Tales From the Tour Bus (2017) s02e04 Episode Script

Bootsy Collins

1 You might have noticed the lack of gunplay this season.
I don't have an answer, it's just a observation.
So far, we've mined the sequins and glitter of funk royalty.
Now, for a slightly deeper cut.
You ever heard of this guy, William Earl Collins? How 'bout his superhero alter ego, the player simply known as Bootsy.
Hallelujah! They call me Casper! Not the friendly ghost But the holy ghost! And I'm here To make you shout Glory be to the one Who knows what the funk's about - Hit me, pretty fat - Funky feet, don't know how I think it's time for a proper bow It's a party, your place, it's a war on west The king is here, Boots still the best That was Bootsy's Rubber Band as it was known.
But William has played a unique role in the evolution of the form: the bridge between two legends before becoming one in his own right.
And Bootsy lived to tell the story, whether any of it is remotely true is another matter.
(THEME MUSIC PLAYING) (ECHOING): Oh! A lot of stuff I can't remember exactly 'cause I was taking acid, you know, every day, from, like, 1968 until the tail end of the '70s.
But you guys are gonna have interviews with other people who was there, right? 'Cause I'm gonna need to find out what actually happened in that time.
(LAUGHS) Bootsy and his brother Catfish, we'd been playing together since we were kids.
MIKE JUDGE: Drummer Frankie "Kash" Waddy is one of those people who can help fill in the gaps.
He grew up playing music with the Collins brothers in Cincinnati, Ohio.
We weren't very well off, but it's not gonna stop us.
We were just getting our ass kicked, you know, and loving it.
We had a Dodge Dart station wagon that we could put all our equipment in, and all of us, so we could get to our gigs.
JUDGE: They had a reputation for playing James Brown songs under the name The Pacemakers.
One night, we played at this place called the Wein Bar, on the corner of Rockdale and Redding Road.
We made $14 in total.
So, we were playing, jamming on stage, you know.
Next thing I know, the bartender came up and said, "Bobby Byrd is on the phone.
" JUDGE: Bobby Byrd is the soul and funk impresario.
The singer-songwriter, band leader, and producer who helped launch the career of the hardest working man in show business, James Joseph Brown.
BOOTSY: So, I get on the phone, and he says, "James Brown wants y'all to come to Columbus, Georgia, right now, and play on the show.
" And I was like, "Come on, man, quit joking.
" And he said, "No, no.
I'm serious.
"I'm on the way in James' Learjet, "and I'm gonna pick you guys up, and we're gonna fly down here, and we're gonna do this show.
" And the next thing I know he's there at the Wein Bar.
Had the limo out there, you know, uh, "Come on, let's go.
" We'd driven past the exit to the airport a million and one times, never looked in that Dir it wasn't even our vernacular.
We, uh, never flown before in our lives.
BOOTSY: So, we get on the plane and next thing I know, it went straight up in the air, Afros was going back.
JUDGE: They arrived late to the gig and came upon a near-riot in the parking lot.
BOOTSY: The people were kind of rowdy because the show was late.
So we sneak around back, and walking in, we see some of our heroes, you know.
JUDGE: Maceo Parker and his brother Melvin had been with James Brown since 1964, along with funk legends like Fred Wesley and Clyde Stubblefield.
BOOTSY: So, there's Maceo, Fred Wesley, Clyde Stubblefield, and they lookin' awfully angry.
You know, I remember passing the dressing room, and I saw Richard "Kush" Griffith had James Brown in a choke hold.
I saw that and I was like, "Okay, I know something's going down.
" (LAUGHS) What was going on was it was a bit of a Mexican standoff between the guys and James because they weren't happy with the way James was doing some things.
And, uh, they decided, you know, "Unless you change what's going on, we're not playing.
" So, they kind of had him over a barrel.
But what they didn't realize was James had already prepared to have us come in.
So, after a while, Bobby Byrd took us over to Mr.
Brown's dressing room, and he's sitting there, James freakin' Brown.
(CHUCKLES) And he started talking, "Ah-ha-ha, brother, I knew we we're gonna get you all down here.
"Uh, I want you to, uh, I want you to come up on the set with me and I'm gonna count them songs off.
