THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF FUZZY HASKINS
The Life and Music Of Fuzzy Haskins.
Between 1970 and 1977, Fuzzy Haskins was a member of not one, but two of the most prolific and successful funk bands of the seventies,..Parliament and Funkadelic. They released a total of fourteen albums, which sold in excess of 2.5 million copies. Still, though, Fuzzy Haskins found time to embark upon a solo career.
Fuzzy Haskins released his debut album, A Whole Nother Thang on Westbound Records in 1976. Two years later, and Fuzzy Haskins returned with his sophomore album Radio Active in 1978. However, these two solo albums are just part of the story of Fuzzy Haskins time at Westbound Records. Making music it seems, was what Fuzzy Haskins was born to do.
Clarence Eugene “Fuzzy” Haskins was born on June ‘8th’ 1941, in Elkins, West Virginia. That was where the future Fuzzy Haskins became interested in music. Just like many future singers, the church influenced Fuzzy Haskins. Some nights, the Haskins family would join together and they would sing hymns. They would harmonise together, which would stand Fuzzy Haskins in good stead for the future. So would the music he heard on local radio.
At first, it was country music that Fuzzy Haskins heard on the local radio station. Later in the evening, there would sometimes be an hour of R&B and blues music. So much so, that Fuzzy Haskins was inspired to go out and buy a three-stringed guitar for $3, which he taught himself how to play. This would stand him in good stead when the Haskins family moved to New Jersey in 1956.
By then, Fuzzy Haskins was fifteen and still at high school. When he arrived in New Jersey, Fuzzy Haskins joined a high school band The Bel-Airs. He would be a Bel-Air for four years, until he met George Clinton 1960.
George Clinton was nineteen, and working in a New Jersey barbershop when Fuzzy Haskins first met him. They both shared a love of music and were members of vocal groups. While Fuzzy Haskins was a Bel-Air, George Clinton lead his own group The Parliaments, who had already released their debut single Poor Willie, a year earlier, on the Apt label in 1959. Soon, Fuzzy Haskins would be joining The Parliaments.
When one of The Parliaments left the group, Fuzzy Haskins was chosen as his replacement. Little did Fuzzy Haskins realise when this was the first step on a journey that would see him joined The Parliaments that would see him inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Having joined The Parliaments, Fuzzy Haskins was soon singing lead vocal. He was also regularly travelling to Detroit. The first time was to audition for Motown. While The Parliaments weren’t signed to Motown, they were soon a familiar face on the Detroit music scene
Not only were The Parliaments a familiar face on Detroit’s live circuit, they also released singles on several local labels during the sixties. This included on Jobette and then Revilot Records, which released The Parliaments’ breakthrough single (I Wanna) Testify. It reached number three on the US R&B charts and twenty on the US Billboard 100. However, for four of The Parliaments, (I Wanna) Testify was a Pyrrhic victory.
At the time The Parliaments recorded (I Wanna) Testify, the band were experiencing cash-flow problems. They didn’t have enough money for the bus fare from New Jersey to Detroit. After a group meeting, it was decided that only George Clinton would travel to Detroit to record (I Wanna) Testify. Ironically, when (I Wanna) Testify was released in May 1967, it gave The Parliaments’ the biggest hit single of their career. As a result, The Parliaments embarked upon a promotional tour.
After touring (I Wanna) Testify, The Parliaments returned to the studio to record a followup single All Your Goodies Are Gone (The Loser’s Seat). When it was released in September 1967, The Parliaments embarked upon another tour. Despite this, All Your Goodies Are Gone (The Loser’s Seat) failed to replicate the success of (I Wanna) Testify. This was the start of what was a familiar pattern.
Never again did The Parliaments come close to replicating the success of (I Wanna) Testify. However, it was during this period that things started to change for The Parliaments.
Not only did The Parliaments’ sound begin to evolve, and move towards a psychedelic soul style, the lineup changed. Joining George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and Ray Davies were the backing band of Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson and Tiki Fulwood. They became known as Funkadelic, as The Parliaments were locked in a lengthy legal dispute.
This resulted in The Parliaments being unable to release any recordings for the next few years. However, George Clinton decided to transform The Parliaments’ backing band into the main event, Funkadelic.
