TRUCKEE, Calif. — The original Meters played in May at The Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans for perhaps the final time, bassist George Porter Jr. said.
“As of today it looks like there may not be another chance for that band to play again but I never say never with that band with the original four guys,” said Porter, who plays Friday in Truckee with the 7 Walkers.
Meters bandleader Art “Papa Funk” Neville turns 75 this year. He left the stage at a 2011 Neville Brothers concert at the Crystal Bay Casino in a wheelchair.
“Myself and Art have the same manager and that manager has expressed that Art is not interested in doing any dates now,” Porter said. “Papa Funk has been out of his wheelchair for a while but I think he’s tired. Being on the road is very taxing no matter how comfortable you think you are when you are traveling. It’s just rough. I am 64 and this week alone we are doing four straight nights, four different cities.”
However, there is good news for Meters fans. The remaining three members, which include guitarist Leo Nocentelli and drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, will add a guest keyboardist and perform as the Metermen this fall at New York’s B.B. King Blues Club with Phish’s Page McConnell McDonald. Porter said he would like to invite keyboardists Herbie Hancock and/or George Duke to the Metermen.
George Clinton told Lake Tahoe Action his biggest influence was the Meters, pioneers in funk along with James Brown and Sly and the Family Stone. However, the Meters, which began as an instrumental band, failed to gain mainstream success from the late 1960s to 1977, despite collaborating with Paul McCartney and touring with the Rolling Stones.
Cyril Neville, who had joined the Meters in the mid-70s, Art and Aaron Neville went on to play with the Neville Brothers after the Meters first disbanded in 1977. In 1994, Art Neville, Porter, Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste Jr. formed the Funky Meters.
Musicians speak with reverance about the Meters, so it’s difficult to understand why the band wasn’t more successful. Porter cites syncopation.
“I would like to be able to say I could blame it on management,” Porter said. “But it could have been our own fault just because we were more of a syncopated kind of group and more of the world is straight-ahead music that can be dictated by the dance piece, although I find New Orleans music to be very danceable.”