WOOniversal Truths — Part Two

This is Part Two of Three.

Have You Read PART ONE?If Not, Click Here To Catch Up

Sessions:  How do musicians make money from sessions and why is the AF of M important? (American Federation of Musicians)

Shortly after being stranded in Detroit, some of the musicians were approached to do session work.  Sessions, basically, are where musicians go into a studio and play their instruments on songs.  However, there were two ways it was done then.

  • The best way for musicians is sessions UNDER CONTRACT via the musicians union. This secured their payment according to a scale set up by the union.   This has another added advantage:  Around July of every year, union fees from ALL  sessions done under these contracts are pooled and by some formula with which I am not familiar, all participating musicians share in the Manufacturer’s Special Payments fund where they receive a one lump sum payment.
  • The way most of the musicians I know get paid: a lump sum either per day or per song, depending on the deal. This is NOT good for the musicians because they never get to share as per number one above.   And IF the person/people with whom the musician is doing these sessions is unscrupulous, the musician stands to make little to no money at all.  This happened to Bernie ONCE.  Then Management put another deal in place for Bernie which we will get to shortly

Back to original P-Funk  musicians:  when Bernie and the others were approached by Holland-Dozier-Holland to do sessions for their artists, George was angry and told Bernie  he “didn’t want OUR sound getting out there”.  When Bernie told me this, I said “fine, then tell George to pay you the money you would have earned”.  Consider this:  Eddie, Tal, Billy, Tiki and Bernie were working musicians, not getting paid, stranded in another city and while there was no work upcoming from the group, they did these sessions. That’s why you hear Bernie (and others) on Chairmen of the Board, Freda Payne, Ruth Copeland, etc.

When Bernie did sessions for the group, here is what he actually did:  with his perfect pitch, he was invaluable to George (and ANY Producer, engineer, musicians etc.)   Guitarists could walk up to Bernie and he could tell them straight off if they were in tune.  So, he co-produced, co-wrote, arranged and performed on every single song on which you see his name and some for which he was never credited.  By never crediting Bernie’s co-production work, Bernie lost a lot of “Produced by” credit (except for those who could hear the difference) as well as payment.   As time went by, George’s debt to Bernie for unpaid session work, unpaid arrangements, unpaid co-production as well as monies owed while he was on tour with original P-Funk became quite large and THAT, in part, is what led to our suing George.  When served with the papers, George’s comment to me was “get in line behind the IRS”.   We will get back to the infamous bankruptcy in Part Three.

So, now, boys and girls, you see two instances of how Bernie and the original members of Parliament/Funkadelic were (and are) fleeced by George:

  • Paying Artist Royalties then stopping – with never an explanation and to this day, not a single songwriter, musician, etc. from original P-Funk gets paid Artist Royalties on the work THEY made famous. Not a one.  Not Bernie, Not Billy, Not Tiki, Not Eddie’s kid(s), not Ray Davis’ kids, Not Grady Thomas, Not Calvin Simon, Not Clarence Haskins, Not Tal – ONLY GEORGE.

So, we ask that you PLEASE stop buying P-Funk records, DVDs and CDs because nobody BUT George ever gets one red cent.  Buy one and share it.  Normally I would HATE that idea.  People streaming and downloading for free HURTS musicians.  But NOBODY has hurt these musicians more than George Clinton has (and does) cause this goes on to this very day.

Record companies should put any royalty payments into an escrow account until George can explain why he has reneged on the verbal contract he had with each and every one of original Parliament-Funkadelic.

Why doesn’t George owe musicians that came after?  Because he hired them as “works for hire”.  That kept him from having to share with anyone who signed it.  When he had that sent to Bernie, I filed it….in the cylindrical file!!!  Garbage to garbage.

Why did the others sign it?  Cause they were told that if they did not sign it, they would not be going on tour (and that tour was in Europe).  So, they were blackmailed (by a black male).  See why I accuse George of “black on black crime”?  Bernie was so important to George that Bernie routinely ignored all of this and told me “no” when I told him what was happening and if he wanted to sign that paper.  As an aside, there have been some who think I’ve had “undue” influence on Bernie.  Let me tell those of you who “think” this:  Bernie has ALWAYS been his own man.   If I was able to exert “undue” influence on Bernie, there are other things more important to a wife that I would have worked on LOL!!!