" And we're kind of lookin' at each other like, you know, 'cause we didn't understand what he was actually saying.
- So, they push us to the stage.
- (AUDIENCE BOOING) It was the biggest crowd we'd ever seen, not to mention biggest stage we'd ever been on.
It was cute because we'd always been used to being close, and we're on this big-ass stage, and we, like, bundled up in the middle of it like this, on this big stage, right? BOOTSY: The people are kind of angry, you know, - not even kind of angry - (BOTTLES SHATTER) and we didn't know what we were doing.
We didn't have a plan.
But then, James Brown gets up on stage (CROWD CHEERING) and he just turned around and said, "'Cold Sweat, ' hit me!" (BAND STARTS PLAYING) Okay, all right (VOCALIZING) After the show, we go back to the dressing room, and James said, "Brother, y'all killed me.
Brother, y'all killed me! "Man, y'all played the thang, y'all did good.
Think I'm gonna call y'all The JBs.
" That's how it all got started.
JUDGE: While fame started for the man known as Bootsy that night in Georgia, William Collins first found the funk back in Ohio.
Growing up, my brother Catfish was my whole inspiration.
He's, like, eight years older than I am.
(STRUMMING) So, he's, like, a teenager and, when I was eight years old, he started his own band.
(BAND WARMING UP) Without having a father in the house, you know, you always want to have somebody to look up to, and he was the cat I looked up to and wanted to be like.
So, I was teaching myself, watching my brother, listenin', just, you know, learning everything I could learn.
When he was on his paper route, I would sneak his guitar out of the closet, so I could practice.
(STRUMMING) But I had to put it back exactly the way he had it, or else he's gonna find out.
One day, I didn't do that, and that's the day Armageddon started.
- (LAUGHS) - (YOUNG BOOTSY GRUNTS) JUDGE: In addition to a brotherly beatdown, Catfish gave young William his first chance in front of an audience, and a new direction on stage.
One night, his bass player wasn't gonna make the gig.
And he said, "Okay, well, I'll find me another bass player.
" So, I was like, "I can do this.
" (LAUGHS) You know? And my brother's, like, "No.
" But I kept naggin' him.
"I can do it.
" You know "If you get me four bass strings, I guarantee you, I can do this.
" He's, like, "On the guitar?" I was, like, "Yeah! I'll make it happen.
" So, he got me four bass strings, and I peeled the ends of the strings, put 'em up in the guitar tuning pegs.
I put four strings on that puppy.
And voila! (CHUCKLES) I was playing bass.
Once I got a chance to play with my brother (AUDIENCE CHEERING) I don't know, it took me somewhere else.
JUDGE: One of those places was the legendary King Studios in Cincinnati, where R&B artists have been recording since 1951.
Every day after school, King's was the place.
All the big cats on King Records, they came and did their thing, and we were always there, to just see 'em, you know Bobby "Blue" Bland, Hank Ballard, and then, James Brown! Come on, man.
I mean, you know, it was like we were in Disney World.
Everybody knew James Brown's music.
Everybody covered James Brown 'cause it was everywhere.
We knew every James Brown song by heart.
JUDGE: The Pacemakers covered James Brown so well that they had a reputation at King's, (PHONE RINGING) and that's what led to that call from Bobby Byrd.
[HORN HONKS] (LAUGHS) I mean, to me that night, in Columbus, Georgia, was really sad, because I had grown up idolizing James Brown's band.
And you could just see 'em, one by one, just packing up their instruments and hanging their heads, and just walking out of the building.
JUDGE: Alan Leeds was there that night, an apprentice disc jockey with a hairstyle made for radio.
He started following James Brown from town to town, and ended up with a gig as his tour manager.
He went on to work for Bootsy's Rubber Band.
The first couple months were pretty rough, but what James did, smart as he is, he started immediately rearranging his music to de-emphasize the horns, which were so prominent in the old band, and put all the emphasis on the rhythm section.
James was a blessing for us because we were able to learn the basics of funk.
When I first started, he told me, "Son, y'all the baddest band in the world, "but you just can't play.
You don't have 'the one.
'" And I'm like, "What the heck is 'the one, ' man?" JUDGE: "The one" is the first beat of the measure.
