Meet the players who’ve done more than any other to set heads a-bobbing, hips a-swaying, and dance floors afire around the globe.
BY OSCAR JORDAN
Funk is much more than a style of music that evolved from R&B in the
1960s—it’s a way of life. Or, as the late
great James Brown said in “(Get up I Feel
Like Being A) Sex Machine, Pt. 1,” “You
got ta have the feelin’.” It’s the sound of
a tight ensemble powered by a relentless
groove. It’s sweat, soul, and everybody
playing in the pocket. It’s subservience to
the first beat of every bar. Groove is the
monarch of the genre.
But funk is also about hip, interlock-
ing guitar parts that make the song pop.
In funk, the song always comes first,
and the best funk guitar parts are mini
compositions within the song. Creating
these mini compositions requires mas-
tering a variety of techniques, each of
which is inevitably and indelibly sea-
soned by each player’s ethnic, regional,
and musical backgrounds. That’s why
veteran 6-string funksters like Leo
Nocentelli (The Meters), David Williams
(Michael Jackson, Madonna), Johnny
“Guitar” Watson, Paul Jackson Jr. (The
Temptations), Phelps “Catfish” Collins
(Parliament, Funkadelic), George Johnson
(The Brothers Johnson), and Gary Shider
(Parliament, Funkadelic) all have uniquely
funky styles that don’t just rely on stereo-
typical waka-waka wah hackery.