  • Not paying sessions monies to Bernie

So, let’s recap:  by not being a signatory with the Union, George cost them money two ways:  first, by not paying them  union scale and then, because he was not a signatory, none of the sessions they did counted towards the Manufacturer’s Special Payment Fund.

  • And this is very important, musicians!!!! There are unscrupulous sub-humans like George (but he is not the only one) who have another “trick” up their dirty sleeves and it is known as “overdubbing”.  Here’s how it works.  Some will put down some tracks and then tell incoming musicians they are being paid for overdubbing.

What’s wrong with that you ask?  Nothing – IF they are really overdubbing.  If you write the music you want played and the musician comes in and plays that and ONLY that, then depending on what that particular musician brings to the table, he/she IS WRITING and deserves writing/publishing credits.  George does this routinely to keep from paying musicians what they are rightfully due.

When Bernie first joined P-Funk, he’d be up all hours of the night writing out the charts – then they had to be copied.  As I had learned how to read music in high school (played clarinet etc), I helped him by being his copyist.  This was useful – particularly when members of the Detroit Symphony were called in.  It was VERY interesting to watch Bernie, with a joint hanging out of his mouth, conduct these professional musicians (old white men who had no knowledge of  “funk” ) and it was apparent from the start that THEY were not all that enthused…….until they sat down and read the music.   Looked up at Bernie, down to the music and they ALL got busy!!!  They hadn’t realized who was standing in front of them and who brought classically trained chops to the table.  They wanted to do more.

Now, even as recently as October 2014, George wanted Bernie to do a session(s) for his upcoming “shake the gate”.  We were backstage at B B Kings where I was trying to get George to let the Bernie Worrell Orchestra open for him on tour (I knew he wouldn’t cause BW&WW – with five musicians blew George off the stage at Woodstock but I owed it to Bernie and his group to try).  The one thing George did NOT want and would NEVER help facilitate was Bernie being successful on his own cause that would cut into his lies about “everyone comes back”.  BS, Georgie, BS – cause, despite george’s claim to me that night “ I MADE Bernie, I MADE Bernie”, the ENTIRE world knows what Bernie brought to P-Funk and every other group with whom he has played.  What George is trying to do is rebuild the publishing catalog he bargained away in his unholy alliance with Armen Boladian.

If you put a piece of paper in front of a musician and say “play this”, THAT is a session and the musician is paid (hopefully) accordingly.  That musician does not share in writing/publishing BECAUSE he or she is playing what is written and adding NOTHING.

If you play part of an unfinished song and tell the musician “add your flavor”, THAT is songwriting and the musician is due writing/publishing credits.  AND it is a session so they should be paid for that as well.

Can you see now how this is just one more way to rip off musicians?  No?  well, tell me how George Clinton can take 50% of an instrumental “Joyful Process”????? WHAT instrument does he play?  Has he EVER played?

This is one of the biggest reasons Management advised against Bernie ever doing anything with George absent a signed agreement – that is what killed the so-called reunion.  In short, everything was going relatively fine until Management, in negotiations, stated that “Bernie will share in all ancillary income – from DVDs, CDs, films and any unknown media now or in the future”.  At that point, George backed off, Management pulled Bernie from the tour (over his vociferous objections until we showed him how much George had already stolen from him by not paying him his fair share of those that had already come out).  Yes, ladies & gentlemen:  while you are plunking down your hard earned dollars to buy your favorite group, George was busy hauling in the funky dollar bills and NOT sharing with those who made the MUSIC possible.  Throughout this, you will hear us mention musicians.    That’s because that is what we KNOW.

So, let’s recap what George stole:

  • Artist royalties
  • All income from DVDs, CDs, etc. betcha YOU thought you were supporting everyone, right?  Hell to the no – and THIS is the major reason Bernie needed and needs Benefits performed on his behalf.
  • Session monies
  • Songwriter royalties/publishing royalties

And we are not done yet.  The worse perfidy is to come.

