Slap On Some Strings And Get Playing: A Funk Master’s Tale Of Handling Adversity
The funky fellow in the photo is Bootsy Collins.
Bootsy is considered a pioneer of funk music and one of the best bass players of all time. He’s played with heavy weights like James Brown, George Clinton, and enjoyed a successful solo career. This illustrious career largely happened by accident.
Bootsy spent his early years trying to impress his older brother Phelps “Catfish” Collins. Phelps was one of the best guitar players in Cincinnati, and Bootsy desperately wanted to join his band.
Opportunity struck when Phelp’s bass player didn’t show up for a gig. Catfish offered his younger brother a chance to join the band if he played bass. The problem was…
Bootsy was a guitar player at the time. He hardly knew how to play bass. In fact, he didn’t own a bass.
Did that deter him?
Not a chance!
In a stroke of inspiration: Bootsy dug up a set of bass strings, pegged them on his $29 Silver Tone Guitar, and played the gig.
This story tickles my heart strings for a number of reasons:
First, I’m a bass player and love hearing the origin story of one of my heroes!
But what I love most about this story is Bootsy’s perseverance. He could have thrown his hands up and said: “Shit! I don’t have a bass. I guess tonight is not my night.”
Instead he improvised. He crafted a makeshift solution with the materials he had. He did what he needed to get the gig! As any musician will tell you: “the show must go on”.
The best part is: Bootsy didn’t just use his makeshift bass for that gig, he used it for the first several years of his career. He credits it for developing his style. One of the most distinct bass players discovered his voice through a flash of ingenuity.
It goes to show that “greatness” isn’t just a matter of talent. It’s often the result of an individuals ability to move on the fly and stand firm in uncertain circumstances