Phelps “Catfish” Collins, a defining guitarist of ’70s funk via his work behind James Brown and in Parliament-Funkadelic, died Aug. 6 in Cincinnati of cancer. He was 66.
Collins’ death follows by less than one month the demise of another important P-Funk guitarist, Garry “Diaperman” Shider.
In March 1970, Collins, his 18-year-old bassist brother, William “Bootsy” Collins, and other members of their Cincinnati-based band the Pacesetters were drafted by Brown after his band quit abruptly in a salary dispute.
The group, which had backed Brown’s King Records label mates Hank Ballard and Marva Whitney, became the J.B.’s. Their propulsive funk sound was heard on Brown’s 1970-71 hits “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine,” “Soul Power,” “Super Bad,” “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” and “Talkin’ Loud and Sayin’ Nothing” and on the “Sex Machine” album. The Collinses recorded and toured with Brown until early 1971, when they too quit in a dispute over money.
In 1972, the Collins brothers were fronting a group called the House Guests when they met George Clinton of P-Funk at a Detroit show. The pair would go on to play heavy funk with Clinton on such albums as “America Eats Its Young,” “Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome” and “Motor Booty Affair.” Collins also played with his flamboyant brother in the popular side project Bootsy’s Rubber Band.
Following his exit from P-Funk in 1983, Catfish Collins kept a low profile, playing with Deee-lite and the Cincinnati group Freekbass. He appeared on the “Superbad” soundtrack in 2007.
He is survived by two children.