8 thoughts on “WOOniversal Truths — Part Two”

  1. Hi again, The term ‘jungle’ in the post above should read ‘jingle’.

    The session pay is one thing. The copyright issues on compositions is/was brutally hard and fast. The only copyright-able content of a song are its main melody and its lyrics. Period.

    This really freaks out drummers, bassists, guitarists keyboardists, etc, because their drum beats and grooves, bass lines, chord progressions and little rhythm licks, counterpoint parts, harmonies ….. are sadly not part of the copyright!

    That is where lots of disagreement happens within bands as to who will share in a song’s copyright and subsequent royalties.

    I am the 1st pop musician to argue and firmly believe that if the part was not ‘written’ note for note and that I, as a musician came up with the part I played, that should be considered as part of the ‘writing and composing’ of the tune.

    Sadly it is not, but it can definitely be thought of as part of the arranging and orchestrating of the piece. Is it part of the copyright-able material? ….. No! Was it ever? …… No!

    Which royalties does this affect? Songwriters’ and publishing, which break down to 1-airplay & live performance royalties (BMI-ASCAP-SESAC), 2- mechanicals (Harry Fox).

    All the efforts that an act’s musicians contribute to a recording, those bass and drum parts, licks, harmonies, the “I came up with that line’ etc. those are definitely rewarded with shares of the act’s artists royalties which are collected from the record label.

    But …. and this is the important ‘but’: The artists who will share in those artist royalties must be ‘mentioned’ as shareholders in the recording contract between the act and the label.

    The other thing about ‘artist royalties’ is that they are payable only once the act has sold enough recordings to repay the total cost of production and promotion from ‘the act’s share of the retail sale price of the recordings. In essence, the acts pay for the recordings and when the recordings have recouped the costs, ‘artist royalties’ should flow to the artist.

    The PRLA set guidelines for this dishing out of ‘artist royalties’ in that an act and the label do not have to wait until all recording costs are paid back. After a certain number of units sold, the label has to begin paying out ‘artist royalties’ to the act.

    From there it gets really tricky. Ever hear of ‘Cross- collateralization’ ? In sound recordings, this is a way a songwriter-artist can use his songwriters royalties to pay down his debt to a record label (so that ‘artist royalties’ can be payable sooner) . That in itself is not a bad thing but it can make the accounting way more complex as to who-owns-what and how eventual ‘artist royalties’ will get shared between writers and non-writers in the act’s recordings.

    No musician today should be ashamed of having been hoodwinked or misled in recording deals. Hell! …. Atlantic Records ripped off the entire Watts-Stax catalog and label in the fine print of a distribution agreement! As well, just look at the size of those ‘This business of music’ books. Look at just the ‘excerpts from the US 1976 copyright act’ at the back of those books.

    We, musicians, members of the AFM and AFTRA (who are not symphonic or pro session musicians) … ALL needed some serious legal help and it was not available. That is a sad and ongoing reality and a lot of us fell through these cracks. I still fight these battles but in 20 years of trying, I don’t have much to show for it, yet.

    I read the term ‘verbal contract’ somewhere above. Those are not totally un-enforceable but they are at best, very costly to defend and have honored via court-legal action.

    If you have questions I will do my best to answer and help you.


    Paul ‘Tex’ Harwood

    ex-Mahogany Rush, ex-Westbound Records artist.

    P.S. The 1st ‘fast one’ Arman pulled was Bridgeport Music Inc = BMI !!!! LOL! Big time. I still remember Craig Dudley trying to slide that one by us!

  2. Mrs. Worrell
    My condolences go out to you and the Worrell family on the passing of Bernie. Growing up in Plainfield and being a big P-Funk fan, I’ve never had the opportunity to have met Bernie, however with my father (Little Sammie and the Del-Arks) is/was personal friends and a fellow musician with Eddie/ Ray/Fuzzie/Grady/ Calvin and Billy. I had the opportunity to meet each of these brothers and during conversations with a few of them, I can recall similar conversations and expressed sentiments about GC’s business practices.
    As a big fan of the Funk Mob, I feel so bad that this all went down the way it did. I especially feel bad for you and Bernie and the rest of the original members! My hope is that you and the other members and their families obtain the legal remedies afforded to you by law which includes all credits/rights and monies.

