Parliament was a funk band most prominent during the 1970s. Both Parliament and its sister act, Funkadelic, were led by George Clinton.
Parliament was originally The Parliaments, a doo-wop vocal group based
at a Plainfield, New Jersey barbershop. The group was formed in the late
1950s and included George Clinton, Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas.
Clinton was the group leader and manager. The group finally had a hit
single in 1967 with "(I Wanna) Testify" on Revilot Records. To
capitalize, Clinton formed a backing band for a tour, featuring teenage
barbershop employee Billy Bass Nelson on bass and his friend Eddie Hazel on guitar, with the lineup eventually rounded out by Tawl Ross on guitar, Tiki Fulwood on drums, and Mickey Atkins on organ.
During a contractual dispute with Revilot, Clinton temporarily lost the
rights to the name "The Parliaments", and signed the ensemble to
Westbound Records as Funkadelic, which Clinton positioned as a funk-rock
band featuring the five touring musicians with the five Parliaments
singers as uncredited guests. With Funkadelic as a recording and touring
entity in its own right, in 1970 Clinton relaunched the singing group,
now known as Parliament, at first featuring the same ten members.
Clinton was now the leader of two different acts, Parliament and
Funkadelic, which featured the same members but were marketed as
creating two different types of funk.
The Parliament album entitled Osmium was released on Invictus Records in
1970, and was later reissued on CD with non-album tracks as both
Rhenium and First Thangs. Osmium featured a mostly psychedelic soul
sound that was more similar to the Funkadelic albums of the period than
to the later Parliament albums. The song "The Breakdown" was released
separately as a single, and reached #30 on the R&B charts in 1971.
Due to continuing contractual problems and the fact that Funkadelic
releases were more successful at the time, Clinton abandoned the name
Parliament until 1974.
Following Osmium, the lineup of Parliament-Funkadelic began going
through many changes and was expanded significantly, with the addition
of important members such as keyboardist Bernie Worrell in 1970,
singer/guitarist Garry Shider in 1971, and bassist Bootsy Collins
(recruited from the James Brown backing band) in 1972. Dozens of singers
and musicians would contribute to future Parliament-Funkadelic
releases. Clinton relaunched Parliament in 1974 and signed the act to
Casablanca Records. Parliament, now augmented by the Horny Horns (also
recruited from James Brown's band) was positioned as a smoother
R&B-based funk ensemble with intricate horn and vocal arrangements,
and as a counterpoint to the guitar-based funk-rock of Funkadelic. By
this point, Parliament and Funkadelic were touring as a combined entity
known as Parliament-Funkadelic or simply P-Funk (which also became the
catch-all term for George Clinton's rapidly growing stable of funk
The album Up for the Down Stroke was released in 1974, with Chocolate
City following in 1975. Both performed strongly on the Billboard R&B
charts and were moderately successful on the Pop charts. Parliament
began its period of greatest mainstream success with the concept album
Mothership Connection (1975), the lyrics of which launched much of the
P-Funk mythology. The subsequent albums The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein
(1976), Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977), and Motor Booty
Affair (1978) all reached high on both the R&B and Pop charts, while
Funkadelic was also experiencing significant mainstream success.
Parliament scored the #1 R&B singles "Flash Light" in 1977 and "Aqua
Boogie" in 1978.
The rapidly expanding ensemble of musicians and singers in the
Parliament-Funkadelic enterprise, as well as Clinton's problematic
management practices, began to take their toll by the late 1970s.
Original Parliaments members Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady
Thomas, who had been with Clinton since the barbershop days in the late
1950s, felt marginalized by the continuous influx of new members and
departed acrimoniously in 1977. Other important group members like
singer/guitarist Glenn Goins and drummer Jerome Brailey left
Parliament-Funkadelic in the late 1970s after disputes over Clinton's
management. Two further Parliament albums, Gloryhallastoopid (1979) and
Trombipulation (1980) were less successful than the albums from the
group's prime 1975-1978 period.
In the early 1980s, with legal difficulties arising from the multiple
names used by multiple groups, as well as a shakeup at Casablanca
Records, George Clinton dissolved Parliament and Funkadelic as recording
and touring entities. However, many of the musicians in later versions
of the two groups remained employed by Clinton. Clinton continued to
release new albums regularly, sometimes under his own name and sometimes
under the name George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars. The P-Funk
All-Stars continued to record and tour into the 1990s and 2000s, and
regularly perform classic Parliament songs.