Dirty Muggs: An Energetic, Funky Cover Band With A Starlit Past
"Patch" sat down with a few members of the band before their show at 9 p.m. Saturday at Sybergs.
If you were in Forest Park the first week of October, or anywhere within a one-mile radius, you might have heard something funky coming from the Missouri History Museum.
More than 3,000 people came to Forest Park to see the Dirty Muggs’ Parliament Funkadelic Tribute show. The band dressed the part with fake afros, top hats and bold costumes.
“Everyone was talking about how that was the best one (show),” Muggs bassist Edgar "Boni" Hinton said. “Acres and acres of people stopping to see it.”
The Muggs blasted old school funk songs such as "Starchild" and "Cosmic Slop."
The Dirty Muggs play a range of funk, hip-hop, pop, and soul for every generation. With a set list of more than 300 songs, they cover everything from Sly and the Family Stone to Snoop Dogg.
Though the band is only a year old, guitarist and vocalist Gary "Dee Dee" James said it has a large following.
While the group is made up of talented artists, many of the band members said it’s the band’s energy and presence that make the show.
James said the band wanted to recreate the experience that he and Hinton had seeing shows in the '70s. That includes choreographed dance moves for almost every song.
“That’s a lost art really. Bands used to do that back in the day at certain points, but you don’t see that often,” James said. “Bands playing instruments and moving and doing the whole thing, it takes a lot to do that.”
The Dirty Muggs also like to shake up their set list. Because the Muggs know so many different types of songs, they can play to the crowd’s mood, Hinton said.
“That’s what makes it interesting, because this particular band has been able to play all different crowds and be loved without actually changing ourselves too much,” Hinton said.
A good example of this is the band’s debut at a college couple’s wedding in Grafton, IL.
The 21-year-old bride’s mother asked the Muggs to play at her daughter’s wedding reception.
James said the reception was full of crazy young college kids who really got into the music.
“They did even a mosh pit at one point,” Hinton said. “They were crowd surfing. They did everything,” James said.
As an older guy, James said he was surprised to see how much the younger crowd enjoyed their music.
Hometown Boys Rocket To Fame, Come Back To The City
With the exception of Clay, all the band members graduated high school in University City.
James and Hinton said they met each other in grade school, but really got to know each other through Hinton’s father’s landscaping business.
“As a kid that was like one of the first jobs I had. His dad would get up and come over to my house at 6:30 in the morning and fight me to get up. And we’d be out there working, and we wouldn’t get home till it was dark,” James said.
Hinton and James started playing talent shows in University City when they were about 13 years old.
In the late '80s, James and Hinton started the band DeKrash, which eventually had several Top 40 hits.
James said shortly after DeKrash signed with Capitol Records, the band was asked to change its image in order to keep the record deal.
After that, the band lost its energy and hardcore vibe, James said.
“We liked jumped off of stuff and hanging from the rafters. It was great. The band was nuts,” James said. “We let them talk us into calming down.”
DeKrash broke up in 1992. When the band split, James went on to play with greats such as Bootsy Collins and George Clinton. He even toured with Paula Abdul.
The name Dirty Muggs was Bootsy Collins’ nickname for James.
“From my guitar playing cause it’s kind of dirty and kind of crazy," he said. "He just had that thing, where he looked at me and he was like, ‘You’re a dirty mug,’” James said.
James said the name stuck. Later when James told Collins about his new band, Collins told him to just call the band Dirty Muggs, and that name stuck, too.
Hinton started out playing with artists such Outkast and Goodie Mob. Hinton then went on to play and produce music in Europe in 1999.
He stayed there for the next 12 years of his life. He also dabbled in teaching guitar in Sweden at an international school.
Hinton and James never lost touch. When Hinton finally came back to St. Louis, James had just broken up with his band.
That was also about the time singer and frontman Justin Clay graduated from LeCordon Bleu culinary school and was finally ready to join the band.
Clay met James just a few years ago when the band he needed another guitarist. Clay became a star at age 10 when he signed with the band Teen 11.
When James wanted to start the Dirty Muggs last year, he said everything fell into place.
“I knew the guys I wanted to play with pretty much” James said. “I knew we would get a decent vibe going, something different.”
Muggs To Start Original Recordings
The band’s plan is to start recording Dirty Muggs original songs after the first of the year. James said the band wanted to secure itself financially before moving ahead.
All members of the band play for a living.
“I have graduated from LeCordon Bleu, but I’m not working anywhere as a chef,” Clay said. “This is what we do. This is what we live and breathe.”
Hinton said the band wanted to perfect the band's live performance first, just like the classic funk, pop, and rock bands in the '70s.
“They would make sure they were accomplished on live (performances) first. Then it’s much easier to take it to a record,” Hinton said. “Cause we’ll have more of a strategy of what’s working already live.”
As to how the record with sound, James was a little vague.
“I know it’s going to be danceable, and it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be cool,” James said.
James said the band also hopes to do more old school tributes like the one for Parliament Funkadelic in Forest Park.
Check out Dirty Muggs at 9 p.m. Saturday at Sybergs. Cover is $5 and 10 percent of the proceeds from the “Save the Ta-Tas Party” will go to help fight breast cancer.