The nascent band set about honing the P-Funk sound, which was a fusion of blues, funk and rock. This would make its debut on Funkadelic’s eponymous debut album, which featured the Fuzzy Haskins composition I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing. Later in 1970, it was released as a single, reaching eighty in the US Billboard 100 and thirty in the US R&B charts. By then, Funkadelic had released their eponymous debut album.
When Funkadelic was released by Westbound Records on February ’24th’ 1970, what was a groundbreaking album where psychedelic soul, funk and acid rock melted into one. While Funkadelic was well received by critics at the time, it would only be much later, that critics realised and recognised the importance of the album. By then, Funkadelic had reached 126 in the US Billboard 200 and eight in the US R&B charts upon its release. For Fuzzy Haskins, Funkadelic was a game-changer.
In 1967, The Imperials couldn’t afford to pay the bus fare from New Jersey to Detroit to record a single. Three years later, and Funkadelic were basking in the success of their eponymous debut album, which had reached the top ten in the US R&B charts. Now Fuzzy Haskins knew that Funkadelic had do it all again.
Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow.
Fuzzy Haskins, George Clinton and the rest of Funkadelic entered the studio in Detroit to record their sophomore album Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow. George Clinton later described the album Funkadelic trying to: ”see if we can cut a whole album while we’re all tripping on acid.” What Funkadelic had achieved, was a critically acclaimed, genre-melting album.
When Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow was released in July 1970, reaching ninety-two in the US Billboard 200 and eleven in the US R&B charts. Five decades later, and Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow is regarded a classic. So is the followup, Maggot Brain. However, before its release, Parliament would make release their debut album.
September 1970 marked the release of Parliament’s debut album Osmium. It featured the five members of The Parliaments and the three members of Funkadelic. They had created an ambitious, experimental and genre-melting album where funk, psychedelic soul and psychedelic rock melt into one. The result was an ambitious and innovative album, but alas, was one that failed to find an audience. This was a huge disappointment, and things were about to get worse.
Contractual difficulties meant that Parliament were unable to record under the name Parliament, until 1974. This meant that George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins and Co. concentrated their efforts on Funkadelic.
A year after the release of Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow, Funkadelic released their third album Maggot Brain in July 1971. By then, Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, Tawl Ross and Tiki Fulwood had left Funkadelic for a variety of reasons. Funkadelic were a band divided.
They weren’t alone. Maggot Brain divided the opinion of critics. Some critics hailed the album bland and boring, others hailed it a masterful funk rock album. Nowadays, Maggot Brian is regarded as a classic album, and a truly influential psychedelic rock album that’s dance-floor friendly. Record buyers were also won over by Maggot Brian, which reached 108 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. While this wasn’t quite as successful as their previous album, Funkadelic’s star was still in the ascendancy.
America Eats Its Young.
Ten months after the release of Maggot Brian, Funakdelic returned in May 1972 with America Eats Its Young. It was Funkadelic’s first double album, and featured a very different lineup of the Funkadelic that had joined George Clinton and Fuzzy Haskins.
While America Eats Its Young featured contributions from Eddie Hazel, Billy Nelson, Tawl Ross and Tiki Fulwood, Funkadelic were joined by members of two other bands. This included United Soul and the funk group The House Guests They were a five piece band which had been founded in 1971 by brothers Bootsy Collins and Catfish Collins after they left The JBs. These two bands augmented Funkadelic on America Eats Its Young.
Just like Maggot Brain, America Eats Its Young divided the opinion of critics. Although it received praise and plaudits from some critics, other critics weren’t won over by what was a sprawling album. That was part of America Eats Its Young. Just like many double albums, there was more than enough material for a single album, but in truth, not enough for a double album. As a result, America Eats Its Young stalled at 123 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. This was the least successful album of Funkadelic’s career. For Fuzzy Haskins, this was a disappointment. However, it was the least of his worries.
When it came time for Funkadelic to record their fifth album Cosmic Slop, there was no sign of Bootsy Collins nor Fuzzy Haskins. He had been a mainstay of Funkadelic on their first four albums. Not any more though, as his role in Funkadelic started to change post 1972. He would add the occasional vocal on an album or play guitar. Sometimes, he would even head out on tour with Funkadelic. However, no longer was he one of the mainstays of the group.