The key to funk for James Brown was to put the accent on the one.
It would come to define his sound.
Yeah! BOOTSY: He said, "Give me the one first.
"You can play all that crazy stuff "you wanna play, as long as you come back, and hit that one.
" That was the James Brown one, and once I learned that, wasn't nothing gonna stop us.
One, two, three, four! - Get up - Get on up - Get up - Get on up - Stay on the scene - Get on up - Like a sex machine - Get on up Get up A couple months after they'd been on the road, they went into the studio in Nashville to record the first record they made with James, and this new band had basically reinvented his sound.
Get up! Sex machine You got that young energy, and that young energy took James Brown, rhythmically, to another level.
You don't have Sex Machine without that infusion of young energy.
JUDGE: Dr.
Scot Brown is a professor of history and African-American Studies at UCLA, as well as a self-professed scholar of the funk.
Uh! Get it! Come on! Do it! SCOT BROWN: The bass player is supposed to be this you know, quiet person holding the bottom down.
But Bootsy himself is a character.
His energy gets things moving to a point where the crowd is yelling, "Bootsy!" Hit it! JUDGE: Bootsy, even at the age of 19, had a few things to teach his mentor as well.
Ah! LEEDS: James was very particular about how the band conducted themselves in public, and here comes Bootsy and these guys, and, you know, they were the drug culture on steroids.
We were the worst thing that could ever happen to James, 'cause we were young and stupid, man, and we didn't give a fuck.
Before the show, we had this thing Frankie, myself, Chicken, Chopper What we would do was we would crush up two or three Orange Sunshines, and put it in whatever we're drinking, and we would pass it around.
(SLURPING) JUDGE: Orange Sunshine was the name of maybe the most popular version of LSD known to man.
So, you know, we're back there, getting high, and, next thing you know, out of the clear blue, James Brown comes over to join us, and, you know, James' whole thing was "no drugs.
" He had fired people for getting high and stuff.
So, he comes over and he says, "Hit me.
" And it's, like, "Nah," I said, "You don't want none of this.
" - And he's like, "Gimme, gimme.
" - (SNAPS FINGERS) So, I'm saying to myself, "Do I give it to him?" "Yeah, give it to him.
" So, he starts just going at it.
He's drinking, and he ain't giving it back, and ain't nobody saying stop.
And we're just standing there amazed.
So, when he gets finished (SLURPING) we go in to play the set.
And James didn't know it at the time, but he was tripping out of his freakin' mind.
He was smiling like a Ches' Cat, for real, you know.
It got him.
He did some way out dance.
Then, he did this new thing called "The Moon.
" (AUDIENCE CHEERING) He stood like this for about 15 minutes.
And we were trying to figure out what the heck is he doing.
He wasn't doin' nothin' but this, you know.
And then, he was was here like this.
And he told us it was the cool new dance.
(CRICKETS CHIRPING) When that gig finished, James called us back to the dressing room, and he told me, "Son "y'all ain't on it.
"You don't have it.
Y'all just ain't killing me.
" And we're looking at each other, like, - "This motherfucker is crazy.
" - (LAUGHING) When he would go off into his James Brown tantrums (YELLING) we would start falling on the floor.
That shit was funny.
He'd try to bring in these rules, and the rules just didn't work on us.
I'll never forget.
It was Dallas, Texas.
We were playin' a show, and we were obliviated, you know, we're crazy, man.
So out of our minds, and that night, we just lost it.
All I remember from that night is that the neck on my bass turned into a snake.
(HISSING) And I looked at it, and it and it looked back at me, and I threw it down and ran.
(LAUGHS) WADDY: I looked back at James, and he just shook his head.
You know, he was just done.
James found me backstage, and he comes in, and he's angry.
And I'm still trippin'.
So I'm lookin' at him, and he's talkin'.
(DISTORTED YELLING) And his face begins to look like he was turning purple, and looked like volcanic, you know, lava spewing out his face.
- His forehead, his hair is fire.
- (DEEP, DISTORTED YELLING) And then he just said, "Y'all fired.
" (LAUGHS) "George, come here and get this fool out of here.
" They picked me up off the floor, threw us all out.
That was it.
