Between Takes: Detroit Musicians Celebrate George Clinton

In Episode 025 of Between Takes, Don Was, Amp Fiddler, McKinley Jackson and Satori Shakoor share stories about the iconic funk artist, George Clinton.

Welcome to Between Takes; where artists and musicians tell stories about what happens behind the scenes.

WDET’s Sam Beaubien has been dedicated to making music in Detroit for 20 years, and this series connects you with the stories he has heard on gigs and at recording sessions.

Get a look into Stevie Wonders audition for Motown Records, sessions with funk master George Clinton, renowned hip-hop producer J Dilla’s first days with a drum machine, and many more stories about what shaped the legacy of this musical city. 

Episode 025

Formed in the back room of a barbershop in the mid-1950s and named after a cigarette brand, George Clinton and his Doo-Wop group, The Parliaments, were getting their start in the West End of Plainfield, New Jersey. While the group struggled to gain traction, Clinton was hired at Motown Records as a songwriter and producer, making weekly trips to Detroit.

While in the Motor City, Clinton wrote and recorded the song “(I Wanna) Testify” and released it as The Parliaments in 1967. Because none of the band-members in New Jersey could afford travel, Clinton is the only member of The Parliaments to appear on the recording; the band and background singers on the track are all session musicians from Detroit, including Motown musicians Dennis Coffey on guitar and Bob Babbit on bass. The song became Clinton’s first hit single, and The Parliaments eventually found success under the names Parliament and Funkadelic (also known as P-Funk) in the 1970s. He made Detroit his new home and recorded most of his material with Parliament and Funkadelic for years to come at United Sound Systems recording studio.

Don Was is a Grammy Award-winning producer, founder of the band Was (Not Was) and is currently the President of Blue Note Records. When The Parliaments were promoting their new single, “(I Wanna) Testify” in 1967, they performed at Don Was’ junior high school. The young musician was blown away. Years later, Clinton invited Was to United Sound Systems. When visiting the studio, Clinton introduced Was to a young Amp Fiddler who was recording keyboards for Clinton as a studio musician and touring artist for Parliament. Was eventually hired Fiddler to tour with his band, Was (Not Was) in the early 1980s.

On this episode of Between Takes, hear stories about George Clinton from Don Was and Amp Fiddler, as well as session artist, Satori Shakoor, a background vocalist who recorded many hit songs with Clinton, including “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Also hear from record producer and musician McKinley Jackson, who performed and recorded with Parliament.


How Amp Fiddler Met George Clinton

McKinley Jackson Learns to Sweeten the Track

The Funk Brothers, The Jackson 5 and the 1967 Rebellion

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  • Sam Beaubien
    Sam Beaubien is a musician, composer, producer, and educator in Detroit. He is also the founder and leader of the acclaimed ensemble, Will Sessions.