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Jamerson/Kaye Controversy

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by bachlover, Mar 26, 2014.

  1. Here's part of an article addressing who actually played on
    some controversial Motown hits.

    Allan (Dr. Licks) Slutsky

    "Who Played "I Was Made to Love" Her?
    The Carol Kaye-James Jamerson Enigma"

    He was dead, buried, and forgotten. Even 99% of the bass players in the world had no idea who he was. But in the last seven years, his life and music have been center stage amidst an explosion of newspaper and magazine articles (more than 350 worldwide), a long overdue biography, and an upcoming film documentary. The Fender custom shop has made a signature bass in his name, flatwound strings have begun selling again, and in the last two years, the recording company that had employed him for a decade and a half finally gave him official recognition in the liner notes of 3 recent historical CD box sets.

    After three decades of obscurity, musicians and music lovers throughout the world were discovering the holy grail of the bass world-James Jamerson, the tormented genius whose earthquake-heavy bass lines fueled the Motown hit machine through the '60s and early '70s. Even though it was posthumous, he was finally getting his long overdue recognition.

    And everyone lived happily ever after, right? Not exactly. As Jamerson rose in prominence, his reputation was given a serious challenge through the media by another icon of the bass, Carol Kaye. Well aware of her claims through the years about her recording sessions with the Supremes, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, and other stars in Berry Gordy's stable, I contacted her in 1987 when I first began my research for STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN: The Life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson. This was done out of the highest regard for Carol's monumental achievements and contributions to the bass, and popular music in general. My intention was to find out first-hand what she had played on so I could avoid stepping on her toes.

    I had expected her to name a few significant hits but was floored when she laid claim to "Bernadette", "Reach Out", "Baby Love", "I Was Made to Love Her", "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Dancing In the Streets", "Can't Help Myself", and dozens of others Motown classics-in short, the majority of James Jamerson's signature performances.

    At that point I decided to rethink the entire project. If I could substantiate Carol's allegations, I would write the book about her instead of Jamerson. I expected my research to turn up pros and cons for each player's position, along with the usual grey areas you can expect when researching multiple claims to the same material. Instead, what I found was overwhelmingly conclusive evidence that James Jamerson played the tunes in question. Here are the facts that my research turned up:

    1) The songwriting-production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland attested to the fact that James Jamerson played on almost every one of their productions, and they never allowed others to produce songs that they had written. Brian Holland signed a notarized affidavit categorically stating that "Bernadette", "Reach Out", "Can't Help Myself", "Keep Me Hanging On", "Standing in the Shadows of Love", "Reflections", "Baby Love", "Back In My Arms Again", "Come See About Me", and "Can't Hurry Love", (all tunes claimed by Carol) were in fact, played by James Jamerson. Most damning was his statement that he had never even heard of Carol Kaye.

    2) Smokey Robinson who wrote or produced probably 30-40 percent of Motown's biggest hits also denied that she had any major role in the Motown story, and had no part at all on the songs in question.

    3) The performance credit that Carol has pursued with the greatest tenacity over the years is the bass part on Stevie Wonder's "I Was Made to Love Her". Hank Cosby who co-wrote, produced it, and who, in his own words, "was there every step of the way from the writing of the song to the day the 45's were shipped", vehemently denied any participation by Carol Kaye on this recording. Cosby added, "Fifty percent of the song was James Jamerson's bass line. No one played like that but Jamerson." Cosby also signed an affidavit similar to Brian Holland's attesting to Jamerson's performance.
  2. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Is it news? It seems to me that this info has been available for years.
  3. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I've never heard of either one of them what band are they in?
    Stealth Fighter and rumblinbass like this.
  4. Turock

    Turock Supporting Member

    Apr 30, 2000
    No, it's not news. In fact, it's brought up every time Carol Kay is mentioned in a thread.
  5. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Ancient history.

    First saw this etched on stone tablets.
  6. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    This is like the Jaco threads, bound to show up every couple weeks or so.;)
  7. I was going to quote my post in a reply to a thread on the Ray Charles post in response to someone who mentioned they saw Kaye's taking credit for the Motown stuff. Rather than hijack the thread thought I'd just post it as a topic despite the lack of originality. Chances are some TBers haven't seen it anyway.
    Steelpulz likes this.
  8. davidhilton

    davidhilton Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    Both played harmonica for the Beatles...
    Steelpulz likes this.
  9. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    Chromatic harmonicas, sir!
  10. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.

