Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1084

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George Porter JR: Taking funk measures

George Porter JR @bluesandsoul.com
George Porter JR @bluesandsoul.com George Porter JR @bluesandsoul.com

George Porter Jr is considered by many to be the 'Godfather' of the New Orleans funk scene. Having founded, played bass and sang with the legendary funk band THE METERS George has remained in-demand and very active on the music scene. He has played with a who's who of the music industry and comes to the UK for a tour March 27 to March 30, with his New Orleans band 'The Runnin' Partners'.

B&S: George, The Meters, along with the likes of James Brown, are revered as one of the pioneers of Funk music. To this day the music is loved and I believe it is the 2nd most sampled music in historyâ€Â¦after James Brown. What do you put that down to?

GEORGE: A great feel and a strong pocket. The music is very listenable, unlike some other styles which can get over the head of the listener or loses it appeal as trends change. This music is also something people can dance to. The fact that it is so easy to relate to makes people listen to it over and over again and keeps attracting new audiences.

B&S: In addition to recording as the Meters, the band was backing other artists, too. Which were some of the standout songs you played on that we may not know about?

GEORGE: We were the house band for Sea Saint studios and the Sansu label owned by Allen Toussaint and Marshall Seahorn. There we recorded with Dr. John on Right Place, Wrong Time" in 1973 and Desitively Bonnaroo in 1974 with Robert Palmer on "Sneakin' Sally Down The Alley" and "Some People Can Do What They Like. We were on Labelles Nightbirds record which included the song 'Lady Marmalade' - Though this song started with all The Meters it ended up being recorded with two other drummers and because the part was the same it is hard to tell what drummer is actually on it.

Also notable was Allen Toussaint's "Southern Nights" record, Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can" and "Everything I do Gonh Be Funky". Robbie Robertson's "Storyville" was all of The Meters but not at the same time I remember Leo, Art, myself and another drummer recorded the track in New Orleans and they took it back to LA and got Zig to replace drum tracks.

Lastly is my personal favourite from that time Earl King's " Street Parade" where I am credited as Bandleader, Bass, and Background Vocals.

B&S: I was listening to the first couple of Meters records recently, on vinyl. They sound sonically amazing and so 'live'. Also the music is funky but in a casual , relaxed way. How were the sessions for those records? Were they recorded 'live' and in a casual way?

GEORGE: Yes, those first three vinyl recordings were done in for the most part live, we were sitting around not far from each other in a big room, well it was actually a big warehouse for real. LOL’

B&S: There are so many Meters 'classics'. Which is your favourite song of all that you recorded?

GEORGE: I had a lot of favourite’s it was hard to pick just one and in
early 2011 me and my Runnin’ Pardners band went in to record 14 of my favourite Meters songs that were recorded but not played live by any of the three Meter bands. There are really 16 tracks I gave 2 away on my website for free download @ georgeporterjr.com These are great songs and I just wanted to play them with someone who could do them justice live. I released that CD called “Can't Beat The Funk” just in time for the 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. We still play several of those songs in our current show.

B&S: As well as playing in your own bands you are an in-demand bass player on other people's projects. You have played with the likes of Paul McCartney and David Byrne. Is there a stand out project or moment for you from doing session work?

GEORGE: I would like to clear up one thing playing/recording with Paul McCartney, I played a cowbell on a Mardi Gras song he was playing around with, as it was Mardi Gras time in New Orleans during the time he recorded "Venus and Mars", 1974. Myself and a few other New Orleans Artist that were around the studio that day, came in to give Paul that street feel he wanted at the end of the song of a second line passing by. That was it and to this day I have never heard the end result or the song. It did give me the chance to meet Sir Paul and Linda and they were gracious enough to invite The Meters to play at the release party for his Venus and Mars album aboard the Queen Mary in California, which led us to meet and touring with the Rolling Stones.

I do think the David Byrne recording and tour the next year were one session I will always remember because it was my first encounter with that style of music and I was unsure if I could make it feel real, I can hear it now and say nice work porter, smile’.

I truly enjoy being in the studio with artists who are creative and open to collaboration. There is usually something about all the sessions I am a part of that I can be very happy with.

I loved recording all three of the Tori Amos, Collection, "Tales Of A Librarian" 2003, "Songs from the Choirgirl Hotel" 1998, "Boys for Pele" Atlantic Records, 1996 and "Under the Pink" Atlantic Records, 1993. I also enjoyed working with Harry Connick, Jr. recording, "Funk Album" 1994. The several recording projects w/Dr. John including, "Right Place, Wrong Time" in 1973 and Desitively Bonnsroo in 1974. All the Snooks Eaglin Recordings, "Blues Of Snooks Eaglin & Boogie Bill Webb" 2004, recording, "Soul Train From Nawlins: Live At The Park Tower Blues Festival 2003, recording, "Teasin You".

I have been lucky that so many other artists respect my playing and keep me in demand. In the last few years despite being busy working on my own music with the Runnin’ Pardners and playing in The Meters, The Funky Meters and The Meter Men with Page McConnell, I have toured recorded and played with Warren Haynes, John Scofield, Mickey Hart, Billy Kreutzmann, and the Tedeschi Trucks Band just to name a few, I am working on something pretty much 50 weeks out of the year, which while tough is a blessing too. I am also very blessed that my wife of well into 47 years is so understanding and willing to put up with me and this crazy life.

B&S: It's been a long time since you toured the UK. How are you looking forward to that? What can the fans look forward to at your shows? A mixture of Meters classics and your newer material from this current band?

George : I will play newer material from this band AND Meters songs that were never played live by The Meters. This will be Runnin’ Pardners first tour in the UK ever and we are very excited to be coming over. We want to make everyone that comes out to walk away with great big Ole’ smiles on their faces and a feeling that they just got funked’.

George Porter Jr and his New Orleans band 'The Runnin' Partners' tour the UK in March:
March 27th: Concorde 2, Brighton
March 28th: Band On The Wall, Manchester
March 29th: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
March 30th: The Borderline, London
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