Funky Worm

Album: Pleasure (1972)
Charted: 15

Songfacts®:

  • In this quirky track from the R&B/funk band the Ohio Players, a funky worm wriggles out of the ground to the delight of the granny who's narrating the action. Sax player/vocalist Clarence "Satch" Satchell sings along with her commentary. The granny is voiced by Walter "Junie" Morrison, the group's keyboardist/lead vocalist who developed the character during the band's live gigs. He explained a 2015 interview with Red Bull Music Academy: "Early in my career with Ohio Players, we played a lot of nightclubs and had a closer interaction with the audience. As a result, we would do skits to bring ourselves even closer to the people in that setting. One of these so-called 'skits' involved the character I created of a young boy with a very 'dirty mouth.' That 'boy' character was using what later became the 'Granny' voice on 'Funky Worm.' From young to old in an instant!"
  • Morrison's ARP synthesizer solos, which produced a distinct whining sound, became hugely influential in the West Coast hip-hop scene of the '80s and '90s and were sampled by a number of rap acts, including N.W.A. (on "Dopeman" and "Gangsta, Gangsta"), Ice Cube (on "Wicked" and "Ghetto Bird"), and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince (on "Boom! Shake the Room"), among others.

    Morrison explained how he found the synthesizer and brought it to the studio: "I would travel all over the world looking for tech to use on our tracks. As time would have it, I found an ARP Soloist in a shop somewhere in NYC. Immediately, it sung to me and I heard an Arabian-style riff that had 'worm' written all over it. I bought this synth and went into the studio with it. During the session, I remember everyone staring through the control room glass with puzzled looks on their faces, that was, until I recorded the Granny voice to cement the track together. It was lots of fun and the rest is history."
  • This was the Ohio Players' first major hit, peaking at #15 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. It was featured on their third studio album, Pleasure, which was released through the Detroit-based Westbound Records.
  • Tying in with the sadomasochistic theme of their previous album cover for Pain, the cover image for Pleasure captures bald-headed Black model Pat Evans with wrists chained above her head. In the previous image, Pat wore a studded black bikini and wielded a whip - a concept she was not prepared for. "They didn't describe what I was going to do, they just came out with this little bikini and I thought, 'Oh my God, I am in trouble'," she explained in the documentary series Unsung. But she knew the edgy images would get people's attention. "The records sold because of the covers," she said. "They sold because it's a woman with a bald head, and no one had a bald head in those days."
  • Morrison parted ways with the Ohio Players when the group signed with Mercury Records in 1974, with their guitarist, Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, taking his place as lead singer. Morrison pursued a solo career before joining Parliament-Funkadelic.
  • This was used in the movies Next Friday (2000) and The Wash (2001). It was also used in the TV series The Chi in the 2019 episode "Past Due."
  • This was featured in the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

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