    They claimed to play harmonica for The Beatles.........
  11. Actually that was Rod Stewart.
  12. gary m

    gary m

    Jan 17, 2011
    Mid -Atlantic
    Interesting thread. I always thought Carol Kaye spent most of her recording life during that period in LA as part of the Wrecking Crew working with the Beach Boys and others. The only other bassist I've heard of associated with Motown's 60's recordings besides Jamerson is Bob Babbitt -- and I'm sure there are others I'm not familiar with. I take correction well, so don't hesitate to educate me if I need it.

    Carol Kaye on a Motown session? In my opinion, possible but not likely.
  13. jallenbass

    jallenbass Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 17, 2005
    Bend, Oregon
    Berry Gordy moved Motown to LA at some point but I don't remember when.
  14. Here's "Carol's Side of The Story" from the same author:

    *********Point-Counterpoint: Carol's Side of the Story**********

    1) The Politics of Race and Gender-Carol contends that Motown was afraid to admit that a white female bassist was the driving force behind some of their biggest hits. They wanted to push a black male agenda.

    There are two faults with this argument. First of all, when it came to musicians, Motown had no racial or gender bias. They were all faceless cogs to them. Regardless of whether they were black, white, female, male, or Martian, they weren't going to get any recognition-period! It was a star driven phenomena and the company never gave the slightest thought to publicizing background figures. In addition, the Motown studio band (which was called the Funk Brothers) was not exclusively black. Guitarists Joe Messina and Dennis Coffey, percussionist Jack Brokensha, arranger Dave Van dePitte, and bassist Bob Babbit, who also played quite a few important Motown dates, were all white.

    2) Improvised vs. Written Parts - Her claim to "Reach Out" is based upon her contention that "discerning musicians can hear that the parts weren't improvised. It was a written part". James Jamerson regularly improvised and sight read parts of that complexity. Part of his genius was that he could take a written part and make it sound as if it was his. Regardless of this argument, I have a photocopy of the original Union contract from the "Reach Out" session. It's dated July 6, 1966 (the year of the tune's release), it lists James Jamerson as the bassist (for which he received the princely sum of $61.00), and Detroit's Hitsville studio is indicated as the place where it was recorded. Carol herself admits that she never recorded in Detroit.

    3) The West Coast Connection-Carol maintains that a great deal of Motown's output was being cut on the West Coast in Los Angeles.

    That is true, but don't forget that Motown also had acts like Tony Martin, James Darren, and Soupy Sales signed to their label. There were also various Broadway and Las Vegas style orchestrated albums produced like the the Temptations in a Mellow Mood and The Four Tops on Broadway, not to mention the constant demand for filler material on albums. There was plenty of work to go around and Detroit could not possibly handle all of it. Frank Wilson who produced hits for Motown in both Detroit and Los Angeles supports Carol's claim that she worked numerous sessions for the company. However, he qualifies it by stating, "They used her a lot but not on the hard core R&B stuff. That stuff came out of Detroit. They didn't like her sound for R&B because she played with a pick. It didn't have that fat round sound that Jamerson got with his fingers."

    4) "I Was Made to Love Her"-According to Carol, this tune was recorded at Armin Steiner's studio and she recalls "I didn't like the final written riff that I played high up in unison with the horns. You can also hear where I was scuffling a bit with open strings a couple of times".

    Now it starts to get complicated. First of all, the detailed studio log that Carol kept does not support her position. The log lists every date she played from 1963-1971. She painstakingly listed artists, studios, record labels, contractors and arrangers on each date. "I Was Made to Love Her" was released in 1967 which means it was cut in '66 or '67. There are no listings for a session at Steiner's or a Stevie Wonder date during that time span.

    As far as "scuffling" around, the performance is perfect. Don't trust my ears. Trust the auditory ability of one of the world's most highly regarded bassists-lifelong Jamerson devotee, Anthony Jackson. He couldn't hear what she was talking about either. The "final written riff played in unison with the horns" argument also is problematic. "I Was Made To Love Her" is rhythm section and strings. There are no horns on that record.

    5) Ask My Friends-Carol asked me to talk to Gene Page, Jerry Steinholtz, Earl Palmer, and some of the other studio musicians who played the West Coast Motown sessions with her. She felt they would back up her story.