James Brown was badass, but he was a hard guy to work with.
JUDGE: Bootsy and the guys resurfaced in Detroit, playing under the name The House Guests.
They were psychedelic, they were dressed crazy, they were all high in some way, shape, or form.
But the performance was killer, I mean these guys, straight or completely fucked up, they would bring it.
JUDGE: Tom Vickers was a journalist who became the minister of information for George Clinton and his Parliament Funkadelic.
Bootsy was sort of the missing link between James Brown, and Parliament Funkadelic.
What happened was, they met this woman named Mallia Franklin.
She's a singer from Detroit.
And one night, she came up to the stage after the show, and she says, "You guys remind me of the Funkadelics.
You should come meet this guy George Clinton.
JUDGE: Clinton had come up through the chitlin circuit, singing doo-wop, writing for Motown, and dropping copious amounts of acid.
By 1970, he was fronting not one, but two bands out of Detroit: Parliament and Funkadelic.
We did meet, but I can't remember exactly what happened then.
I was probably high as hell or tripping or something.
When Bootsy and George got together, they had sort of a meeting of the minds, and they just really hit if off.
And so, they started writing songs, or whatever, and Bootsy brings up the one.
And George, you know, just like Bootsy when he was with James Brown the first time, went, "What are you talking about? What's the one?" (CHUCKLING): I didn't know what the fuck it was.
George, you know, he wasn't into counting, so he didn't know where the one was at.
VICKERS: Bootsy said, "Ah, this is where it is, boom.
" And basically handed the gift of the one from James Brown, through Bootsy, to George.
When I got George to understand the one, it was, like, "Oh, man, this is genius.
" Because James didn't use it like that, you know.
And George made a whole concept out of it.
Everything is on the one JUDGE: Bootsy, his brother Catfish, and Frankie became the backbone of both Parliament and Funkadelic.
And they were reunited with Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, and Kush Griffith, now known as the Horny Horns, part of the P-Funk nation.
You have to understand going from James Brown to Funkadelic, you know.
We done went from the staunch military, A-B-C-X-Y-Z, 1-2-3 type thing, and then, when we got with George, everybody's running around crazy, like a three-ring circus.
(SNIFFING) Parliament Funkadelic was a free-for-all, you know.
Everybody played a character, and the crazier, the funnier, the better.
JUDGE: Stozo the Clown, not his real name, has been working, in some capacity, with Clinton since 1972.
When Bootsy's crew came on the scene.
They were a little more conservative, so they had to figure out what characters they were gonna be on stage.
Bootsy created this persona.
He has these star-shaped glasses, the hat, and the leather outfit, his signature space bass, and, of course, the voice.
The name is Bootsy, baby.
The Bootsy persona is a cartoon character brought to life.
And this character became so popular, that it took on a life of its own.
And it didn't take a long time before I realized, Bootsy was a Bootsy.
He wasn't a Funkadelic, he was a star all to himself.
So, he was in the group for a good six months before I told him, "Get your band out here, we'll make a a Bootsy Rubber Band.
" Yaaba-daba-doo Bootzilla's here! The world's only rhinestone rock star doll baby! - I wanna be your toy - Wind me up! I wanna play for you, baby - Yeah! - Wind me up! Most funk bands were pretty, you know, they were like the player type of guys.
The guys who got all the girls, and it was all very sex-driven and very overt.
With Bootsy's Rubber Band, there was a humorous element.
You know, the thing about Bootsy that I remember the most was that he always stayed in character.
You know, "Hey Stozo.
What's going on, Stozo?" You know Bootsy wore his star glasses and his top hat to the bathroom, even.
JUDGE: Bootsy's Rubber Band quickly rose to the top of George's P-Funk empire.
There was a straight ascension on Bootsy's popularity and career path from his first Bootsy album to Ahh The Name is Bootsy, to Bootsy? Player of the Year.
Eventually, they reached the point where he was selling out, you know, 16,000-seat arenas.
They just started to really blow up.
Ah, Hollywood Land of how do you do's? Movie stars, take twos JUDGE: As a front man, he reached the top of the R&B charts, something that his mentor had yet to achieve.
He had become the face of P-Funk nation by default.
