When we were young funksters jamming to the sounds of Parliament/Funkadelic night after frantic night we worked as busboys, cooks, and dishwashers in the glamorous restaurants and nightclubs of the fabulous Central West End.
It all started with the late Kevin O'Connor, brother of Annie O'Connor, the most beautiful girl in the world, according to several of us, and disputed by others. Kevin had a beat-up old van and he liked to drive it across Forest Park to the Steak'n'Shake on Hampton to eat burgers in the middle of the night and while he did it, he listened to WESL, the greatest station in the nation for funk, soul and R&B in the 1970s.
Kevin was a slight, tall boy with elfin features and big blue eyes rimmed with thick black lashes. He was usually smiling, smirking, or laughing at some snide comment he'd just made, living life with the sidelong glances of a pigeon kicker. He had a pronounced Central West End accent, a kind of strange midwestern posh tone that I would find hard to describe any other way than by saying listen to Charlie Leonard for five minutes and you've got it. But his voice was even more languorous and slow, with a throaty rasp to it. I can still hear it.
Kevin had discovered that the WESL DJs, especially Jim Gates and the DJ who would become Dr. Jockenstein, were partying live almost every night from clubs in East St. Louis and that listening to them on the radio was almost as good, if not better, than actually being there. One of the songs they kept playing was an insanely infectious little jam that had some crazy deep voiced man repeating over and over again that we're gonna tear the roof of the sucker, tear the roof over the mother sucker, tear the roof off the sucker! Kevin was delighted with this breach of good taste and refinement in every way, and would crank it up on the car stereo whenever he heard it. Riding along with him, I fell in love with it, too.
Shortly thereafter I discovered that the name of the band was Parliament, and I was the first kid on any block south of Delmar to buy a copy of the LP Mothership Connection. I began to turn on everyone in hearing distance to the Funk, especially Slash Brannon, Geo Ramsey, Linda Fields, Dominic Shaeffer, Fo Jammi, Tracy Wynkoop, and more than I can remember, and we started buying every Parliament/Funkadelic album we could find. From 1975 until 1980 - the entire last half of the 1970s - my musical world was very different from yours, if you were around then. It was all funk. I saw Parliament/Funkadelic live more times than I've ever seen any band, starting from the KC Funk Festival in 1977 (Take it to Heaven in '77) until the tour for One Nation Under A Groove, where the magic paled when I realized George Clinton, the leader, wasn't even in the show anymore.
There can be no disputing my gilt-edged credentials as a bona-fide Maggot Brain of the First Order. So years later, in the early 1990s, I challenged Fo Jammi to create a little funk piece like we always wished we could back in the Jambox days when we thought we were just as good as Funkadelic but were actually more like chaotic noise more suitable for the Dr. Demento show.
So in one night we whipped up this tiny little fragment, Funkentelechy. I always loved the Funkadelic concept of Funkentelechy, and the lyrics didn't get much deeper than one line. We may have both done some keyboards on this, and I hear a little guitar, but you can bet it's almost totally Fo Jammi brilliance. I have a vague memory of Mark Gray playing that guitar solo, supported by the conviction that I never played that good in my life.