  3. RIPeace Bernie…..TAKE IT ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS! your fingers are what made my life on this earth happier and FUNKY’er! Thanks for all the wonderful music you made.

  4. I met Bernie by chance. The P was in Detroit and I was determined to find him and ask him about what was he thinking to come up with the keys on Night of the Thumpasaurus People. I called the hotel. I told him that I wanted to meet him. That I was not a groupie, just wanted to meet him and talk. He asked if I had a car. I told him yes. He asked me to take him to United Sounds to a session. Little did I know it was a Bootsy Mug Push session. I said yes. I went to his room and he was almost ready to go. All the way I asked question after question. When we got there, he introduced me to George and everyone and told them that I was “good girl”. We talked some more then he thanked me and disappeared to go and lay some Woo. I thank Bernie for that. Now I am many years later, married to one of his clones. 24 years. A keyboard monster that studied everything Bernie. Rest in peace Bernie and thank you for sharing your Woo isms with us peons! Thank you Judie. I learned the business of music and traveled the world. Always reading contracts, and having one signed before I opened my mouth! I learned from those before me mistakes. George ought to be ashamed.

  5. The ultimate scrooge.
    So many of the group members are
    deceased. What legacy can come out of this? Smh
    I wish the best for Mr. & Mrs. Worrell.
    Thank you for the info

  6. I can’t wait for the rest of the story.
    This has been going on for a long time , I have a very good knowledge of George’s side of his story and we need Bernie’s to get to the truth.
    All I can say is that so far, truth is George stole and is still stealing money from all royalty and publishing income from everybody that has ever been associated on a music track with him.
    The twist will come from the bankruptcy papers you can show -or not- since George is claiming it never happened ….


    The world can’t wait Judy , We are all praying for Bernie.

  7. P.S. Some singers would or could also be members of AFTRA and they also have a recording agreement with labels : The AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Sound Recordings (a.k.a. the “Code”)

    Some musicians who sing regularly lead or harmony may be members of both the AFM and AFTRA.

    Yes. that complicates things a bit more when recording with labels who are signatory to both labor union agreements. Basically choices are made as to which agreement offers better benefits or fits the specific role in the recordings.



  8. There are several issues at play in determining a musicians role in a session recorded under the terms of the AFM’s PRLA recording collective bargaining agreement (The Phonograph Recored Labor Agreement). The label (record company) is the signatory not the band. The band have to be members in good standing with the AFM and the label must be a signatory to the PRLA. There are 2 main classifications of musicians in such sessions: 1- Royalty Artist or 2- Session musician. Band members are ‘usually’ signed by the label by way of being mentioned as band members in the label’s contract with the band, especially if they are co-writers of the band’s original material. Those band members signatures are on the contract as being partners in receiving shares of ‘artist royalties’ generated by sales of the recordings. Thus the classification : ‘Royalty Artist’ when these band members take part in sessions done under the terms of the AFM’s PRLA, they are paid as ‘royalty artists’ . Session musicians, who are not regular band members but are hired on a session to session basis, for example a cello or bassoon player coming in to play on one tune, are paid ‘per session’ for a minimum basic session scale or more, plus any extra time overtime, as per strict rates and conditions as set out in the PRLA. A well known example would be member of the Wrecking Crew, guitarist: Tommy Tedesco! Tommy had a column for many years in Guitar Player Magazine where he talked about a jungle or soundtrack or single session he was called to play on and would show the part or chart he had to read and record and how much time the session lasted and how much he got paid!

    These two modes of payment are totally different. Going any further into details is a wee bit complicated and we should talk sometime via Skype or phone to get through it all faster.

    Let me just say that both royalty and session players may ‘wear many hats’ if you will, during recordings. For the session players, there are hard and fast rules. For royalty musicians …. its quite complex as there are the other ‘composer royalties’, including or not, publishing and also corporate or partnership arrangements within the ‘act’. I use the term act because that’s the professional, business and ‘industry’ side of the ‘band’.

    A good basic reference that describes and gives examples of these types of issues is the series of books titled: ‘This Business of Music’, published and updated every few years by Billboard Publications.

    To go any further …. we need to talk!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *