For many, Bootsy Collins was the most renowned bassist of Parliament-Funkadelic's long and winding career. But I, Billy Bass Nelson was the original, supplying some of the troupe's most memorable and classic grooves on their early recordings. Born in Plainfield, NJ in 1951, I befriended future P-Funk leader George Clinton at an early age, as he worked at a barbershop that Clinton ran at the time -- sweeping the floor and entertaining customers by singing and dancing. I relocated back to Plainfield after a brief spell in Brooklyn, NY during the mid-'60s, which saw Nelson serve some time in jail for joy riding. Upon my release, I got back in contact with the Clinton crew, who by this time had turned their attention from hairstyling to music. By late 1966, I was invited to join the burgeoning group (which, due to contractual red tape, would alternate between the names Parliament and Funkadelic over the years), but initially as a guitarist. Although the group was flying high with their first hit single, "(I Wanna) Testify," I was never fully comfortable playing the six-string, and inquired about switching to the bass. I got my wish, as childhood friend Eddie Hazel took the vacated guitar position, which led to the group honing their eventually patented psychedelic-funk sound. Shortly after relocating to Detroit in the late '60s, Parliament and Funkadelic (the latter of which I named) began issuing albums on a regular basis, as their lineup would swell to include ten members. My funky bass grooves graced such early classics as Parliament's Osmium (1970), in addition to Funkadelic's self-titled debut (1970) and Free Your Mind (1970), plus Maggot Brain (1971, which contained the me -singing "You and Your Folks"). Soon after, a falling-out between me and Clinton (mostly over money issues) led to the my departure from the group in October of 1971. Subsequently I went on to either play or record with such renowned artits as the Commodores, Chairmen of the Board, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Jermaine Jackson, Lenny Williams, Parlet, Fishbone, and the Temptations (the latter of which saw me and Hazel unite for the group's 1975 hit, "Shakey Ground"). I also reunited briefly with Funkadelic, to play the bassline on the track "Better by the Pound" off of 1975's Let's Take It to the Stage. By the late '80s, I was often name-checked as a prime influence by such up-and-coming funk bassists as Norwood Fisher (Fishbone) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers). I rejoined Parliament-Funkadelic for good in 1994, and briefly led a gathering of Funkadelic alumni under the name of O.G. Funk who issued the album Out of the Dark the same year. George Clinton, Parliament-Funkadelic and I were all inducted into the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame 1997, Cleveland, Ohio, Inducted by PRINCE. Somehow I managed to steal the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame Inductions Awards Celebration on the same night in some instances, simply because I was called upon to filled-in as a bassist for a few groups, whose bassman did not show up; I jumped in after being called upon and did my thing, I never missed a beat while playing for groups he had never played with before at the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame Inductions Award Ceremony. People couldn't believe how at ease I was to come on stage and play for others who needed a bass player. Man I kicked some ass hat night, no doubt! I recently returned from Paris, Amsterdam after living in Paris for a minute with my good friend Gary "Mudbone" Cooper. Mudbone and I played and toured with "PINK" for her entire European Tour. We, (Mudbone and I) toured 23 Cities last year, all over Europe with "PINK"."What a great experience!
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The Original Funkadelic with Ruth Copeland