What is rock 'n' roll?
Rock 'n' roll is like, uh, Chuck Berryish. Uh, Jimi Hendrix. Uh, Bootsy
What about Little Richard?
were like the ones like we kind of, I guess as we were coming up, you know,
they were like the ones, the super heroes, and uh, the ones we kind of
related to just kind of getting into it ourselves. So they were the ones we
would kind of listen to. I would have to go to my friends' houses to listen
because we had no radios or nothing like that, no TVs or nothing like that.
And uh, but we heard about them and people were talking so, yeah, I'd have
Did any of these people inspire you on
your own instrument, like who was the bass player or guitarist that made you
want to --
Uh, I would have to say James Jameson
is the one that really got me interested in playing bass. Because the cat
was so perfect. [PHONE] Every note he hit, you know, James Jameson, and
James James, he played with Motown. And he did, um, like all the, you know,
Motown records back in the '50s, '60s. You know, he was just the cat. You
know, between him and the guy that was playing with James Brown, Bernard,
uh, God I forget that guy's last name. But those were the guys that inspired
me to even get into it. And this was a little bit before Sly Stone and them
came out, and Jimi Hendrix. This was a little bit before them. I mean they
were probably happening but I didn't know nothing about it. You know, the
ones I knew about were, like I say, Motown was out, they were blasting all
over the records. Marvin Gaye, uh, who else?
Stevie Wonder, uh, uh, Four Tops --
what's that one record, "Bernadette", and what's that one by Stevie, "I Was
Made to Love Her", boy that was the baddest line, that's the classic line,
you know, it's perfect. And everybody, all bass players were trying to learn
how to play that. It was just something --
Keyboard players too.
Right, right, it was so
perfect. And the sound, because bass players, you know at that time were
looking for a sound, you know, and everybody wanted to have the deepest
bass, and Fender basses came out, and you know, I had this piece of junk
that cost about 29 dollars, and you know I tried to make it sound like a
Fender, but you know, you could never get it to happen, so you know, it was
pretty cool. But it was rough. You know.
look at him now.
Ha ha, yeah, look at me now
Bernie, who were the ones that
really got to you?
Uh, Ray Charles.
Yeah, yeah. That's your father ain't it?
Like my grand-dad. He is my father. He's the father of --
you know, brought us up.
What was it about his
His feel, his soul, his, his, uh, it's a
feel, just like rock 'n' roll is a feel, funk is a, it's a feeling, it's
That was the next question I
wanted to ask both of you. What is funk?
is funk, well, you want me to hit that first?
What is funk. Okay, funk to me is uh, a
way of life, it's the way we came up. When I used to have to, um, go up to
the welfare office with my mother, and you know, carry the bags, and then
the other kids laughed at me. I mean, to me that was funk. Funk was when we
used to have to stay in one room all of us, you know, stay together, no air
conditioner, it's about 108 degrees outside, and no complaining. Everybody
was just glad to be there. You know and um, funk to me is when you don't
have your own TV set, and you know, it was unheard of when we was coming up,
having your own room, your own TV set? Oh boy, get out of here. You know,
you got beat, you know, you got whipped. That was all funk. So, you know, to
me, um, that's pretty much, you know, it has to grow up in you. I mean it's,
the street, it's coming off of the street, you know, and learning how to
deal with it, you know. And then it gets up to here and then you get to the
point you just say, well, funk it, and then it comes out in your
It's the feel. All that stuff transcends
Yeah, 'cause it's just, um, just
like too, like certain things, like something is going on in your love
relationship or something happened, and it will inspire you to do something
either on your instrument or write a song. And that's how I think a lot of
us got into writing and you know certain things would happen. Like, take
like Eddie Hazel for instance. Things would happen, you know, and come up
with a song, and that would happen to me a lot. And Bernie, certain things
would happen at the house, you know, his mom needed this, or his wife needed
that and da-da-dee, and then, you know, he might, it might upset him or it
might do this because he can't be there and he can't do this, and you write
a song. I mean, it all comes in the music. On stage we can look and say,
yeah, something happened to Bernie's house today. Yeah, he's going
You can tell by the mood.
You can tell by the mood. And it affected every, I mean,
it affected everybody. You could tell. Man, he got a whuppin' today. You
know what I'm saying, because it's like, you could tell, when you hit the
stage, you're so into it, it's like, whoa, it's like magic, you know, it's
like a revival. And it's all because all of this stuff was happening. And
you know, people be trying to figure it out and why it is and why this, and
it's just a bunch of stuff that happens that all comes through all of us,
you know. And we just fortunately had a way of getting it out.
Speaking of revivals, it seemed that a lot of this stuff
I would have to say George pretty much. I
would say it was more, it was more of his idea. You know because he was
He's an entrepreneur at, at bringing
different people together, forces together. And then using the talents of
everyone to make a connection.
