Bassist George Porter Jr. from the Funky Meters has taken the time to share some of his insight on the origins of funk and what it was like at the beginning.
Porter first played with Art Neville as a guitarist, “I was a rhythm player and Art was expecting a lead player. I took some solos and he looked at me and said, ‘Man, you are a lousy guitar player.'” as Porter recalls.
Later on, Porter migrated to the bass to fill a void, “when the Vietnam War happened, there was a big shortage of electric bass players. I have a crooked spine, so that kept me out of the military. Being a classical guitar student, I learned how to play bass and guitar at the same time, so it was an easy jump from being strictly a rhythm guitar player to being strictly a bass player.”
“It was my job as a bass player to become one with the drummer,” explains Porter, “because the drummer is the guardian of the groove. Early in my career, my playing was busy. Eventually, you’ll notice more space around my notes, and I learned that from Allen Toussaint, who said it wasn’t what you played but what you didn’t play. When we did sessions with Lee Dorsey, I learned about space and how to get away from Zig’s snare drum. Whenever the snare drum came and you heard that pop, it should stand alone, there should be no bass on top of it.”
Porter has performed with artists including Dr. John, Paul McCartney, Robbie Robertson, Willy DeVille, Robert Palmer, Patti Labelle, Jimmy Buffett, David Byrne, Johnny Adams, Earl King, Tori Amos, and Snooks Eaglin. He also toured with John Scofield’s Piety Street Band in 2008.