R&B guitarist Phelps "Catfish" Collins, a veteran of James Brown's J.B.'s, Parliament-Funkadelic and his younger brother William "Bootsy" Collins' Rubber Band, passed away at his home in Cincinnati on Aug. 6 at the age of 66, following a long battle with cancer.
Bootsy Collins issued a statement saying that "my world will never be the same" without his brother. "Be happy for him, he certainly is now and always has been the happiest young fellow I ever met on this planet."
Bootsy's wife, Patti Collins, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that Catfish "was a father figure to my husband. He's the reason why Bootsy is who he is."
Catfish, eight years Bootsy's senior, was the one who suggested his brother put bass strings on an old guitar, and the two were part of a Cincinnati group called the Pacemakers that became the rhythm section for the city's famed King Records label. James Brown recruited the Collins brothers, and starting in 1968 they played on Brown classics such as "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "Give It Up or Turnit a Loose," "Super Bad" and "Soul Power" as the J.B.'s.
By 1971 they had left Brown's employ, going on to form the House Guests and then joining Funkadelic in 1972 for albums such as "America Eats Its Young" and "Cosmic Slop." Catfish remained with the group -- which also lost guitarist Garry Shider to cancer in June -- until the mid-'80s.
"(Catfish) was a hell of a musician," keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who played with the guitarist in Funkadelic, told the Enquirer. "People seem to forget that the rhythm guitar behind James Brown was Catfish's creative genius, and that was the rhythm besides Bootsy's bass."
George Clinton alumnus Dumine DePorres seconded that notion, telling Billboard.com that Catfish's particular niche was playing "the subliminal stuff, those inferred parts that you might not be able to hear right out front but without it there's a big hole. It's like the glue that holds the glue together."
After Funkadelic, Catfish went on to play in Bootsy's Rubber Band and also recorded with Deee-Lite, Freekbass and H-Bomb. In 2007 he reunited with Bootsy, Worrell, Clyde Stubblefield and others for the soundtrack to the Judd Apatow comedy "Superbad." A number of Cincinnati musicians gathered to play a tribute show for Catfish during July at a club in Roselawn, Ohio.
Funeral arrangements have not been announced for Catfish, who had two children.