They've influenced numerous musicians including Prince, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Digital Underground, Dr. Dre, and Snoop Dogg, and they've worked alongside the "Godfather of Soul" James Brown.
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997, members of Parliament-Funkadelic reign supreme among funk music fans. This weekend, the band returned to Jacksonville for the 5th Annual Soul Food Festival at Metropolitan Park.
"I love Jacksonville," says Greg Thomas, saxophone player and group member for more than 30 years. "I don't get to come as much as I'd like to, but I really like it here."
P-Funk, the band's nickname and description of their musical style, is no stranger to the First Coast, performing frequently over the years at the world-famous Freebird Live in Jacksonville Beach.
Thomas, a musician, producer, songwriter, and composer, is also a singer. Along with his signature sax, he provides P-Funk fans with the often imitated and rarely precisely duplicated scatting riff in the 15-minute long funk anthem from 1979 "(Not Just) Knee Deep", one of the band's most-sampled songs.
As the internationally-recognized George Clinton and other popular band members deliver highly-charged lead and backup vocals, concert attendees perform the throwback dances mentioned in the lyrics. The "monkey", the "funky chicken", and the "freak", drawing finger-pointing, laughter, and undoubtedly dozens of "please don't put this on YouTube" candid video shots.
After an extended instrumental, the audience hears the familiar "Doo doo doo doo doo doo-dooooo." Thomas temporarily replaces his saxophone with a microphone and continues, "ants in my pants and I need to dance. I've got ants in my pants and I need to daannnnce. Doo doo doo doo...," as the scatting resumes, providing listeners with a tongue-twisting sing-a-long challenge.
Known for their bright and colorful cast of characters, alter-egos, and glittery stage costumes, on Saturday night, P-Funk members were primarily dressed in everyday ready-to-wear items. No colorful dreadlocks for the 70-year-old Clinton, but he did sing, dance, and excite the crowd while wearing a multicolored NASCAR-inspired jacket with his signature primary colors of blue, red, and yellow.
One notable band member in full costume was "Sir Nose". A perennial fan favorite, he paraded about the stage in furry all-white attire, and the signature pinocchio-like 'nose' attachment. Nose was shirtless, even with Saturday night's mild riverfront temperatures, shaking hands with fans, performing gymnastic-like moves, and encouraging the crowd to sing and dance along with the band.
Jamming backstage along with the band was Jo-Jo, notable on-air personality for Jacksonville's WSOL-FM/V101.5, and the show's emcee. "It's a great day with great music. Everybody's having a good time."
A self-professed long-time P-Funk fan, he says the Soul Food Festival is great for the First Coast. "It's been a great show and it's beneficial for the city of Jacksonville, because I'm sure the city earns money from this event, and we're (V101.5) glad to do it because our listeners love it."
Presented by Kinfolks Entertainment, the Soul Food Festival currently features shows in nine U.S. cities, and organizers say it's gaining both popularity and recognition.
"Thanks to your overwhelming attendance, the Soul Food Festival 2010 was awarded 'Festival of the Year' by the United States Department of Commerce," says Pat Williams, president of the Kinfolks Foundation, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.
Williams says proceeds from the Festival benefit the Foundation's various charitable efforts including college scholarships and providing support for underprivileged youth and young adults.
With strong lineups and competitive ticket pricing, Jo-Jo says he is already looking ahead to 2012. "We can't wait to do it again next year."