Groove Masters: George Porter Jr. and The Meters


New Orleans music royalty and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient

George Porter Jr. founded The Meters in 1965 alongside Art Neville, Leo Nocentelli and Joseph Zigaboo Modeliste. Known as one of the progenitors of funk with Sly & The Family Stone and Parliament Funkadelic, The Meters carved their own place in history with syncopated polyrhythms and grooves inherited from New Orleans’ deep African musical roots. Porter’s heavy pockets and fat notes created the rubbery bass lines behind anthems like “Cissy Strut” off the group’s self-titled 1969 debut — The Meters’ greatest commercial single that reached No. 4 on the R&B chart and No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

The name itself hinted at their precision and rhythm.

Musical Style and Contributions (1960s-1970s):

The Meters introduced a distinctive sound that blended funk, R&B, soul, and New Orleans grooves. Their music was characterized by tight and infectious instrumental grooves that quickly caught the attention of music enthusiasts. Hits like “Cissy Strut” and “Sophisticated Cissy” showcased their innovative approach to rhythm and melody, laying the foundation for the future of funk music.

Critical and Commercial Success (Late 1960s-1970s):

The Meters became the house band for Allen Toussaint’s recording label and studio in New Orleans, backing records for Dr. John, Paul McCartney, Lee Dorsey, Earl King, Robert Palmer and Patty Labelle’s No. 1 hit, “Lady Marmalade”. They toured with the Rolling Stones and influenced everyone from Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys. Porter’s rhythmic work with drummer Modeliste became the building block behind scores from hip-hop artists A Tribe Called Quest, Run DMC, N.W.A. and Queen Latifah, all of whom sampled The Meters.

Their albums “The Meters” (1969), “Look-Ka Py Py” (1969), and “Struttin'” (1970) propelled them to prominence. While their initial success was felt mainly in their hometown of New Orleans, their influence spread far beyond. Despite not achieving mainstream commercial success, their impact on the music scene was undeniable.

Collaborations and Influence (1970s-1980s):

The Meters’ music was more than just notes and beats; it was a source of inspiration for generations to come. Their rhythmic grooves became the foundation for hip-hop, with countless artists sampling their tracks. This influence solidified their legacy as pioneers of the funk genre.

Solo Careers and Reunions (1980s-Present):

The band broke up in 1977, after Toussaint apparently claimed rights to the name, but reformed in the 1980s as the Funky Meters following an informal jam during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Porter went on to become a highly coveted session bassist. He notched studio sessions with David Byrne, Jimmy Buffet, Tori Amos and Taj Mahal; and live performances with John Scofield, Warren Haynes, members of the Grateful Dead and countless others.

After the band’s initial disbandment, George Porter Jr. pursued a solo career, showcasing his exceptional bass skills. The Meters experienced various reunions over the years, with special performances and tours celebrating their musical legacy. Their enduring popularity spoke volumes about their lasting impact.

Porter started his own long-term project, the Runnin’ Pardners, in 1990. The group’s studio releases include Funk This (2000) and Can’t Beat the Funk (2011), as well as live albums along the way. The current lineup features drummer Terrence “Groove Guardian” Houston, Michael Lemmler on keyboards and guitarist Chris Adkins.

Legacy and Recognition:

In 2018, The Meters received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a testament to their significant contributions to music. Their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the same year immortalized their place in music history.

In 2000, the original Meters lineup reunited for a one-night stand at the Warfield in San Francisco, and again in 2006 to headline Jazzfest in the wake of Katrina. The group sporadically performed as The Original Meters to elated crowds between 2012 and 2017. Art “Poppa Funk” Neville retired from performing in 2018 and passed away the following year. But the Meters’ music and their heritage of funk lives on in George Porter and his bandmates – past, present and future.

George Porter Jr. and The Meters revolutionized funk music with their unparalleled instrumental prowess and innovative grooves. Their journey from New Orleans to the global music stage left an indelible mark on the industry. Their legacy continues to live on through their timeless music and the artists they’ve inspired, solidifying their status as true legends of funk. Born and raised in the Crescent City, Porter, now in his 70s, calls New Orleans home to this day.  

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