A good time… in The Catfish’s name

[I wrote this in 2010, but it was requested that I add it. I will take this opportunity to say that since this article was written, I’ve taken up guitar, which has deepened 10-fold my appreciation for the event described below]

As a child, I grew up looking in fond amazement at the funktacular covers of Parliament records. You could say, the seed of the “One” was planted somewhere in me 30 years ago. Having said that, I am no expert — by any measure — of funk music. Funk was not even a sizeable part of my eclectic mp3 music mixes.

Then I walked into the doors of the Madison Theatre in Covington, Ohio, September 4. The celebration of the life of musician, Phelps “Catfish” Collins, changed this forever.

Phelps “Catfish” Collins

Collins, a Cincinnati native who played in James Brown’s backing band, Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, died August 6 after battling cancer. His brother, Bootsy Collins, organized the Covington event, which was free to the public.

It is one thing to be at a party and hear Flashlight in the background, while sipping something cheap and plentiful. That iconic song demands at least a head nod from anybody worth talking to. Or catching a snippet of a Catfish solo re-re-reremixed into a rap song. This event was, for me, much more profound than that. It reconnected roots.

Special guests and performers included Ray Parker Jr.; Reggie Calloway, founder of Midnight Star; Freekbass; Kandi; Razzberry; Wilbert Longmire; The James Brown Tribute Band; Steve Jordan Drummer; Brian Hardgroove, bassist for Public Enemy; Special and many others. There were video addresses by Dr. Cornel West, Charlie “Gap Band” Wilson, George Clinton, and others. Every performer got two sets – legend or local. Between every set, we were treated to a variety of songs Catfish helped create over the years.

Bootsy Collins sent an email to friends, leading up to the event, saying, “Catfish would always say, ‘When I go, I don’t want anybody preaching or saying a prayer over me and crying, just celebrate my life the way I celebrated my life, having fun and bringing the joy. I want to have a live band, comedians, dancers, singers, poets and people that don’t get a chance to be heard or seen on stage. I want to be roasted, toasted and [to have] people drinking and having a good time in my name, no other name but The Catfish.'”

Mission accomplished. And then some.

There was an inexplicable vibe that showered over the crowd when the music started. I am not saying a fight has never or could never occur at a funk concert, but it would seem outright bizarre. The funk vibe is the polar opposite of ‘beef,’ and hostility. Know that you are not reading the descriptive words of a peacenik.

Every act was not spectacular. Every voice was not golden. Every note was not perfect. But it felt like they were, as I watched every performer put their whole heart into saying goodbye and thank you to Catfish for his contributions to music and to their lives.


2 thoughts on “A good time… in The Catfish’s name”

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