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But funk is also about hip, interlocking guitar parts that make the song pop. In funk, the song always comes first, and the best funk guitar parts are mini compositions within the song. Creating these mini compositions requires mastering a variety of techniques, each of which is inevitably and indelibly seasoned by each player’s ethnic, regional, and musical backgrounds. That’s why veteran 6-string funksters like Leo Nocentelli (The Meters), David Williams (Michael Jackson, Madonna), Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Paul Jackson Jr. (The Temptations), Phelps “Catfish” Collins (Parliament, Funkadelic), George Johnson (The Brothers Johnson), and Gary Shider (Parliament, Funkadelic) all have uniquely funky styles that don’t just rely on stereotypical waka-waka wah hackery.
But the roots of funk reach back even further than the aforementioned masters to five greats—Jimmy Nolen, Freddie Stone, Tony Maiden, Nile Rodgers, and Al McKay. Each guitarist played the funkiest stuff on the planet with individuality, soul, and joie de vivre. They found their distinctive voices within the guitar techniques available to us all, and made great songs groove harder by adding feel, knowledge, and imagination.