We started the Groove Academy shows in June of 1990 with Leon Thomas and The JBs. The JBs featured Maceo Parker, Pee wee Ellis, and Fred Wesley. And after meeting those guys, I was able to meet Bobby Byrd – also a James Brown alumni.
By continuing to put on shows with these artists and building their trust, we came to a place where we were able to ask Bobby’s wife Vicky Anderson if she could give us Bootsy Collins’ number. Bootsy was also an alumni of James Brown plus a member of Funkadelic.
We wanted to bring Bootsy to New York for a show – he hadn’t played New York in 5 years. I didn’t realize that Bootsy was living at home with his mother at the time. So when I called, his mother answered and I said, “Excuse me, is Bootsy there, please?” And she said, “Hold on a second.” She shouted up the stairs, “William! There’s some guy with a strange accent on the phone.”
Bootsy came to the phone and in the trademark Bootsy voice started talking to me. I explained who I was, that Vicky Anderson and Bobby Byrd had given me his number, and that I wanted to know if he’d be interested to coming to New York and doing some shows for us. He said, “Yeah, I need to you speak to my brother, he takes care of all the arrangements.” Bootsy’s brother was Catfish Collins, another James Brown alumni.
We spoke to Catfish and we agreed on a price. From there, they literally packed all their equipment into a U-Haul, sound system included, and drove The Rubber Bands from Cincinnati to New York. Being the purists we were to the music, though, we insisted that we have The Horny Horns featured, too, and the original ones at that – Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker plus Richard “Kush” Griffith and Rick Gardner. I remember “Kush” at the time needed kidney dialysis – so we flew him in while he was literally hooked up to his dialysis machine back stage minutes before he hit the stage.
In the end, we had Bootsy’s Rubber Bands featuring The Horny Horns, Catfish, Gary “Mudbone” Cooper, all with whom we did two nights at SOBs. It was in September but it was very very hot.
DeeeLite and Q-Tip came out to the show to support. At the time, they had the hit “Groove Is In the Heart” and both Bootsy and Maceo were on there. The show was awesome, it was absolutely incredible.
But at the end of the night when we were settling up, we got our first real education in the music business. Gary “Mudbone” Cooper came to collect the money. We’d agreed to a price but he started demanding more money from us, and the reason was that The Horny Horns wanted to be paid more since we had put them on the poster saying “featuring The Horny Horns.” We were two music fanatics trying to put the most authentic Bootsy Collins show we could with the original band. Without knowing it, we drove up the price because we featured their names on the poster. So, we got a real schooling there and thought twice before we featured anyone again.