I'm very casual George, in real life, is a very unassuming-looking guy.
You wouldn't know it was George Clinton unless you really knew who he was.
Bootsy, on the other hand, had a vibe and an energy, and an aura about him that was beyond most people.
George would go on stage with platform shoes on, and he had on, like, a Mae West wig, and all this stuff, you know.
And then, after the gig, he'd dress down, and people would be, like, "Where's George? Which one's George?" Bootsy, on the other hand, - was Bootsy all the time.
- (WOMEN SCREAMING) JUDGE: His biggest hit was a laid-back lament called "I'd Rather Be With You.
" In truth, by that time, Bootsy would've rather been anywhere but on stage.
I didn't like being the front man.
All I was good at was the music.
I wasn't good at nothing else.
"But you the star.
" You know, you gotta be there, you gotta do this, and it's like I didn't really wanna sign up for that, you know? The music takes such a backseat, before your eyes, and, you know, it makes you depressed.
It got so bad that he started developing shingles, which is a nervous disorder.
He had welts all over the place.
It tripped him out, it scared him.
So he jumped on a flight and went straight home to Cincinnati.
I wanted to go make sure he was okay, so I went to see Bootsy's mom.
I said, "Where's he at?" She said, "Down there, in the basement.
" So, I go down there.
And it was a basement, it wasn't all dolled-up, it wasn't refurbished or nothing like that.
It was a basement basement, right? And he's sittin' in the middle of it.
And I said, "Hey!" He said, "Hey, Frankie.
" I said, "Hey, man, what you doing?" He said, "Don't look.
" And I jumped, it scared me, you know? But I got myself together, and I said, "Ah, that's nothing," you know.
'Cause if I freaked out, then that would've been bad.
JUDGE: While Bootsy did eventually emerge from his own funk in his mother's basement, he began taking more and more time for himself.
I didn't know how to get back to just being in the band, because this other thing had been built up so much.
It's like the monster, it's like the Frankenstein monster.
I gots to feelin' so invincible that I actually had seven motorcycles, okay? So, I take the street bike, no helmet, you know, wasn't no helmet laws, you know Afro flyin'.
So, I'm flying through the woods, - got a chick on the back - Woo-hoo! Riding through the grass about this tall, you know.
I didn't know that, um, somebody had cut trees, and there's stumps everywhere.
Bam! I saw her tumblin'.
And it was like slow-motion, I could see everything.
I hit the ground, and I laid there.
You know.
I looked over here, and this shoulder was sticking up.
JUDGE: The girl was bruised but okay.
Bootsy was told he would never play his instrument again.
I went through this six-month ordeal.
Had an operation, put pins in, and, you know, all that crazy stuff, and it worked.
You know, the motorcycle accident helped me figure out who I was.
It helped me realize that I didn't grow up wanting to be a solo artist.
That was the last thing I wanted to do.
I just wanted to be in a band.
JUDGE: He began saying yes to almost every possible collaboration.
Playing bass for Keith Richards' solo effort, Talk is Cheap.
Singing vocals on Fatboy Slims "Weapon of Choice.
" And, most notably, contributing to the sampled dance track "Groove is in the Heart" by Deee-Lite.
When I told George about Deee-Lite, he was, like, "Man, you disgracin' the funk.
" (CHUCKLES) He didn't like it at all.
Fuck that disco shit, but I'm happy Bootsy got his shit together.
JUDGE: No matter how far he strayed from the funk, he was always welcomed back with open arms, even by his old boss, the man who gave him his most important lesson, James Brown.
Give him a big round of applause, ladies and gentlemen, Bootsy Collins! (CHEERS, APPLAUSE) (SPEAKS INDISTINCTLY) Who did y'all come to see? JB! JB! - Who did y'all come to see? - CROWD: JB! JB! The concept of the one works not only in music, but in life, you know? You got to figure out what that one is for you, and keep coming back to it.
And for me, that just meant being in a great band.
Playin' it is one thing, living it is a whole 'nother thing.
But, when in doubt, just come back to the one.
(LAUGHS) (THEME MUSIC PLAYING) Skiddle-Dee-Dee It's about that funk thing I got a boom-boom in my ear Yeah I need a little more So that I can hear Oh!