    I didn't just call a few of them. I talked to every one she recommended, naming the songs in question and telling them about Carol's claims. Arranger Gene Page immediately burst out laughing and said, "She said that? No way . . . never. That stuff was all Jamerson". Percussionist Steinholtz remembered playing Motown sessions with Carol but that was as much as he could remember. The closest I got to her viewpoint was with veteran R&B session drummer Earl Palmer who bristled at my suggestion that perhaps they played the demo versions of the songs in question. "Hell no!", he countered. "We weren't playing demos. We were playing hits". The only problem was that he also couldn't remember any song titles.

    Now we all know that studio musicians live by their reputations, so remembering hits that they played on is of paramount importance. If they had even remembered one title-just one-I would have had something to pursue, but as it stood, they gave me no material at all to back up her story. Back in Detroit, In stark contrast to my California research, the Funk Brothers remembered everything- song titles, intricate details, times, dates, and fellow musicians on the session and it all revolved around James Jamerson.

    6) The Great Cover-Up-Carol has accused many of Motown's producers of conducting illegal non-union, under scale sessions, and in efforts to cover their backs, they refuse to admit working with her.

    First of all, if the sessions were illegal, why was a union musician like Carol playing them in direct violation of union rules? Secondly, the Motown story is full of lawsuits and union problems but that doesn't exactly strike fear in their hearts. It's just business as usual. James Jamerson certainly played under scale Motown sessions at different times. Why do these same producers admit working with him?

    7) Demos That Became Hits-Amidst the thousand of studio dates in Carol's logs, quite a few are marked as demos and many of those were with Motown. According to her, the company misled the musicians because many of these sessions became the actual records.

    Carol may have a legitimate grievance in this instance but not in regard to the songs in question. When the recent Platinum CD Box set The Hitsville Singles Collection was produced two years ago, most of the songs in question were pulled from the vaults and re-mastered. Motown's filing system lists whether the songs were recorded in Detroit or Los Angeles (and in a few instances in New York) on each storage box. All the disputed songs were listed as being cut in Detroit.

    During the sixties and seventies, Carol Kaye contributed more to popular music than most musicians, including myself, could hope to equal in several lifetimes. By all accounts of people who know her well, she is also a wonderful, warm, loving person. I have no desire in any way to hurt her or ruin her reputation, but as James Jamerson's biographer, I do have a responsibility to him. James died a brokenhearted alcoholic, tortured by the lack of recognition for his his part in the Motown story. It took the world thirty years to find out and appreciate exactly what he did and I intend to further that recognition to the best of my abilities. If that includes defending him in the face of unfounded attacks on his life's work, so be it.

    I'm still open to any information which would change the story and support Carol Kaye's version but so far, I've yet to find a single shred of evidence. I'd even go as far as to say that I wouldn't doubt that somewhere out there, there is some evidence that would support her claims on a few disputed songs.

    She has my humblest apologies for the few that I may have missed. But when you're talking about "Bernadette", "Reach Out", "Baby Love", "I Was Made to Love Her", "Ain't No Mountain High Enough", "Dancing In the Streets", "Can't Help Myself", Standing In The Shadows of Love", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", and dozens of others . . . Sorry Carol. That magical legacy belongs to someone else.

    Maddmaxx1 likes this.
  15. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    The fact that she adamantly insists that she played on "I was made to love her" is the zinger for me. Anyone with a pair of ears and a pedestrian knowledge of Jamerson's approach to playing can see that that track is undeniably Jamerson.
    TBAR Shane likes this.
  16. The version Kaye DID play:

    Listen to the 'inferiority' (in comparison with Jamerson) and the pick.
  17. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX

    WOW lol

    I'm sorry, that's just straight ridiculous IMO. I suppose that was all part of the illuminati plan to infect America with grooves and cause dissension amongst everyone with well-made music so they could assassinate Kennedy, cover up the alien contact at Roswell, and conceal that Elvis, Tupac, and Cobain would all fake their deaths in the future to boost album sales.

    Yeesh...some people :rollno:
  18. elBandito


    Dec 3, 2008
    Rotten Apple
    She's nuts.
  19. Stick_Player

    Stick_Player Banned

    Nov 13, 2009
    Somewhere on the Alaska Panhandle (Juneau)
    Endorser: Plants vs. Zombies Pea Shooters
    WHO CARES!!!

    This is far more interesting:

    Firesalt likes this.
  20. That version is inferior in every way possible, IMO.