Bassist Tamah (left) and Guitar Sallye AkA The Bootsy Girls Photo Credit: Brian Carter for Sentinel
FUNK ‘ROUND L.A., PART 2
The Bootsy Girls: Sisters for the Cause of Funk
By Joy Childs
Sentinel Contributing Writer
In Part 1 of this series, we reported that, earlier this month Bootsy Collins appeared at the Grammy Museum in connection with the release of his latest CD, “Tha Funk Capital of the World.” At the end of that article, we noted that The Bootsy Girls were in the house that night.
Now in Part 2, we focus on Gtr Sallye & Tamah/aka Bootsy-Girls.
Sallye’s the sister who plays guitar and occasionally the ukulele. Tamah (pronounced ta-MAH) plays bass. They sing, they do some hollarin’ but no cussin’ or fightin’, they dance. And they’re on a passionate mission: to share their love of music in order to empower, inspire and lift the self-esteem of girls all around the world-whether that means singing or dancing-or jamming on the one.
At first called the Nu Family Band to refer to their band when it consisted of their friends and family members, Gtr Sallye and Tamah became “The Bootsy Girls” when the funkmeister himself crowned them so at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show this past January.
Tamah (T) begins by telling LAS: We’ve been friends with Bootsy for many years-
Sallye (S): -for 20 years!
T: They called and told us to go to the NAMM Show with him. He wanted us to perform by him doing the autograph session [at the Warwick Basses booth]-and he wanted us to play the guitar-and we started playing that groove, which now is “JB: Still the Man (featuring Rev. Al Sharpton)” [i.e., track 4 on Bootsy Collins’ CD.] And Bootsy heard the background … and after that everybody kept saying ‘The Bootsy Girls’ are here!
[So] it really started in 2011, January, at NAMM when he asked us to wear these glasses and tee shirts.
LAS: You’re from Chicago?
S: Originally born and raised in Hyde Park.
LAS: Did your parents play instruments?
T: No, I’m the baby and she (Sallye) is right over me and we decided we wanted to be singers-
S: But our dad is from Louisiana, and my mother was Mississippi and I think that’s where the feeling for the music is in us-from my dad’s side of the family.
T: But we were always the ‘rebels’-back then, it was ‘the Black sheep of the family’ or whatever-we were wild … I think we were inspired by the Jackson 5. That’s when we started to really wanna play the instruments.
LAS: So did you just one day pick up the guitar or did someone inspire you to [pick up the guitar]?
S: At 16 we were very aggressive. In high school we formed an organization called the Robert Taylor Youth Foundation (after the Robert Taylor Projects where they lived). What happened was that there was a social worker who worked across the street from the Robert Taylor Projects. He put together a talent show … and we were in it and … we sang in that. And he said, ‘Well, I’ll teach you guys to play those guitars.’
LAS: Did you have a group name?
S&T: We were called ‘Sisters for the Cause’! (All laugh)
S: And we wore Afro wigs! … Well, James Brown really inspired us. He had that song ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud,’ and all the kids in the neighborhood started wearing their Afros and was proud to be Black!
LAS: So what form did that inspiration take, what did it look like?
S: It was like, I can be all I wanna be and go far in my life-
T: He inspired us to be strong-like in ‘JB: Still the Man,’ when Al Sharpton talks about it. ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud. He inspired us to love ourselves.
LAS: Did it show up in your music?
S. Yeah, it’s there. Obviously James Brown and Sly Stone-our music that we write, it has it in it.
LAS: Other than James Brown, who were some of your early influences?
Both: Bootsy Collins, of course!
T: And Sly … We can’t say any females ’cause it was always the guys. There wasn’t a lot a females . . . [so] I would say singlehandedly Sly Stone and the Family Stone … We knew him [through a family member] so we were around him in our early 20s quite a bit back then, so he inspired us … Of course, James Brown … and then a little later we actually had an opportunity to meet him …
Tamah then described that at a Sidney Miller [publisher of Black Radio Exclusive] party, the girls were taken up to James Brown’s hotel room and, when they were introduced to him, Sallye screamed ‘Hey!’ and ‘Hit me!’ like James Brown and started singing his songs and spinning around and around and did the splits-and she couldn’t get up!
