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Watch the History & Players online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from Focus On: Funk Guitar

Funk - a term originally used for describing something that smells not-so-good - is a word we all lovingly use to describe this incredibly fun and rhythmic music. Alas, the term, even in music, ends up being used in the same parlance as one or more of your fellow funkateers will shout out for you to "put some stank" on whatever it is you're playing in a jam session to make it even more fonky! Rooted in African music traditions the funk started to emerge as early as the late 1940's as an amazing amalgam of soul and soul/jazz as well as R&B and a healthy dash of Afro-Cuban rhythms, most notably the clave. All of these ingredients were thrown in a groovy stew and cooked to perfection in a melting pot with the words New Orleans etched in capital letters. By the mid-60's a master chef emerged and he was none other than Soul Brother No. 1, the Godfather of Soul, the Hardest Working Man in Show Business: Mr. James Brown. But, a chef is only as effective as his ingredients…

Funk is ALL about the rhythm section: The bass and drums. Drummers including John "Jabo" Starks and Clyde Stubblefield (THE funky drummer) and bass players like Bernard Odum and William "Bootsy" Collins literally wrote the book on the propulsive, interlocking rhythms lovers of the funk go crazy over. Completing the contrapuntal nirvana was the percussive role the guitar played in these jams and those axes were wielded by funk guitar legends such as Jimmy Nolen, Phelps "Catfish" Collins (yes, it's Bootsy's brother), Alphonso "Country" Kellum and Hearlon "Cheese" Martin. As the late 60's rolled on into the golden era of funk - the 70's - new bands were emerging and they brought with them many more guitarists to the funk forefront. Draped in polyester and sporting massive bell bottoms came players such as Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers, Freddie Stone who was a founding member of Sly & the Family Stone, Leo Nocentelli of the Meters and the inimitable Eddie Hazel. The latter coming from the close second in significance to the evolution of funk: George Clinton's Parliament and Funkadelic ensembles. Eddie Hazel emerged as the premiere funk guitar soloist helping to usher in a more rock vibe to the music. He was followed by funk rock mavens Michael "Kidd Funkadelic" Hampton, Garry Shider, Glenn Goins and DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight to name but a few.

There were many other bands and bandleaders to come up the ranks in the 70's as well as the 80's and they brought with them incredibly funky guitar players. Here's a list of some must-know six-string funk masters from those great years:

Bruce Conte (Tower of Power)
Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner (Ohio Players)
Al McKay (Earth, Wind & Fire)
Tony Maiden (Rufus)
Calvin Brown (Roy Ayers)
Michael Toles & Jimmy King (The Bar-Kays)
David Williams (Session guitarist, played on "Billie Jean")
Nile Rodgers (Chic)
Charlie Singleton (Cameo)
Jesse Johnson (The Time)

While funk gave way to disco and synth-pop music as the 70's and 80's raged on, the music has been kept alive and even saw a revival at times through styles like acid-jazz and jazz/funk by the following players and their respective bands:

Vernon Reid (Living Colour)
John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
Adam Rogers (Groove Collective)
David "Fuze" Fiuczynski (Screaming Headless Torsos)
Simon Katz and Gavin Dodds (Jamiroquai)
Simon Bartholomew (Brand New Heavies)
Adam Horowitz (aka Ad-Rock of the Beastie Boys)
G. Love (G. Love & Special Sauce)
Brian Dennis (Dag)
John Scofield & Avi Bortnick (John Scofield)
Wayne Krantz

While this is not meant to be a complete list of every guitarist who laid down a funky lick on a commercial recording this a great place to start. In fact, if you really go digging you'll find there's a lot of funk music recorded on small labels and even homemade labels that's absolutely disgusting (in a good way!). For example, seek out the vat of 45's out there recorded by high school bands in the midwest and you'll be floored! Thanks to DJs and their insatiable lust for vinyl, many recordings that were previously doomed for extinction are being reissued and, even better, there are modern artists out there such as Breakestra and Tommy Guerrero who strive to produce pure, unadulterated funk music in today's laptop landscape. Kudos to those brothers (and sistas ;)