For this week's Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein takes it back to the Groove Academy first year anniversary at Palladium in 1991. Featuring George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars, the Brand New Heavies, and Blowfly, it was nothing short of an incredibly memorable night. Were you there? Tell us what you remember!
This was our first anniversary concert for the Groove Academy. Groove Academy was the concert division we set up pre-Giant Step where we presented artists from the funk and soul era. Over the course of our run as Groove Academy, we put on shows with acts like the JB's, Bobby Byrd, and Bootsy Collins, so to have George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars for our first anniversary was kind of like reaching the motherland – or should I say, Mothership.
We decided to go big and chose the iconic Palladium in New York as our venue, which is now a PC Richards and an NYU dorm. The venue held about 3000 people.
The line up also included Brand New Heavies, who we’d recently done a debut show with a couple months earlier. As a special guest, we had Blowfly. Blowfly is Clarence Reid from Florida who would dress up in a mask and cape and perform X-rated versions of well-known songs. To note, he is also a well-respected writer of tracks for Betty Wright, Sam & Dave, and Gwen McCrae, amongst others.
Blowfly was the opening act. We didn’t really have the budget to bring his band out, so we asked the Brand New Heavies if they’d be the backing band; they said "yes," but to be honest they didn't know much about his act. They all had a quick chat pre-show where Blowfly explained he would be doing his version of certain soul classics like Otis Redding's "Sitting on The Dock Of The Bay" and KC & The Sunshine Band’s "That's The Way I Like It." I think the only member of the Heavies who actually knew about Blowfly, his unique XXX rated lyrics, and that he was a respected songwriter in his own right was N’Dea Davenport, the singer.
We started off the show, and Blowfly came out with the Brand New Heavies as the backing band. Blowfly started a monologue, which of course was extremely X-rated with talk about people’s private parts and all sorts of rude stuff. It was part of his show, but I don’t think the Brand New Heavies really understood that. So, as he was talking, telling everyone to go eff themselves and speaking in a misogynistic way about women, the Brand New Heavies were getting more and more embarrassed by being on stage with this guy who they didn’t really even know. And as he’s talking, the band one by one leave the stage out of embarrassment.
So when Blowfly was ready to start the music, unbeknownst to him, the band had already left the stage. He put his hand up to go: “1, 2, 3, 4 – hit it!” – the audience knew there was no band on stage, but Blowfly didn’t and there was no one behind him to play the music. Everyone started laughing and he left the stage totally mortified. He was a little upset to say the least, so we cheered him up by sending him off to Times Square with some quarters in his pocket to go see some peep shows. He ended up having a good night, apparently.
The Brand New Heavies then performed and did a great set, although I was a bit miffed about what had happened between them and Blowfly. And then it was time for George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars. I remember Amp Fiddler was playing on keyboards; Gary Schneider was there, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy, Blackbyrd, Brides of Funkenstein, Gary “Mudbone” Cooper. And they did a cracking set – played for a long time. The show was pretty much sold out and it was a great, great way to spend our anniversary.
We also learned a lot since it was our first time dealing with Funkadelic; the next day, we received a call from the hotel where they were staying. We were told that there were still people in the room at 4’oclock in the afternoon when the band had already left NYC for Europe. So, I had to go up to the hotel room and clear out the guests who were still continuing the after party in true Funkadelic fashion. That was the first of many shows we did with George Clinton & The P-Funk All Stars.