For a moment in the early Seventies, the House Guests were the hottest new funk group in Ohio. Its members, which included bassist Bootsy Collins and his brother, guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins, among others, had just finished backing James Brown on tracks like “Super Bad” and “Sex Machine” and had returned to their hometown of Cincinnati to try something different. They drafted singer Rufus Allen, who wasn’t afraid to do James Brown–style splits, and landed gigs opening for everyone from Gladys Knight and the Pips to George Clinton’s Funkadelic. Clinton was so impressed by them that he asked them to leave Allen behind and back him.
“The House Guests was the group that we formed after leaving James Brown,” Bootsy says. “We had been all around the world, gig hoppin’ and poppin’! The ‘Acid Days” were upon us, so we dressed freaky and started eating mouth. The group was a mixture of James Brown, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Freddie King, and Lonnie Mack.”
In the fleeting moment that the House Guests were their own band, they had a funky sound all their own. Now nearly 50 years later, their complete discography is finally coming out. My Mind Set Me Free: The House Guests Meet the Complete Strangers & Bootsy, Phelps & Gary is due out August 23rd and it collects the nine songs they recorded. The record is available for pre-order.
The title cut sports a JB’s style rhythm with funky horns (and a Mission: Impossible callout), an elastic bass line and Allen’s inspired hoots and hollers about feeling free. In addition to Allen and the Collins brothers, the group’s lineup included drummer Frankie “Kash” Waddy, trumpeter Clayton “Chicken” Gunnells, and saxophonist Robert “Chopper” McCollough. Through it all, they mind “the one” — the concept of hitting the first note of a measure that Brown had taught them was the secret to funk — and keep the groove going for six-and-a-half minutes.
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“Well ya see, the fellas don’t know this, but it was originally ‘My wife set me free … ‘” Allen tells Rolling Stone. “Her and I were married, but separated, ya see? Then things just took their course. But rethinking it, with ‘mind’ instead of ‘wife,’ it went from a personal song to social power song — but still on a personal level. Ya know?”
In addition to the House Guests album, Bootsy will be releasing the first EP in a series of archival music releases from over the years. Nothin’ But-U will come out June 28th and feature tracks from the last couple of decades, including “Bootsy Play-Cation,” a track he cut with the Rubber Band. The song features the type of groove Collins pioneered during his time with Clinton and a mix of funk and R&B vocals. The EP is coming out via Bootzilla Records’ Archive Series, which Collins says, will bring “you fun and positive adventures.” “Let’s just say that the Star-Gate has been opened, and the fountain of youth is pouring love, health and Bootsyful motivation across this nation,” he says.
As for the “Bootsy Play-Cation” video, the bassist says he cut the video in 2012 when he was running his Funk University. “The message, in part, was for youngsters to pick up instruments and play, so we did the shoot in a music store so kids could see the instruments,” he says. “I used to be an old-school gamer, so we tied in the games. Pac-Man and Galaga were my number ones. I was pretty good at them, too.”
House Guests, My Mind Set Me Free Track List
1. “My Mind Set Me Free”
2. “What So Never the Dance”
3. “Fun in Your Thang Pt. 1”
4. “Fun in Your Thang Pt. 2”
5. “House Guest Girls “
6. “Be Right Back”
7. “Say Something Good”
8. “Together “
9. “Love and Understanding”
Bootzilla Records Archives, Vol. 1 Track Llsting
1. “Crushin’ on U” (featuring Ouiwey, recorded in 2018)
2. “Bootsy Play-Cation” (featuring the Rubber Band, recorded in 2012)
3. “Z-Declassified” (featuring Buckethead, “Catfish” Collins, Bernie Worrell, Razor Sharp Johnson, Fred Wesley)
4. “When I’m Dancing” (Recorded in 2006)
5. “Nothin’ but U” (featuring Chew Fu)