Garry Shider: Guitarist, singer and musical director for George Clinton in Parliament and Funkadelic
Wednesday 07 July 2010
Intertwined, interchangeable even, Parliament and Funkadelic, the flamboyant funk outfits led by the crazy, visionary genius George Clinton, mixed soul, rock, psychedelia, satire and black power and made some of the most memorable and most sampled records of the 1970s and early '80s. They also played spectacular live shows, and influenced a range of musicians from Prince and the Red Hot Chili Peppers to rap acts like Ice-T and Public Enemy.
The musical director, inventive guitarist and occasional lead vocalist Garry Shider, one of Clinton's trusted lieutenants, co-wrote and sang Fundakedelic's "One Nation Under A Groove (Part 1)", their 1978 transatlantic hit and US R&B chart-topper. He also helped Clinton create the irresistible and much-recycled "Atomic Dog", a US R&B No 1 in 1983, and during the recording session, propped up the intoxicated P-Funkmaster so he could ad-lib the canine-referencing lyrics into the microphone.
Known as "Starchild", or sometimes "Diaperman", since he often wore a diaper on stage, Shider played both rhythm and lead guitar and was one of 16 members of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. "Funk is a feeling. Never grow up. God loves babies and fools and I'm both. I ain't ever gonna grow up," is how he rationalised his eccentric, outlandish behaviour.
Born in Plainfield, New Jersey in 1953, Shider sang in The Shiderettes, a family gospel group that included his brothers and was managed by their guitar-playing father. They occasionally backed visiting gospel stars such as Shirley Caesar and the Mighty Clouds of Joy.
He met Clinton in 1960 after sneaking out of a missionary service to go to the barber shop that the leader of Parliament then ran in Plainfield. "I talked George into doing my hair – at seven years old," he recalled. "He put this stuff in my hair – it was lye! – straightened it out, and put the finger waves in it. I done changed my whole look at seven years old. And my momma... she beat me all the way back home!"
In between customers, Clinton and the other Parliaments sang doo-wop and tried to keep youths like Shider on the straight and narrow, though in the mid-1960s Clinton moved to Detroit. In 1969, Shider and his friend, bassist Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, moved to Canada where they formed a funk-rock band, United Soul, or US. Two years later, they recorded the single "I Miss My Baby" with the help of several members of Funkadelic and with Clinton producing.
By 1972, Shider had contributed to Maggot Brain (1971) and America Eats Its Young (1972), the third and fourth Funkadelic albums for the Detroit-based label Westbound, and became a mainstay of both that group and Parliament. Most notably, Shider was on board for the Parliament albums Mothership Connection (1975) and Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome (1977).
He was on board for P-Funk offshoots such as The Brides of Funkenstein – he co-wrote a track called "Nappy" for their Funk or Walk album; Bootsy's Rubber Band – led by former James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins; and recordings by other Clinton acolytes such as guitarist Eddie Hazel and key-board-player Bernie Worrell. Shider was not altogether happy with the mainstream success of One Nation Under a Groove (1978), calling its title track "bubblegum. Funkadelic was supposed to rock."
However, even after the P-Funk operation ground to a halt in 1981, Shider remained at Clinton's side throughout a solo career which included highlights like the albums Computer Games (1982), Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends (1985) and R&B Skeletons In The Cupboard (1986). Shider toured with Clinton and served as musical director of the P-Funk All Stars. Paying tribute to Shider on his website, Clinton wrote: "Thank you, Garry, for all you have done. Forever funkin' on!"
Garry Shider, musician: born Plainfield, New Jersey 24 July 1953; married (two sons, plus a son from a previous relationship and one stepson); died Upper Marlboro, Maryland 16 June 2010.
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