When George Porter, Jr. was a child, he wanted to become a Catholic priest. But an uncomfortably silent church retreat and an encounter with neighborhood blues musicians helped Porter find his musical calling.
He turned to funk and never looked back.
As the bass player for The Meters, Porter helped create a body of music in the 1960s and 70s that still resonates as some of the funkiest grooves ever recorded.
So what’s the secret to funk?
“You’ve got to allow for space,” Porter tells Gwen. “There should never be a bass note on the backbeat. If the drummer is playing on 2 and 4, that is his backbeat … So (the bass and drum) would be, ‘Boom-Bop-Boom-Bop!’”
The Meters were musicians’ musicians. They counted Paul and Linda McCartney, the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart among their fans. And as the house band for SeaSaint Studio in New Orleans, they also appeared on some of the best known recordings of Labelle, Robert Palmer and Lee Dorsey.
But that was then. In the years since The Meters parted ways, Porter has emerged as a bandleader, producer and session musician. It’s Time to Funk is his latest release with the Runnin’ Pardners and he has a raft of other recordings as a solo artist and with other acts. And yet, The Meters have provided Porter with an inexhaustible well of music that he continues to play.
He’s still wistful about the group, which has reassembled in various forms over the years but never managed to stay together. “The band broke up not because we couldn’t musically get along,” Porter tells Gwen. “The only thing we did well together was play music.”
Porter, Art Neville (keyboards), Zigaboo Modeliste (drums) and Leo Nocentelli (guitar) have a powerful creative chemistry. But, as it turns out, chemistry isn’t enough.
“Then (again) the Beatles didn’t like each other,” Porter says. “But they stayed together long enough to make millions of dollars. And they (could) turn around and look at each other and say, ‘Bye!’”