Bernie Worrell and Talking Heads

Hey y’all!

I’m currently working on a podcast about the life and musical career of Michael “Busta” Jones, some of y’all may have heard of him from his bass playing as a touring member of Talking Heads, alongside the keyboard GOAT Bernie Worrell. I’m trying to figure out more about how Bernie joined Talking Heads. In a book by the Drummer for Talking Heads’, Chris Frantz, he mentions that Bernie had never heard of Talking Heads before being asked to join the band by Busta Jones. But in other places I’ve heard that Busta had never met Bernie before joining, and that it was actually Talking Heads’ keyboardist, Jerry Harrison, who recruited Bernie. I don’t have to many sources where Bernie even talks about his time with Talking Heads, and most mention an interview in Wax Poetic, like this Rolling Stone Article, but I can’t find a copy to read online anywhere and don’t really have the cash to buy a new copy right now, so that seems like a dead end.

But I’d like to figure out how Bernie ended up in Talking Heads, and I’d figure the people on here know more than anyone about P-Funk. Does anybody know how Bernie joined the band? Or maybe know more about this Wax Poetic interview?

Thanks in advance for any help!

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Hi @SlipperyDude! Bernie talks a little about Talking Heads in that Wax Poetics interview. Not much, but he mentions that it was Jerry Harrison that called him. Here’s a clipping of that part.

Bernie also say the same thing in this 2002 interview:

ID: You play with a lot of groups. For example, the Talking Heads. How did that come about?

WOO: Well, they heard I left P-Funk. Jerry Harrison called me up one day. They had known about us for a long time — Chris and Tina even tried to sneak into a show once. So Jerry said, would you be interested? And I said, sure, but I don’t really know who you are…

So, we met at Sigma Sound. I listened to some of their stuff. I saw how they worked. I had an idea already what they were trying to do, enlarge the group, get some black players in there. David is a genius.

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Bernie had been approached by Jerry Harrison for the recording of his 1981 album ‘The Red and the Black’. It was probably Nona Hendryx who introduced Jerry to Bernie. After that, Bernie was part of the Talking Heads. In 1979 Bernie Worrell and Tyrone Lampkin collaborated on Busta Jones’ solo album, which was released on Spring Records in 1980. Bernie probably took several people to the Talking Heads including Busta and Nona Hendryx and Dolette McDonald and later also ex Brides of Funkenstein Lynn Mabry.

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Alrighty, so Jerry it is! This lines up more or less with what I know, so it makes sense :slight_smile:

Hmmm, interesting! I’m currently working on a podcast about the life and musical career of Busta, and I’ve talked a bit to Dolette, according to her and this Rolling Stone interview, it was Busta who invited her into the group, and I have some old newspaper articles that confirm Steve Scales was also asked to join the band by Busta.

I know Bernie was already touring with Talking Heads in 1980, first performing live with the band at Heatwave Festival in Canada in August of that year. That being said, I don’t know much about the recording for “The Red and the Black”, so that could’ve easily started in 1979, and Jerry would’ve been the first to meet with Bernie.

I’m very interested that you brought up Busta’s solo album, even some hardcore fans of Talking Heads don’t know he had one. Do you possibly have more information about how Busta met Tyrone? I saw Bernie’s album credit, but I mostly chocked it up to Bernie being so prolific it might’ve been by chance the 2 had worked together before Talking Heads.

Busta Jones history goes back to 1973. He can be heard on Brian Eno’s debut album ‘Here come the warm jets’ as Busta Cherry Jones. He then played on Chris Jagger’s 1974 album. He became most famous in the band ‘The Sharks’ that also included Chris Spedding. In 1978 he went from New Wave to Disco Funk with the Bombers and Gino Soccio. After a few more projects, his slo album was released in 1980. Bernie Worrell brought Tyrone Lampkin along. That same year he had a project called ‘The Escalators’ that featured both Jerry Harrison and Dolette McDonald and that’s the link to the Talking Heads. Busta JKones passed away in 1995 at just 44 years of age. To this day his solo album has never been released on CD.

Hmmm, I guess I’m still at a loss as to how Bernie knew Busta. I know Bernie was big in the scene, but I have no idea why he would play on such a small project like Busta’s album without having some sort of connection beforehand. Especially since before 1980, Busta was an outsider to the New York scene, like you said, he had been playing in Canadian bands for several years by that point. So why would Bernie work with Busta, especially since this was before the 2 of them shared the stage with Talking Heads?

I’m not entirely sure when in 1980 the Escalators EP came out, but I also know that same year Busta and Jerry also worked on a project called Double, with Jerry playing keys on the an album Busta produced alongside his Bombers friends, like Walter Rossi. Which sort of muddies the water in terms of did Jerry meet Busta and ask him to join Escalators, or did Busta meet Jerry and ask him to work on Double?

Good news about Busta’s album though, while I couldn’t track down any master tapes, I was able to rip my vinyl copy and upload it to YouTube, which you can find here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yINsO70oDPY&t=1492s

Maybe you could get some info from Judie Worrell (Bernie’s wife). You can find her over at fb.