the funk out of you," the 61-year-old performer said in a phone interview Monday. "Some people don't even know they have it. It is just sitting there dormant until Pied Piper Bootsy comes and wakes it up."

Collins, who performs at the Rialto on Tuesday, has been on the forefront of funk for more than four decades and a talented musician, going all the way back to the late 1960s.

He got his start playing with his brother, "Catfish" Collins in the band The Pacemakers in Cincinnati.

The group toured for several years under the name The JBs after signing on as James Brown's backup band in 1970.

But it was during Collins' days with George Clinton, playing with Parliament and its sister band Funkadelic where Collins blossomed.

Collins remembers distinct differences between Brown and Clinton.

"With James Brown, it was more disciplined, like 'You're in the Army now,' " Collins said. "Your shoes had to be shined and your hair combed and all of that. With George, you could look as crazy as you wanted. You never knew what was going to happen. It was all a surprise.

"Most of us don't get both sides of that. For me, it worked out pretty good."

Although much of his solo work came out in the 1980s and beyond, Collins said the 1970s were the best years to be a musician.

"You could be as creative as you wanted to be," he said. "It was more about playing crazy stuff and being challenging and open. It was probably one the most inspirational times for artists."

The songs created through Parliament-Funkadelic helped get Collins and his bandmates into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Collins said fans at Tuesday's concert can expect to hear some of those hits, as well as tracks from his latest album, "Tha Funk Capital of the World."

The 2011 release features Collins on bass, backing a long list of actors, political figures and musicians, in a recording with song names like "Minds Under Construction" and "Chocolate Caramel Angel."

The album is an interesting mix of personalities, with hip hop artists Chuck D and Ice Cube, along with banjo player Béla Fleck, activist Cornel West and actor Samuel L. Jackson, among others.

"I was working with a lot of these people when I was putting this album together," Collins said. "I was doing a commercial for Tiger Woods at the time with Samuel L. Jackson, for example.

"People were excited to get down with the funk. I couldn't pay everybody, but they wanted to do it anyway."

Collins is especially fond of the track "Don't Take My Funk," which he recorded with singer-songwriter Bobby Womack and his brother Catfish.

Catfish was a rhythm guitarist who also played with Parliament-Funkadelic. He died from cancer in 2010 at age 66.

"My brother was actually my mentor," Collins said. "He was the father that I didn't have. He was my hero and got me started playing guitar. I wanted to be like him."

Collins said he never expected he'd be playing more than 40 years after getting his start.

"The way we came up, we took it a day at a time," he said. "You never looked beyond the day. You just played and had fun with people."

If you go

• What: Bootsy Collins in concert.

• When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

• Where: Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

• Tickets: $30 in advance; $33 day of show through the Rialto box office, 740-1000.

• Info: rialtotheatre.com

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