Parliament Biography

This exceptional US vocal quintet was formed in 1955 by George Clinton (22 July 1940, Kannapolis, North Carolina, USA), Raymond Davis (b. 29 March 1940, Sumter, South Carolina, USA, d. 5 July 2005, New Brunswick, USA), Calvin Simon (b. 22 May 1942, Beckley, West Virginia, USA), Clarence ‘Fuzzy’ Haskins (b. 8 June 1941, Elkhorn, West Virginia, USA) and Grady Thomas (b. 5 January 1941, Newark, New Jersey, USA). George Clinton’s interest in music did not fully emerge until his family moved to the urban setting of Plainfield, New Jersey. Here, he fashioned the Parliaments after the influential doo-wop group Frankie Lymon And The Teenagers. Two singles, ‘Poor Willie’ and ‘Lonely Island’, mark this formative era, but it was not until 1967 that Clinton was able to secure a more defined direction with the release of ‘(I Wanna) Testify’. Recorded in Detroit, the single reached the US Top 20, but this promise was all but lost when Revilot, the label to which the band was signed, went out of business. All existing contracts were then sold to Atlantic Records, but Clinton preferred to abandon the Parliaments’ name altogether in order to be free to sign elsewhere. Clinton took the existing line-up and its backing group to Westbound Records, where the entire collective recorded as Funkadelic.

However, the outstanding problem over their erstwhile title was resolved in 1970, and the same musicians were signed to the Invictus label as Parliament. This group unleashed the experimental and eclectic Osmium before securing an R&B hit with the irrepressible ‘Breakdown’. For the next three years the ‘Parliafunkadelicament Thang’ would concentrate on Funkadelic releases, but disagreements with the Westbound hierarchy inspired Parliament’s second revival. Signed to the Casablanca label in 1974, the group’s first singles, ‘Up For The Down Stroke’, ‘Chocolate City’ and ‘P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)’ were marginally more mainstream than the more radical material Clinton had already issued, but the distinctions became increasingly blurred. Some 40 musicians were now gathered together under the P. Funk banner, including several refugees from the James Brown camp including Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker, while live shows featured elements from both camps. Parliament’s success within the R&B chart continued with ‘Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)’ (1976), and two 1978 bestsellers, ‘Flashlight’ and ‘Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)’, where the group’s hard-kicking funk was matched by the superlative horn charts and their leader’s unorthodox vision. Their last chart entry was in 1980 with ‘Agony Of DeFeet’, after which Clinton decided to shelve the Parliament name again when problems arose following PolyGram Records’ acquisition of the Casablanca catalogue.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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