News Column

Thump Daddy kicks off Live on the Levee series

May 22, 2014

By Zack Harold, Charleston Daily Mail, W.Va.

May 22--The key to playing funk, Donald Payne says, is feeling.

"Funk is a feeling. It's a vibe. It's something natural that you've got to have. It comes straight from the heart. You've got to feel that," Payne, 58, said.

Payne, founder of the Columbus, Ohio-based band Thump Daddy, knows the feeling well.

The band will kick off Charleston's annual "Live on the Levee" concert series this Friday at Haddad Riverfront Park along Kanawha Boulevard. The concert begins at 6:30 p.m. with opening act Downtown King.

Payne started playing bass at 14, inspired by early funk pioneers like Parliament-Funkadelic. He studied their records closely, trying to learn everything he could about the music.

"When I listened to the instruments and bass lines, I imagine that would be me," he said. "I always wanted to be part of it."

Payne started touring with Walter "Junie" Morrison, former keyboardist for the Ohio Players, after he graduated from high school in 1975. That led to work with Parliament guitarist Glen Goins a few years later.

Those gigs didn't provide the benefits like health insurance or retirement, however, so Payne found a job as a maintenance worker at Ohio University in 1979 and began playing with local bands.

He started Thump Daddy in 2004 after returning from a six-month tour with George Clinton.

Although he had always been a sideman, Payne decided it was time to start his own group.

"At somewhere along the line, you've got to draw your line and say you've got to do it for yourself," he said.

The band borrows a lot from the funk groups Payne grew up studying, from the thumping bass lines and syncopated drum breaks to members' outlandish costumes.

Payne often takes the stage in a top hat, marching band jacket and loud patterned pants. He said he dresses in costumes because that's what the original funk groups did.

"That's to enhance what you're doing," he said. "It's all about a party. You want to make people feel like they're having fun."

Thump Daddy's performance this Friday is the first of 2014's "Live on the Levee" series. The popular free concert series brings a new band to the stage each Friday from late May until the end of August.

Live on the Levee started in 2004 at the suggestion of Charleston city council president Tom Lane. The concert series has become increasingly popular over the years, especially after 2011's addition of a large canopy covering the stage and seating area. "It's a great way to showcase Charleston," said Adam Harris, who sits on the series' booking committee.

He said concert goers will see lots of bands making their first appearance on the Live on the Levee stage this year.

Visit for a complete schedule.

Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-4830 or Follow him on Twitter at


(c)2014 the Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, W.Va.)

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Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)

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