Yeah, to make a
connection. And I think it was more of his idea. We were just there, and he
knew what to do with us. He was more of our director. Um, he was perfect for
Yeah, yeah. I mean you know he had an overall look, whereas we just fall in,
we were musicians, you know, maybe we were musicians from space, illegal
aliens, or whatever you want to call it. But um, you know, we were there and
George kind of --
You know, he kind of knew what to do with, you know, with
all these different energies and these different vibes and ideas, you know.
Because we didn't know what the hell we were doing. We just doing what we
did, you know? And he just, you know, he was more like I guess, what a
A mixture of, of --
Like you cook in, what do you call it?
Stew, that's a good
one, funking stew, yeah, yeah, that's a good one.
Funking stew, I like
It's Funkenstein's special dish that you
only get in illegal alien's restaurant.
stew, that's pretty good, we're going to have to write that down. The recipe
is coming out and uh, Bernie gets 15 percent, I get five percent of that
No, no, no, we spread it even.
Oh, that's great, thank you, thank you, thank
See we have fun too. That's another
Especially before the gig. Because you
know we got a gig tonight. Yeah, this is our first gig tonight
First day of the tour.
Yeah, that's why Bernie's looking so relaxed.
How did you put the chants together? Where did that come
Want to expound on that a little bit?
Yeah, I would say, um, a lot of times the
audience would, um, would just start a riff-raff going on down there, and
somebody up on stage would pick it up, and just start singing it back. And
you know, the next think you know, everybody's singing it. As a matter of
fact, that's where, uh, the name is Bootsy, came from. We want Bootsy.
That's where that came, they started saying that before we even thought of,
uh, recording it.
So then you give it
You just give it back to them. Now,
everything don't come like that, but a lot of it, a lot of it came like
that. And then a lot of things you think and you just try on the audience,
you know. And then if they pick right up on it, then you know that's the
one. But if they don't pick right up on it, then, you know, you try
something else. So it's all the, and you just pick and choose and try
different things, you know.
In terms of sound,
trying to find that sound, I just want to backtrack a little bit where you
talked about Jimi Hendrix. What impact did he have and what did you
Oh man. Well go ahead, Bernie.
To try to put it in words is be-, belittling.
spiritual, uh, supernatural forces, natural forces all in this one gift that
God sent us. A messenger, warrior, and other things.
Yeah, it, it, it was enough to --
I need to hear you, we don't know how you're talking
You were talking about a special
Yeah, yeah, it's like, um, it's just
a good feeling to have people with you like, say like Bernie that was back
in the day when we started doing this stuff, it's good to be able to have
somebody with you like nowadays. Because, um, a lot of groups in the past
they come back and they come back totally new, and they've got totally new
people, and it's another vibe, it's not the same. And fortunate we got
enough of the old people with us, that you know, you get that, you get that
spiritual things, that togetherness, that unity that we had. And uh, it's a
good feeling. And not only that, we can do it on stage, we can do it on
record too. And that's um, that's what most people miss, you know, and it's
like a blessing.
Now when you had that unity,
what were the individual ingredients? What was it about Bernie --
I think what it was more…
Tell me who you're talking
Okay, I'm talking about Bernie Worrell
now, and I think, uh, what, what Bernie brought to the table was really his
schooling and his vibe. You know, we would take anything, he could take
anything, any line, he could make something out of nothing, you know with
these keyboards, well not these keyboards, but the keyboards that he used,
the older keyboards, he would take something out of nothing. Like, what I
brought to the table was the, the one, the James Brown groove. Bernie would
take that and add all these different colors to it, you know. And I think
between that and George would come to the table with these vocal ideas that
he heard, and I think with all that mixture there, those were the three
It was the what?
stew, for the funking stew.
Yeah, the funking
stew, that's what I was trying to say, yeah. But I think that's what, um,
you know, because he had this classical training. You know, so if you listen
to songs like "Chocolate City", "Mothership Connection", you know, and you
could kind of hear those things. It's like, you've got that basic groove,
you've got that groove, but he would add these different elements to it that
took you somewhere else.
He had the groove that
make you move.
Yeah, yeah. And see
Thank you very much.
Thank you very much. And there was a chemistry there that
happened, and it was like you just, people, you know, you just can't find
people to do that. You can find people to fake and do it and do this, but
it's never the same.
Bernie, how did you move
from classical training to this R and B funk mixture?
When I got away from home. I got into funk and R and B
and everything else when I got away from home. Hi, mom.
Yeah, George had something to do with that.
Yeah, he called me, well, first, first of all I used to
sneak to the barber shop to get my hair done, and I heard Eddie Hazel, Billy
Nelson, in the barber shop playing. I was kind of raised kind of strict in
the classical thing. And I heard this, whoa -- so I had to have some. And
that was the start of it. And the rest is --
Funk history. See, I had to put
some illegal alien ingredients in the stew.
Yeah, yeah, and see...
And then, I hadn't, I'd
heard Bootsy but I hadn't met him yet. With, with Bootsy, I mean that was
What did you think the first time you heard
Tell the truth, tell the
My brother, my soul mate.