T: And he laughed so hard! That was our one meeting with him.
LAS: What about other artists?
It turns out the girls played with MC Hammer when he was on top, on the “Arsenio Hall Show” in an all-girl band-until MC Hammer went broke, they say. After that, in 1991 they were inspired by Bootsy to go to Europe. Traveling to Germany, France, England, Netherlands, the girls learned how much their mixed-race European audiences really appreciated funk.
S: Over there they want the real funk, the real soul, whereas here they want fake funk … generic funk! …
LAS: When did you first meet Bootsy?
S: About 20 years ago … at the Grammy show backstage. We were playing with MC Hammer.
T: And we met him and we stayed in touch. And he came to L.A. for the MTV awards, and we saw him up there and that’s when we exchanged numbers … This is a few months later. He came over to our apartment and we played guitar for him to let him know we can play!
S: And he liked our style because we considered our music ‘soul da pop’ … He called us ‘twin sisters’ … and said ‘Ya’ll funny!’ We’re urban ‘LaVerne and Shirley.’ He was laughing at the twin sisters.
LAS: Tell me about track 4 [of Bootsy’s CD] and how Al Sharpton became involved in ‘JB: He’s Still the Man’?
T: In 2010 at NAMM when Bootsy heard that track, he invited us up to his hotel with his wife (Patti Collins), and we played that song. And we recorded that song … and then three months later he came back in town and said, ‘Look, the song’s not right,’ and he took us to a studio in Santa Monica and our friend Frankie ‘Kash’ Waddy (Parliament-Funkadelic drummer) was there. Frankie Waddy’s wonderful!
S: We been knowing him for a long time.
T: We knew him before Bootsy. .. we background sang one of George’s albums (“The Electric Spanking of War Babies”), one of his last three … We used to background sing on a lot of Bootsy’s stuff. He used us as background singers. He didn’t start wanting us as players until we wrote “JB: Still the Man” … and he said ‘I’ma take it back to Cincinnati and I’ma work on it . . . and put Al (Sharpton) on it-I wanna use Al Sharpton on the rap (part). We said ‘Cool!’
LAS: So let’s get to what you’re doing now to ensure that sisters and soul and funk continue.
T: Now that we got The Bootsy Girl thing –
LAS: Tell me what exactly that means-‘The Bootsy Girl thing’?
T: We’re partnering with Bootsy’s wife, Patti Collins, ’cause she’s the #1 Bootsy Girl, and launching a movement called The Bootsy Girls!
LAS: Is she a musician?
T: No, but she’s a Bootsy Girl.
S: You’re a Bootsy Girl! (LAS laughs). That means any female that’s looking to make things better-
T: _to help our little girls. Because their self-esteem has been low-for decades. We wanna raise them up-
S: Through songs … I teach guitar lessons …
T: So we wanna get that movement going for kids all over the world.
S: And my thing to tell them is, like the army says, ‘Be all you can be.’
LAS: You said something to me earlier about a ‘skirt’?
S: Yeah. The mothership has landed and is wearing a skirt!
LAS: Is that part of the Bootsy Girl thing or-
T: Yeah … Tell them to stay strong, be strong. Promote that image. Our plans is we’re gonna do a documentary and interview some little girls-from all over the world … So if we can inspire kids to pick up an instrument and be all you can be in whatever you doing-and you have to practice!
LAS: What’s up next for The Bootsy Girls?
S: We have a new album coming out June 2, 2011-‘Adventures in LaLa Land’-and a funny video to go with it. We’re very excited about it. The songs will be available on Itunes and Amazon. Just go to Web sites:
LAS: And if people want to support you in your cause, where can they go?
S & T: www.facebook.com/gtr.sallye.tamah.bootsygirls