Upon the release of Cosmic Slop in July 1973, most of the reviews were positive. There were still a few dissenting voice who weren’t convinced by P-Funk. This included Cosmic Slop, which later, was hailed as one of Funkadelic’s most important albums. However, in July 1973, Fuzzy Haskins watched as Cosmic Slop reached 112 in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-one in the US R&B charts. Commercially the album hadn’t fared much better than America Eats Its Young.
Standing on the Verge of Getting It On.
Fuzzy Haskins returned for Standing on the Verge of Getting It On, which was released in April 1974. It was a very different album from Cosmic Slop, with the music and jamming playing a more important role than the lyrics on the album. Especially, Eddie Hazel’s guitar, which plays a starring role on Standing on the Verge of Getting It On. With a guitar masterclass from Eddie Hazel and the return of Fuzzy Haskins, would this result in a change of fortune for Funkadelic?
Despite favourable reviews, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On failed to match even the success of Cosmic Slop. It stalled at 163 in the US Billboard 200, but reached thirteen in the US R&B charts. While this was disappointment, at least Parliament were free to record a new album.
Parliament-Up For The Down Stroke.
After a four-year absence, Parliament returned with their sophomore album Up For The Down Stroke. It was the first album since 1972s America Eats Its Young to feature Bootsy Collins, who cowrote two tracks on the album. Fuzzy Haskins also cowrote two tracks, Up For The Down Stroke and All Your Goodies Are Gone. This was the first time that Fuzzy Haskins’ had contributed a song for an album since Funkadelic in 1970. The members of Parliament hoped that Up For The Down Stroke would prove as successful as Funkadelic.
When Up For The Down Stroke was released in July 1974, it featured a reworking of The Parliaments’ hit (I Wanna) Testify, which became Testify. However, Up For The Down Stroke was released as the lead single, reaching sixty-three in the US Billboard 100 and ten in the US R&B charts. Testify was chosen as the followup, but stalled at just seventy-seven on the US R&B charts. By then, Up For The Down Stroke had reached seventeen on the US R&B charts. It looked as if Parliament’s was changing. Fuzzy Haskins had played his part in the success of Up For The Down Stroke.
April 1975 marked the return of Parliament with their third album. This time around, Fuzzy Haskins cowrote I Misjudged You and Bigfootin’, and was one of the vocalists used on Chocolate City. It was Parliament’s tribute to Washington DC, where the band had a large following. This became apparent when Chocolate City was released.
Most of the reviews of Chocolate City were positive. However, there were a few dissenting voices who weren’t won over by Chocolate City. They felt it wasn’t as cohesive an album as its predecessor. Despite that, Chocolate City reached ninety-one in the US Billboard 200 and twenty-two in the US R&B charts. 150,000 copies of Chocolate City were sold in Washington DC alone. This was the start of period when Parliament could do no wrong. It looked as if Fuzzy Haskins would play an important part in the Parliament story.
Funkadelic-Let’s Take It to the Stage.
Just a couple of weeks after Parliament released Chocolate City, Funkadelic returned with their seventh album Let’s Take It to the Stage in late April 1975. It featured ten tracks, including Good to Your Earhole which Fuzzy Haskins cowrote. He was one of the vocalists that featured on Let’s Take It to the Stage.
Let’s Take It to the Stage found Funkadelic at their tightest, as they lived up to their early promise. This time, there were no dissenting voices among the critics and it was critical acclaim that accompanied Let’s Take It to the Stage. It reached 102 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. This meant that Let’s Take It to the Stage was Funkadelic’s most successful album since Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow in July 1970. Soon, that would pale into comparison when Parliament released their next album.
When the latest lineup of Parliament returned with their fourth album Mothership Connection in December 1975, it featured two new additions…Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker. They joined what was fast becoming an all-star band that featured the great and good of funk. It already featured George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Fuzzy Haskins. The addition of Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker resulted in what critics hailed as the best album of Parliament’s career.
Mothership Connection was an innovative and influential funk rock concept album based on P-Funk mythology. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200 and four in the US R&B charts. Soon, Mothership Connection had sold over 500,000 copies and was certified gold. Eventually, Mothership Connection sold a million copies and gave Parliament their first gold disc. For Parliament it was a career defining album.
Fuzzy Haskins-A Whole Nother Thang.
Despite the success of Mothership Connection, Fuzzy Haskins was growing frustrated that his songs were no longer featuring on albums by Funkadelic and Parliament. He also watched as Bootsy Collins, a relative newcomer to the Funkadelic and Parliament family, embarked upon a solo career. This added to Fuzzy Haskins’ frustration.
Fuzzy Haskins and George Clinton went back a long way together. He had joined George Clinton in The Parliaments in 1960, fifteen years ago. Since then, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas and Fuzzy Haskins had shared good times and had bad with George Clinton. Maybe though, Fuzzy Haskins had to think about the future. So he decided to record a solo album during the time Funkadelic and Parliament weren’t recording or touring.
For his debut solo album A Whole Nother Thang, Fuzzy Haskins wrote eight of the nine songs. He also wrote Fuz and da Boog with Funkadelic and Parliament bassist Cordell Mosson. He was one of the members of the Funkadelic and Parliament family who joined Fuzzy Haskins when he recorded A Whole Nother Thang.
Recording took place at three studios in Detroit, Artie Fields Studios, Pac Three Studios and United Sound Studios. Joining Fuzzy Haskins was rhythm section that featured drummers Tiki Fulwood; bassist Bootsy Collins and Cordell Mosson who also played drums; and guitarists Donald Austin and Ron Bykowski. Keyboardist Bernie Worrell also arranged strings and horns. Fuzzy Haskins played drums, added the lead vocals and produced A Whole Nother Thang. It was released in the first half of 1976.
When A Whole Nother Thang was released in 1976, it was released to critical acclaim. That was no surprise, as A Whole Nother Thang featured some of the backlog of songs that had built up over the last few years. At last, Fuzzy Haskins got the opportunity to showcase these songs when he entered the studio with creme de la creme of P-Funk. The result was album that oozed quality. Despite the quality of music on A Whole Nother Thang, the album didn’t sell in vast quantities, and didn’t find the audience it deserved.
After the release of A Whole Nother Thang, Fuzzy Haskins returned to the Parliament and Funkadelic family. He had to rejoin the P-Funk Live Earth Tour in late 1976. By then, Parliament and Funkadelic had both been busy.
Parliament-The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein.
Nine months after the release of Mothership Connection, came The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein in September 1976. Parliament were keen to build upon the success of their million selling album. By then, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell had established a successful songwriting partnership. Still, Fuzzy Haskins remained one of the vocalists on what was a critically and commercially successful album of P-Funk.
Just like Mothership Connection, The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein was hailed as one of Parliament’s finest albums. Although it didn’t quite match Mothership Connection, The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein sold well, reaching twenty on the US Billboard 200 and three in the US R&B charts. Fuzzy Haskins was now a member of one of the biggest selling funk bands of the seventies.
Funkadelic-Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic.
Not long after Parliament released of The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein, Funkadelic released their eighth album Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic. It was the last album that Funkadelic were contractually obliged to release for Westbound. Already, Funkadelic had recorded their Warner Bros’ debut Hardcore Jollies. Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic was essentially an album of outtakes and unused recordings from the Hardcore Jollies. It was rushed out to cash-in on the success of Parliament’s album The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein.
This was a risky move, and one that could’ve backfired on Funkadelic. Especially if the album didn’t find favour with critics or failed to sell. Fortunately, the album was well received by critics and upon its release in September reached 103 in the US Billboard 200 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. Now Funkadelic signed to Warner Bros and a month later, released their major label debut.
In October 1976, Funkadelic released their ninth album Hardcore Jollies. It featured the best of the tracks recorded during a recording session that took place earlier in 1976. Funkadelic were at their inventive best on an album that featured inventive and genre-melting funky music.
Critics hailed Hardcore Jollies as one of Funkadelic’s best and strongest albums of recent years. It reached ninety-six in the US Billboard 200 and twelve in the US R&B charts. This was the most successful album Funkadelic had released since Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow in 1970.
Live: P-Funk Earth Tour.
After the success of Hardcore Jollies, Fuzzy Haskins joined true rest of the Parliament and Funkadelic family on the P-Funk Live Earth Tour in October 1976. The tour continued into 1977, when the Live: P-Funk Earth Tour arrived Los Angeles. At the show at the Los Angeles Forum on the ‘19th’ January the tapes were running for a live album. That was the case at the Oakland Coliseum on the ‘21st’ January 1977. Recordings from these two shows would feature on Parliament’s live double album Live: P-Funk Earth Tour, upon its release in May 1977.
By then, three of the original members of The Parliaments, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas had left the band. Not long after the three former Parliaments left the band, Glen Goins parted company with Funkadelic. This was no surprise.
The P-Funk Live Earth Tour was a hugely expensive tour to take on the road. Given the expenses, it was imperative that the show sold out, each night. That wasn’t the case, and as throughout the tour, it lost money. By the end of the P-Funk Live Earth Tour had lost so much money, that the musicians weren’t getting paid. When they received the news, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas left the P-Funk family.
The only small crumb of comfort came when Live: P-Funk Earth Tour was certified gold upon its release in May 1977. By then Fuzzy Haskins was looking towards the future, and his sophomore album, Radio Active.
Having left the P-Funk family, Fuzzy Haskins began work on his sophomore album Radio Active. He penned six of the songs and cowrote Silent Day with Cordell Mosson. The other song on Radio Active was the Glenn Goins composition This Situation Called Love. These eight tracks were recorded with some top musicians, including some of the P-Funk family and members of the Funk Mob.
When it came to recording Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins and his band headed into one of Detroit’s many studios. That was where he and his multitalented band laid down the eight songs. Accompanying him was drummer Jerome Brailey, bassist Cordell Mosson and guitarists Garry Shider and Michael Hampton. They were joined by keyboardist Bernie Worrell, percussionist Jerome Podgajski and Glen Goins who played drums, guitar and piano. Meanwhile, Gary Schunk played synths and piano and Bruce Nazarian played bass synth. Fuzzy Haskins switched between drums and guitar, while taking charge of the lead vocals and production. Once Radio Active was complete, it was released later in 1978.
Recording Radio Active hadn’t been easy for Fuzzy Haskins, who was finding it hard to reconcile his life as a musician to his newfound spirituality. Throughout the recording of Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins was conflicted, and was constantly questioning what he had done and was doing. Considering he was producing the album, other musicians were looking to Fuzzy Haskins for guidance, it can’t have been an easy album to record. Fortunately, most of the musicians were experienced and were able to overcome any problems arose. However, by the time Radio Active was released Fuzzy Haskins seemed detached from the project.
So much so, that he never even embarked upon the tour Westbound Records financed to promote Radio Active. Given his detachment from the Radio Active project, it was no surprise when the album failed commercially. That was shame given the quality of some of the songs on Radio Active.
After the release of Radio Active, Fuzzy Haskins, who was a truly talented and versatile singer, songwriter and musician, never released any further solo albums.
Instead, Fuzzy Haskins turned his back on the music industry and became a preacher. It was only after a chance meeting with Armen Boladian that Fuzzy Haskins recorded a gospel album. This resulted in Fuzzy Haskins working with Calvin Simon, Ray Davis and Grady Davis of The Parliaments. They were reunited as the Original P, but never recorded together. It was just four old friends making music together, like it had once been. That was how The Parliaments started out in 1960.
As a result, the final secular songs that Fuzzy Haskins recorded were those that featured on Radio Active when it was released in 1978. They marked the secular swan-song of the truly talented Fuzzy Haskins, before he embarked upon a career as a preacher and are a reminder of his solo career.
The Life and Music Of Fuzzy Haskins.
- Posted in: Funk ♦ P-Funk ♦ Rock ♦ Soul
- Tagged: A Whole Nother Thang, America Eats Its Young, Chocolate City, Cosmic Slop, Free Your Mind... and Your Ass Will Follow, Funkadelic, Fuzzy Haskins, Hardcore Jollies, Let’s Take It to the Stage, Live: P-Funk Earth Tour, Maggot Brain, Mothership Connection, Osmium, Parliament, Radio Active, Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic, The Parliaments, Up For The Down Stroke, Westbound Records