Highberry Brings Funk Forefathers The Funky Meters to NWA

©Jay Blakesberg

Wanna know who originated the sound of funk? Who it is that funk monsters such as Parliament Funkadelic, James Brown, Sly Stone and countless others look to for groove guidance? It’s the Funky Meters, the modern incarnation of The Meters, which dates back to the late 1960s and was founded in New Orleans.

You can see The Funky Meters live by attending Highberry Festival outside of Eureka Springs, June 29 – July 2, at The Farm.

The Funky Meters was formed by several key Meters’ members during an informal jam at the 1989 New Orelans Jazz and Heritage Festival. In 1994, keyboardist Art Neville and infamous bassist George Porter Jr. were joined by guitarist Brian Stoltz and drummer Russell Batiste and officially christened The Funky Meters.

Since then, the lineup has changed slightly: founders Porter and Neville remain on bass and keyboard (and vocals), Stoltz is back with the group on lead guitar, and the drums are now manned by Terrence Houston.

According to Brian Knight of The Vermont Review, “In a sense, the Meters defined the basic characteristics of the groove. While Funkadelic, Cameo, James Brown and Sly Stone are synonymous with funk, these artists look to the Meters for the basics – down-to-earth and raw sound.”

The Meters’ music has been sampled by musicians around the world, including rap artists Heavy D, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Run DMC, N.W.A, Ice Cube, Scarface, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, The Beastie Boys, Naughty by Nature, and many more.

But The Meters have long been popular with leading acts in nearly all genres: Red Hot Chili Peppers covered the Meters’ song “Africa” on their 1985 album “Freaky Styley”; bands such as the Grateful Dead, Steve Kimock Band, Widespread Panic, Rebirth Brass Band, Galactic, and The String Cheese Incident have performed songs by The Meters in their concert tours; and the band’s tracks also have been used in many films including “Jackie Brown,” “Drumline,” “Hancock,” and “Hitch” as well as in the TV show “The Wire” and video game Grand Theft Auto IV.

The resumes of the four artists in the The Funky Meters read like a Who’s Who in the music busiess, and they speak volumes about the level of musicianship and creativity that comes alive when they perform; their setlist usually is heavy with originals made popular worldwide by The Meters. For the last three years, the Funky Meters have played around the globe, including headlining sets at Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Jamcruise, The Fillmore Auditorium and countless others.

The band – nominated in its original formation for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times, in 1996, 2012, and 2013 – is known best for their earthy combination of tight melodic grooves and highly syncopated New Orleans “second-line” rhythms under highly charged guitar and keyboard riffing. Their songs “Cissy Strut” and “Look-Ka Py Py” are considered funk classics, and they are credited with bringing the New Orleands second-line groove into the mainstream.