By Joel Francis
The Daily Record
There are several different versions of the story how the six-piece, North Carolina funk outfit Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band came up with their name.
Guitarist J.P. Miller’s favorite rendition involves a fortune telling machine in Las Vegas.
“You know those fortune telling machines where you put a couple quarters in and the guy tells you your fortune?” Miller asks. “Well we found one that wasn’t plugged in. After we got it hooked back up, we put our money in, only instead of giving us a fortune the little piece of paper it spit out just said ‘Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band.’ So there you go.”
The Booty Band has seen several changes in the 11 years since, including numerous line-up changes, different front men and cross-state relocation to Asheville, N.C. Early shows were known to feature belly dancers and bring their own dancing pole.
“Back in the day we had a lot of crazy stuff,” Miller said. “I don’t want to say we were a gimmick band, but these days we put all our focus on the music.”
As a guitar player, Miller grew up emulating Jimi Hendrix and Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel. He said each band member brings his own backgrounds and influences to the ensemble. This means at any moment the music could show flavors of reggae, hip hop, jazz or ‘80s pop.
“Funk is always the focus, but we’ll do whatever it takes to keep people having fun and dancing,” Miller said. “We go nonstop from the first song to the last. We don’t give people the chance to stop dancing.”
Veterans of two Wakarusa music festivals at Clinton Lake and this year’s festival in Arkansas, the Booty Band drop their infectious funk on the Bottleneck in Lawrence, Kan. next Wednesday.
“A lot of places we don’t know what to expect,” Miller said. “We’ll often go to a club we’ve never played before and the dance floor will be full because people saw us play a festival or city event or cruise or whatever.”
The tour’s final dates in Asheville and Key West, Fla. around Thanksgiving will celebrate the release of the Booty Band’s fourth album.
“Our last album was a live album recorded in 2008, ‘Greatest Hips Live, Vol. II,’” Miller said. “The idea is to alternate between studio and live albums, so this one we recorded in a Miami studio,”
Miller said the group wanted a warmer analog sound for the album so they recorded directly to tape. This process eliminated the possibility of overdubs and meant the band had to put in plenty of practice so they wouldn’t be wasting expensive tape and studio time.
“We’ll be doing these new cuts all summer on the road,” Miller said. “It’s tightened us up a lot as a band, and people can tell.”
Funk fell out of favor for a while, but Miller is glad to see the genre regaining popularity.
“If you look online, a lot of bands use ‘funk’ in their description. It’s become kind of a buzzword,” Miller said. “Funk also makes you feel good, so why not?”