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Jomo's Pocket

P-Funk legend “Bigfoot” Brailey brings some old friends to tear the roof off the Hof on New Year’s Eve.


Folks in Brandermill probably don't see him in the daylight.

But if they listen closely in their wooded subdivision at night, they just might hear the intricate snare work and thunderous boom of the legendary Bigfoot.

No, not the huge, hairy monster once played so memorably by Andre the Giant in "The Six Million Dollar Man" TV show. We're talking about their famous neighbor, Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer named by Rolling Stone as the No. 68 greatest drummer of all-time.

The Richmond native held it down for Parliament-Funkadelic during its most productive and hit-filled period of the mid-'70s, even co-writing one of its signature classics, "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)." That song has been used in more movies, TV commercials and sporting events than just about any other party anthem not born under a disco ball.

Funk is having something of a resurgence, lately. Arguably the best animated TV series this fall has been Mike Judge's "Tales from the Tour Bus" on Cinemax, which delves into the crazy-ass road stories of founding funk legends including P-Funk leader George Clinton, Rick James, Bootsy Collins, Betty Davis and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.

But Judge messed up when he didn't ask Bigfoot for his own memories. Had the creator of "Idiocracy" done that, he would've gotten a whole lot more funky details, and we're not talking about the Bigfoot erotica they favor in some Republican congressional circles.

"They got me in the cartoon on the drums with a parrot-looking hat, but actually I was wearing a rhinoceros outfit back in the day," Brailey recalls. "Matter of fact, most of those tour bus stories, George [Clinton] didn't really even hang out in the bus. Couple of those joints was like, 'No, it totally didn't go that way.'"

Today, Brailey, 68, stays busy with numerous musical projects. He played a couple shows around town a few years ago with Mutiny as well as a four-piece called OFM (Other Funky Music) featuring Gary "Mudbone" Cooper from Bootsy's Rubber Band. More recently, the drummer spent time in Los Angeles working on the score for an animated series, "Blockwood," currently in development with comedian Kevin Hart. Brailey has only been back home for a couple months, he says.

"I keep a low profile. I really haven't checked out the Richmond scene too much," he explains. "I did record some tracks at my house in January for Jonathan Hay, a big publicist who has his own label. And I was shocked to learn some of the tracks ended up on the No. 1 jazz album on Billboard."

This New Year's Eve, there will be a Bigfoot sighting in Scott's Addition, where the drummer is taking it to the stage with a rare lineup of members from the P-Funk universe. These include fellow Richmonder Jeff "Cherokee" Bunn, Kevin Goins (vocalist of Quazar), Kevin Shider (Gary's brother), Linda Shider (Gary's widow), Larry "Sir Nose" Hexstall, Sharla Patrick (keys), and guitarists Lenny Holmes and Chris Beasley. And Bigfoot is stoked to introduce his own new character, Jomo Jenkins, whose voice will be featured in the Blockwood project as well on a new CD in 2019.

Expect the roof of the Hof to be torn off, suckas.

"I've heard the complaints about George falling off and he should've retired, that it's a shadow of what it used to be," Brailey says. "I'm just trying to keep that sound alive. You got to have that pocket, then build everything around that."

Growing up, Brailey went to Armstrong High School before leaving in 1968 for Washington, DC with Melvin "Wah Wah Watson" Ragin, a legendary guitarist who joined Motown's famous studio band, the Funk Brothers (also a Richmond native, Ragin just died a few months ago in Southern California).

In his early career, Brailey performed with R&B group the Unifics, which led to a meeting with the Five Stairsteps at the Apollo Theater and him subsequently playing on the original version of their 1970 soul classic "O-o-h Child." After a stint with the Chambers Brothers, Brailey joined George Clinton's wild P-Funk crew during its most popular, mid-'70s era.

But by 1978, Brailey would leave P-Funk along with guitarist Glenn Goins over mounting financial concerns. "Basically, money-wise, something was up," he recalls.

The drummer has stayed busy ever since with his own adventurous musical projects, including the short-lived Quazar and Mutiny, which had a deal on CBS Records. He also played with artists as varied as Herbie Hancock, Lucky Peterson and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards on Bernie Worrell's second album.

One of his favorite collaborators is bassist and producer Bill Laswell, who introduced him to one-of-kind guitarists Buckethead and James "Blood" Ulmer. Brailey says he will be going to San Francisco in February to play in a three-piece with Ulmer called Third Rail, with a European tour to follow. "Bill's the one who had me doing all these worldly music projects — just different kinds of records I really like."

As Mike Judge notes in the season premiere, funk music has never gotten the historical documentation it deserves and facts can be hard to come by. Speaking with P-Funk founder George Clinton a few months ago, Style Weekly asked him about the song "Can You Get to That?" but the aging frontman couldn't remember how he wrote it.

"He couldn't remember 'cause Billy Bass probably wrote it!" Brailey says, laughing. He adds that for those who want the real story of the rise and fall of Parliament-Funkadelic, there's a little-known documentary ("Tear the Roof Off: the Untold Story of Parliament-Funkadelic") made by actor Bobby Brown from "The Wire" that digs deeply into the band's history and why it fell apart. "It was all about George, it got crazy," he says. "I got out right in time."

Only problem: That doc is hard to find, though Brailey owns a copy.

Anyone relying on the Cinemax series isn't getting the facts exactly right either, Brailey notes. For example, a memorable female concertgoer who jumped onstage during a P-Funk show and got naked before blowing smoke rings out of her butt, was Black not white as shown in Judge's series, the drummer recalls.

"I kinda flipped the beat a couple times watching her. Friend of mine, Grasshopper, was our roadie. Instead of covering her with a towel, he brought out a face cloth and covered her head [laughs]. We looked for her after the show, but our bus driver, Joe Miller, had her sitting behind him on the bus. We looked at him like, 'you mother-…"

Brailey was surprised that Judge didn't use a famous story about the time when Clinton wanted to hire dwarfs to portray Thumpasaurus people onstage, he says.

"Only one showed up to the gig. And he chased our bass player Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, who was real short, around stage all night [laughs]."

In a key episode that already aired, bassist Bootsy Collins explains that it was James Brown who taught him the secret to funk: The emphasized beat is "always on the one." The show argues that Collins brought that approach to George Clinton and the rest was history. But Brailey sees things differently.

"I had come from the Stairsteps and was already playing that way," he says. "Brown may have taught Bootsy, but I already knew about the one myself, you know?"

As you can probably tell, Brailey may need to write his own book some day. He certainly has the stories to do it.

"That's what everybody tells me, man," he says.

Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey and the P Funk Allstars perform on New Year's Eve at the Hofheimer building. Black Masala also plays. Four open bars 8 to 10 p.m. Event runs from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets $50 to $145 available at