George Clinton Shares the Mystery Behind One of Funkadelic’s Greatest Guitar Solos
Just looking at George Clinton is enough to tell you that he's lived through enough stories to fill a shelf full of memoirs, and his new autobiography, the excellently titled 'Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?,' definitely delivers.
One memorable tale tucked into the book's 400-plus pages concerns the recording sessions that produced Funkadelic's 1975 album 'Let's Take It to the Stage' -- in particular, the song 'Get Off Your Ass and Jam,' which contains one of the greatest guitar solos in the band's catalog. As Clinton recalls in the book, that track wasn't contributed by Funkadelic guitarists Eddie Hazel, Michael Hampton or Garry Shider; in fact, he has no idea what the player's name was.
"We finished one take, took a smoke break or something, and noticed that a white kid had wandered into the studio, a smack addict," writes Clinton. "We didn't know him at all, but he said he played a little guitar, and he wanted to know if he could play with us and pick up a little cash in the process."
Plenty of artists would have shooed him out of the room, something Clinton readily acknowledges in his description of the scene, but the band decided to let their mystery guest take his best shot: "We set him up, started the track, and he just started to play like he was possessed. He did all the rock 'n' roll that hadn't been heard for a few years, and he did it for the entirety of the track. Even when the song ended, he didn't stop. All of us were up there goggle-eyed, saying, 'Damn.' We had agreed on 25 bucks, but I gave him 50 because I loved it."
As Clinton points out elsewhere in the book, while some listeners may not think of Funkadelic as being part of the rock landscape, that's just closed-mindedness at work; in fact, band member Bernie Worrell had previously played with future Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer, and the Boston rockers eventually ended up selling a retired stage rig to Funkadelic. As far as Clinton was concerned, his band deserved to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the biggest rock bands on the planet: "Why couldn't we be the Rolling Stones? Why couldn't we be Cream? If it was just the color of our skin, that wasn't going to stop us, not when we had the tightest songs and the loudest guitars and the best singers."
'Let's Take It to the Stage' was Funkadelic's seventh album, and they'd go on to release plenty more throughout the '70s, '80s and beyond -- but none of them would include the mystery man who contributed to 'Get Off Your Ass and Jam.' "Over the years it's proven to be one of the most enduring songs from that record. I tried to find the guy and put him on another song, but he was gone. He never resurfaced," Clinton admitted. "We never heard from him. He's not credited on the record because we have no idea who he was."
Listen to Funkadelic's 'Get Off Your Ass and Jam'