That's why we still together.
And what I need. Don't you ever leave me.
won't, I promise.
I mean it's just there. And all it is now
is, um, we going to be together, and we're looking forward to um, one day,
you know, George, you know, and all three of us, and the rest of them are,
everything is back together. That's what we're here for. And um, I think
we're about the only ones left that can actually do this the way the Rolling
Stones are doing it. You know, um, we're the, we're the black Rolling
Stones. So I think we can do it that way. As a matter of fact I know we can,
and it's just a matter of time and it's a matter of promoters putting the
money us, because Bernie got these bills, and I got these bills and we love
We need another ship.
Well, because the one is in the pawn shop. Too bad you
couldn't get that out fella.
Speaking of the
Rolling Stones, it seems that I'm told there was this sort of rivalry
between you and Earth, Wind and Fire.
And they were like the Beatles, and you were the Rolling
Mmm. You know, I even heard that when
we was out on the road, but I don't know where that started, I really
Was there ever a feeling in the group
about Earth, Wind and Fire, that they were, in terms of their message, that
maybe they were goody-goody -- What did you think of Earth, Wind and
Personally, myself? Personally,
And … in the answer.
Okay. Earth, Wind and Fire? I, personally myself, I
thought they were great, you know, but I started hearing things they were
saying about what we were doing, and, but you know, I mean, that was, that
was on them.
We didn't deal with
Yeah, we didn't ever deal with none of
that kind of stuff, because we were just there.
Everyone was out there trying to find their own direction.
And what was
it that Earth, Wind and Fire was doing?
Delivering their, their message --
they do it.
Their, their way.
And nobody else can do it like them.
Musically, what does that mean? How was the music
different from what everybody else was doing?
Well, they was doing clean dirt, and we was doing dirty dirt, the kind you
sweep under the rug, you know what I'm saying?
I like it, I like it.
Well, that's the real
deal and not the deal dole (?). Oh, okay? [LAUGHS] But that's pretty much,
hopefully that kind of, you know, they had an image whee they could get
played on the radio and on the TV, but we had to take it to the people. We
had to go straight for the underground, straight from the street to the
people, and the people was the ones that said, yeah, these boys here,
We had to cut to the funk.
Because that's where we were at, and we couldn't deal
with it no other way, and uh, the people were the ones that say, these
people are the greatest, so.
Oh man. That's kind of beat,
That's kind of beat. Jimi, Sly Stone, uh,
as I said before --
Sly Stone, I don't know,
he was, he started a whole 'nother like a, like a whole 'nother thang,
t-h-a-n-g, that being, his ideas, the writing, the rhythm, another variation
of funking stew.
Yeah, yeah, it was like what
James did on a street level, Sly took it and it made it where it was like
everybody could get into it. Same thing if I could take it from there to
what press (?) did, to what we was doing. It made it the, uh, the color
barrier was no color barrier. So he made it able where everybody can say,
yeah, not that Jimi didn't do that either, Jimi did that too. But Sly was
more funk orientated I guess. So I would say that was the difference there.
And I don't know, uh --
Speaking about Jimi,
because I never did get your answer as to what Jimi Hendrix did to
Well, actually I was on the road with um,
with James Brown. And that's where I really started hearing about it.
[PHONE] Uh, Jimi Hendrix. I was on the road with James Brown, that's where I
actually started hearing about Jimi Hendrix. And uh, it was funny, his
girlfriend, his main girlfriend was on the road with us, named Lithofane
(?). Yeah, and she was traveling with us. And you know, she's talking about
I kind of look like him and da-da-da-dee, da-da-da-da. Next thing you know
she wore me out, and you know, it was cool, I was freaked out and everything
was groovy, and I'm like, wow, I want to meet him, you know, and you know,
one of those kind of things, and it was, um, we kept going through that, but
we never actually got a chance to do it, because James was hitting it every
night, and you know, I was with James, we never actually got a chance to
stop doing that to go to New York and actually just sit down and go meet. So
I never really got a chance to meet him, or see him live, you know. The
closest I got was his girlfriend.
heard it …
It was incredible. I mean it was
incredible, and as I think back now it's like, man I would like to take the
bass and do something like that.
Tell me that
one more time. And put his name in.
okay, I got you. Yeah, and then when I heard Jimi Hendrix doing the, um,
like playing the guitar the way he did, and, you know, on records, because I
never got to see him live. You know, I always wanted to, but we were so busy
with James Brown doing the tour with him, I never got a chance to go see
him. And um, when I started hearing what he was doing with guitar, I started
wanting to do what Jimi Hendrix was doing with the bass. And I just didn't
want to play bass like everybody played bass. You know, I wanted to be able
to have different sounds and do things I was hearing in my head, you know.
And Jimi was doing that with the guitar and I wanted to do it on bass. So,
and then one day I wanted to actually play with Jimi, but you know that
But, you know, you are, you
Yeah, but, but, you know, that was always
a dream but you know it never happened, most of the dreams never