The Parliaments were a doo-wop quintet from Plainfield, New Jersey, formed in the back room of a barbershop in the late 1950s and named after the cigarette brand. After some early personnel changes their lineup solidified with George Clinton, Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, and Grady Thomas. Clinton was group leader and manager, and part owner of the barbershop where the group convened to entertain customers.
The group was originally based on Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, but by the 1960s had developed a unique sound based on emerging styles of soul and funk music, with a notable penchant for bizarre lyrics. The group struggled for hits during most of the 1960s, recording singles on a variety of small record labels. They switched labels many times, and released several double-sided singles without success, including "Poor Willie" (Apt Records), "Lonely Island" (for Flipp) and "Heart Trouble" on Golden World Records. Eventually, Clinton gained employment at Motown Records as a songwriter and producer, making weekly trips to Detroit to produce for The Pets, Roy Handy, and other acts. In 1967 the Parliaments released "(I Wanna) Testify" on Revilot and finally achieved a hit single, with the song reaching #3 R&B and #20 Pop on the Billboard charts. In reality, Clinton was the only member of the Parliaments to appear in the song, as the other members were unable to travel to Detroit for the recording session (session singers and musicians rounded out the recording). To capitalize on the single's success, Clinton put together a backing band for a tour, expanding the Parliaments to the five singers plus five backing musicians.
After the success of "(I Wanna) Testify", Clinton became embroiled in a contractual dispute surrounding the bankruptcy of Revilot Records and temporarily lost the rights to the name "The Parliaments." In order to continue recording for other labels, Clinton renamed the entire ensemble Funkadelic (a name coined by bassist Billy Bass Nelson), which Clinton positioned as a funk-rock band featuring the five backing musicians with the five Parliaments singers as uncredited guests. When Revilot declared bankruptcy the Parliaments were sold to Atlantic Records, and Clinton abandoned doo-wop to avoid working for Atlantic. Even with Funkadelic operating as a recording and touring entity, in 1970 Clinton relaunched the Parliaments as a new R&B-based funk band, now known as Parliament. The lineup still consisted of the five original singers plus the five backing musicians, with the two acts signed to different labels and marketed as performing different types of funk.
Several songs from the early repertoire of the Parliaments would be re-recorded on future Parliament and Funkadelic albums, including "Testify", "The Goose", "All Your Goodies Are Gone", "Fantasy Is Reality", "Good Ole Music", "I Can Feel The Ice Melting", "What You Been Growing", "I'll Wait", and "That Was My Girl". In 1995, many of the original Parliaments tracks were reissued on the Goldmine/Soul label on the album Testifyin'.
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