One man’s opinion on the best players
Did you hear about the bassist who was so out of tune his band noticed?
Bass players have been getting a bad rap for decades. All you have to do is ask one. In all seriousness, bass players are a big part of most bands, and a good rhythm section is vital to a band’s success. Most of the bass players I have watched are not showmen. They just play. That being said, who is your favorite bass player? If you are like me, you have some from different genres. My wife Kenda’s favorite is Paul McCartney. It would be hard to argue that. Ringo Starr told Larry King that McCartney was/is “the most melodic bass player in rock history.”
Here are some of my favorites:
■ It would be impossible to talk about blues without the mention of Willie Dixon. Some call him the father of modern blues. Dixon wrote more than 500 songs in his lifetime including, “Hoochie Coochie Man,” “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster,” “My Babe” and “Spoonful.” He was employed by the Chess brothers for their Chess Records label. Dixon was a session player for Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Etta James, Little Walter and many other musicians who recorded for Chess. Session musicians Donald “Duck” Dunn and Willie Weeks are also some of my favorite blues bass players.
■ From the blues-rock genre, I would have to list John McVie from Fleetwood Mac at the top. McVie was a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. While in that band he played with Eric Clapton, Mick Fleetwood and Peter Green. He would later form Fleetwood Mac with Green and Fleetwood. He has been the bass guitarist for Fleetwood Mac since their inception. He and Fleetwood make up one of the all-time great rhythm sections. The late Berry Oakley from the Allman Brothers is another one of my favorite blues-rock bassists. His shining moment was on the “Live At the Fillmore East” recording. Oakley and drummer Butch Trucks were so tuned in together that they almost stole that show. Jack Bruce from Cream, Tommy Shannon from Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Band and Taj Mahal are some of my other favorites.
■ When it comes to rock and roll, with all due respect to Kenda, John Entwistle from The Who is my favorite rock bassist. He reinvented the way that the bass guitar was used in rock music, turning it into a “lead guitar” at times. McCartney would also be a personal favorite, as I will defer to Ringo’s statement. Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones would be many folks’ favorite. He is also one of mine. I also really like Phil Lynott from Thin Lizzy, who is also one of rock music’s greatest singers. Others I like include Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones, Howie Epstein and Ron Blair for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Timothy B. Schmit from Poco and the Eagles, Mel Schacher from Grand Funk Railroad, and Conrad Lozano from Los Lobos.
Carol Kaye, who was a session musician and a part of the famous studio group the Wrecking Crew, is considered by many musicians to be the greatest rock and roll bass player of all. She played bass for the Beach Boys, The Doors, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Sonny & Cher, Joe Cocker, Ray Charles, Simon & Garfunkel, Frank Zappa, Herb Alpert and many more. She is credited on more than 10,000 recordings.
Jazz bass players should have their own category. Ray Brown, Charles Mingus, Jaco Pastourious, Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten would be in my top 10.
Who is your favorite bass player?