Personalities | Eddie Hazel | The Hero of Funk | Guitar Heroes

Eddie Hazel (1950–92) was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey. He played guitar and sang in church. At the age of 12, he met Billy ‘Bass’ Nelson, and the pair sang and played guitar together.

In 1967 the Parliaments, a Plainfield-based doo-wop band headed by George Clinton, hit the charts with ‘I Wanna Testify’. Clinton recruited Nelson for the backup band, and Hazel joined after a stint playing with George Blackwell.

On tour with the Parliaments, Hazel met and befriended Tiki Fulwood, who replaced the Parliaments’ drummer. Nelson, Hazel and Fulwood became the core of Funkadelic, which became the name of the full group when Clinton faced legal trouble over the name Parliaments. The doo-wop of the Parliaments morphed into the hard-rock soul of Funkadelic. The group added Tawl Ross (rhythm guitar) and Bernie Worrell (keyboards). In short order the group recorded Funkadelic (1970), and Free Your Mind ... And Your Ass Will Follow (1970). The title track of the third album, Maggot Brain (1971), featuring Hazel’s 10-minute guitar solo, would cement his reputation.

However, drug problems led Clinton to suspend Hazel’s salary, and the guitarist had only a small role on America Eats Its Young (1972). Hazel began working with the Temptations, appearing on 1990 (1973) and A Song For You (1975). In 1974 Hazel was convicted on drug and assault charges, and Funkadelic replaced him with Michael Hampton. Hazel’s guitar still dominated Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974), which had been recorded before his arrest. Although Hazel returned to Funkadelic, his role was again reduced. He was completely absent from One Nation Under A Groove (1978), Funkadelic’s most commercially successful album.

In 1977 Hazel recorded a solo album, Game, Dames And Guitar Thangs, which featured members of Parliament-Funkadelic. In December 1992, Hazel died from internal bleeding and liver failure after a long struggle with stomach problems. Three collections of Hazel’s unreleased recordings included the 1994 four-song EP ‘Jams From The Heart’ (which later became bonus material on a re-release of Game, Dames And Guitar Thangs), 2000’s Rest In P and 2006’s Eddie Hazel At Home.

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