Garry Shider, the longtime musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic whose funky guitar work, songwriting skills and musical arrangements for band leader George Clinton earned him a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at his home in Upper Marlboro, Md. He was 56.
Shider's son, Garrett, said his father had been diagnosed with brain and lung cancer in late March. He then briefly went on tour one last time but had to stop because of his failing health.
A New Jersey native born on July 24, 1953, Shider started his musical career as a young boy, performing mostly gospel music in churches in a group that included his brother and was overseen by their father. The band also played backup for many prominent gospel artists when they performed concerts in the area, but Shider's musical taste soon grew more diverse.
The teenager first met P-Funk mastermind Clinton in the late 1960s at a barbershop Clinton owned in Plainfield, N.J., where future P-Funk members would sing doo-wop for customers and counsel local youths. When he was 16, Shider and a friend went to Canada, where they formed a funk/rock band called United Soul, or "U.S."
Clinton helped produce some of United Soul's songs and eventually invited Shider to join P-Funk — a combination of the bands Parliament and Funkadelic.
Shider soon became a mainstay of Clinton's wide-ranging musical family, and eventually served as its musical director and co-wrote some of Parliament-Funkadelic's biggest hits. He became known to millions of fans as "Starchild" or "Diaperman," the latter because of the loincloth he often wore onstage.
"Thank you, Garry for all you have done. Forever funkin' on!" Clinton noted in a message posted on his website.
Shider first appeared on Funkadelic's 1971 album "Maggot Brain" and Parliament's second album "Up for the Down Stroke," and joined P-Funk for good in 1972. He became one of Clinton's most trustedlieutenants, co-writing and providing vocals on some of the band's biggest hits — including "Atomic Dog," "Cosmic Slop," "Can You Get to That" and "One Nation Under the Groove."
He also toured with P-Funk for many years and was still considered an active member of the group.
Shider's survivors include his wife, Linda.