I grew up in the small town of Waterford, Ontario (population 2,400) starting my music career in High School as Social Convener of the Students’ Council. In the 1960’s most of the high schools had a monthly dance with a live band. As Social Convener I booked the bands. When I was in Grade 13 I ran for President of the Students Council. I lost the vote and, by default, became the Vice President. (Years later one of my Teachers who was in on counting the ballots confessed that I had actually won the vote, but the Principal vetoed it because he didn’t want a long haired, bell bottom wearing hippie kid as President).
The Students Council held many fundraising events throughout the year. The bulk of the money was used to fund The Prom. I did an analysis of the people who went to The Prom and found it was mainly attended by the Grade 12 & 13 students, plus teachers and a few alumni. Many of the older students had boyfriend/girlfriends that didn’t attend our High School. Out of the 300 Prom attendees, only about 200 were our students. Also, many of the 1,000 students who attended Waterford District High School couldn’t afford this semi-formal event.
As VP of the Students Council I brought forward a radical new idea. Instead of spending the money raised by the entire student body to fund the Prom for a select few, why not spend the money on an event that everybody could enjoy. I proposed hiring a great band and having a free, end-of-year party/dance. Semi-formal attire not necessary. Unfortunately this idea was voted down by the conservative, small town Prom committee.
I decided to retaliate. On the same night of the Prom I rented the triple gymnasium at BCI – Brantford Collegiate Institute in the neighboring city of Brantford and hired George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic. The band had just released their first album, a followup to a hit single “I Wanna Testify” released the year before under the name of The Parliaments. The band was mostly unknown to the 99% white community of Brantford and Waterford. My concert Promoter partner David Nancoff and myself put out the word that this was an event not to be missed – a 12 piece funk band from Detroit…..the lead singer worn a full Indian headdress….one of the musicians wore only a diaper…..the show was wild & crazy, etc. The concert/dance sold out with least half my High School in attendance. It was great!!!!!
This was the beginning of my association with George Clinton. My mentor in the music business, Ron Scribner, became the band’s Manager. The band recorded several of their albums in Toronto and Ron invited me to many of the recording sessions.
A couple of years later I even booked George Clinton and the Parliament Funkadelic to perform at Waterford District High School. That was also a night to remember! The WDHS gym was packed. The curtain slowly opened as the band started a funky groove. The band was standing in a straight line at the rear of the stage. To the beat of the music they slowly started to move towards the front of the stage. With their wild costuming, this was a slight to behold. In fact, for many of the students at this rural high school, this was the first time they had ever seen a real live black person. As the band reached to the front of the stage several students became scared and ran out of the gym. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
Thank you George Clinton for bringing us many years of THE FUNK, and enjoy your retirement.