From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Rising to prominence with James Brown in the late 1960s, and with Parliament-Funkadelic in the '70s, Collins' driving bass guitar and humorous vocals established him as one of the leading names in funk.
Early career and James Brown
With his older brother Catfish Collins, and Kash Waddy and Philippe Wynne, Collins formed a group called The Pacesetters in 1968. Until 1971, the Pacesetters were the backing band for James Brown, and were known in that context as The JB's.
Brown fired Collins after he experienced LSD hallucinations on-stage. It is known that the young Bootsy clashed several times with the rigid system Brown used to discipline the young band whenever he felt they stepped out of line. After leaving the band Collins then moved to Detroit, following the advice of singer and future Parliament member Mallia Franklin.
House Guests, P-Funk, Rubber Band and Sweat Band
After parting ways with James Brown Bootsy returned to Cincinnati and formed House Guests with his brother Phelps Collins, Clayton Grunnels, Frank Waddy, and Robert McCullough and released two singles on their own House Guests label.
Franklin introduced both Collins brothers to George Clinton, and 1972 saw both of the Collins brothers, along with Waddy, join Funkadelic. Bootsy played bass on most of Funkadelic and Parliament's early albums, garnering several songwriting credits as well.
In 1976 Bootsy, Catfish, Waddy, Joel Johnson, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper, Robert Johnson and The Horny Horns formed Bootsy's Rubber Band, a separate touring unit of Clinton's P-Funk collective. The group recorded four albums together, the first three of which are often considered to be among the quintessential P-Funk recordings. The group's 1978 album Bootsy? Player of the Year reached the top of the R&B album chart and spawned the #1 R&B single "Bootzilla".
Like Clinton, Bootsy took on several alter egos, from "Casper the Funky Ghost" to Bootzilla, "the world's only rhinestone rockstar monster of a doll", as part of an evolving character, an alien rock star who grew gradually more bizarre as time went on (see P-Funk mythology). He also adopted his trademark space bass around this time.
Bootsy also released a 1980 album, Sweat Band, on George Clinton's Uncle Jam label with a group billed as Bootsy's Sweat Band.
In 1984, Bootsy collaborated with Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads to produce "Five Minutes", a dance record sampled and edited from Ronald Reagan's infamous "Five Minutes" speech. The record was credited to "Bonzo goes to Washington" (a reference to the Ramones song "Bonzo goes to Bitburg." Reagan had starred as Professor Peter Boyd in the 1951 comedy film Bedtime for Bonzo)
In 1990 Bootsy collaborated with Deee-Lite on their massive hit "Groove Is In The Heart" where he contributed bass and additional vocals. He also appeared in the music video, while Bootsy's Rubber Band became the defacto backing musicians for Deee-Lite during a world tour.
Bootsy collaborated with bluegrass legends Del McCoury, Doc Watson and Mac Wiseman to form the GrooveGrass Boyz. They produced a fusion of bluegrass and funk that listeners either loved as a fresh take on tradition or hated as defiling that same tradition.
Bootsy has collaborated extensively with Bill Laswell and made appearances on two Fatboy Slim records. Bootsy provided "vocal spice" on the TobyMac album Welcome to Diverse City. He also appears on Nicole C. Mullens' latest album, "Everyday People". He has also worked with the Lo-Fidelity Allstars on the album 'Don't be Afraid of Love', with Praxis, and with Buckethead on several occasions, for example on Buckethead's first album, "Bucketheadland". Bootsy was featured in the 2002 film Standing in the Shadows of Motown. In 2004 he appeared on Snoop Dogg's Rhythm & Gangsta album.
In 2005, Bootsy Collins added vocals to fellow bassist Victor Wooten's album Soul Circus. He also served as "Heineken's Amsterjam 2005" curator and master of ceremonies on Randall's Island, New York and appeared with Madonna, Iggy Pop, Little Richard, and The Roots' ?uestlove, in an American TV commercial for the Motorola ROKR phone.
Collins' signature instrument is a custom-built star-shaped bass guitar he calls the "Space Bass". Currently built for him by Manny Salvador of GuitarCraft in 1998. More recently, Collins has made an agreement with Traben to make a signature Bootsy Collins model bass called the "Bootzilla".
In October, 2005, Collins co-wrote a song celebrating the resurgence of his hometown team, the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League called "Fear Da Tiger" which features "raps" written and performed by several Bengals players, including defensive end Duane Clemons, offensive tackle Stacy Andrews, and center Ben Wilkerson. An edited version of the song was made into a music video which features cameos by many other Bengals players. It has garnered tremendous local airplay and is viewable on Bengals.com. Additionally, Cincinnati Bell is offering "Fear Da Tiger" as a free ringtone for its wireless customers in both polyphonic and MP3 formats. Collins appeared with Little Richard, Bernie Worrell, and other notable musicians as the band playing with Hank Williams, Jr. for the Monday Night Football opening during for the 2006 season. Collins was the only all star to return with Williams for the 2007 season.
He also sings "Marshal Law", the theme song of the Cincinnati Marshals indoor football team. He debuted the song on April 29, at halftime of a Marshals home game against the West Palm Beach Phantoms.
In 2006, ABC Entertainment / A Charly Films Release released a DVD/CD from Bootsy Collins and the New Rubber Band's concert at the 1998 North Sea Jazz Festival. In the same year, Collins split from long-time friend and guitarist Odhran "The Bodhran" Rameriz, citing creative differences as the reason.
Currently, Bootsy is producing the funk band Freekbass from Ohio.
In April, 2007, Bootsy announced plans to begin a restaurant/club with Cincinnati area restaurateur Jeff Ruby. The restaurant is to be called "Bootsy's Ruby."
As of July 2007, Bootsy is working on a project by the name of Science Faction, an album on which he serves as bassist and co-producer along with his lead vocalist Greg Hampton. The band also features guitarist Buckethead and drummer Brain.
Collins' bass playing is hard, driving and rhythmic, and has been very influential in the development of funk. His characteristic watery sound, produced by envelope filters, is one of his distinguishing traits as a bass player. He also uses highly syncopated 16th note patterns combined with a very strong slap technique, highly influenced by Larry Graham.
Bootsy's bass patterns are often up-front in the mix and more often than not, drive the song (rather than the guitars or horns).
Bootsy obviously was also influenced by Jimi Hendrix, although they never performed together.