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Jamerson used LaBellas?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by armybass, Nov 24, 2003.

  1. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    There was a bit of a controversy last week over the subject of what kind of strings James Jamerson used. I had read in the Book "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" that Jamerson used Lebella Flatwound strings. That fact was disputed on the basis that LaBella did not make flats in the 50's and 60's. I was sure that was not the case but could find no other info to back up my ideas other than the book in question. So I decided to write the Pres of LaBella and got the following response.

    My email:

    Hi, I am a bass player in the US Army Band and I use LaBella flatwound bass strings in our Army Show Band do to our large number of Motown songs. I have been informed on the internet that James Jamerson did not use LaBella Flatwound bass strings in the 60's and 70's because LaBella did not make flat wound bass strings in the 60's and 70's. This is in complete contradiction to what I belive to be true. Can you please confirm
    or deny this. I often give seminars to young bass students and the story of Jamerson and LaBella flats is a central part of my presentation. I would really appreciate a reply.

    SGT Cutrer

    Here is his reply.

    Dear Mr. Cutrer,

    Thank you for your note. The person who wrote that is misinformed. One quick proof is in the
    book: "Standing In The Shadows of Motown" The life and Music of Legendary Bassist James Jamerson, by Dr.Licks. On page 85 it shows his favorite equipment: Fender Precision, German Double Bass and " An essential element Of the "Jamerson Sound" - heavy gauge La
    Bella flatwound strings." We have been making flatwound strings since the 50's. If you are fan of his sound I reccomend the book to you. If you have any questions feel free ton contact me at Richard@Labella.com


    Richard Cocco
    LaBella Strings

    Now, unfortunatley he uses the same disputed source, but he is the the President of the Co. Maybe he is wrong too?
  2. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Doesnt the book show a picture of an old set of the LaBella flats Jamerson used? Also I believe in the back of the book there are two advertisements featuring James. One for Fender and the other for LaBella flatwound strings. Ive never heard anything but Jamerson using LaBella flats.
  3. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    He'd have to be wrong about how long his company has been making strings. That shouldn't be too hard to verify. If that's the basis of the internet debate, they lose on that alone.

    Remember, in addition to hardly ever changing his strings, there weren't many brands to choose from:D
    Jaume2 likes this.
  4. mobax

    mobax Supporting Member

    Dec 31, 2002
    New Baltimore, MI
    I used LaBella flatrounds on my Fender Jazz bass in the late 60's. LaBella definitely made flats in the 60's.
  5. I also got a note back from Richard Cocco. Kinda neat... President of the company, and he takes the time to respond to emails.

    My inquiry was about the 0760M set: Richard says 197 pounds total tension.
  6. An email from the Labella company proves nothing except, they wish to sell more LaBella strings to Jamerson Fans!

    Scott, did you ever stop to think that Fender put Fender flats on all their basses .....STOCK in the 60's?

    AFAIK, when someone purchased a bass in the 60's the strings that came stock on Fender were Fender Flat wounds.

    Do you really believe Jamerson changed his strings immediatley after he purchased his 62 P bass?

    I'm really curious?

  7. BassLand


    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles
    I was at the 1989 Book Signing for Standing In The Shadows of Motown and in attendance were Jamerson Jr (actually the 3rd), Mrs Jamerson and assorted grandchildren. James Jr brought Jamersons upright and some strings from basses which he had discarded and his son kept them along with the sleeves and the were LaBella strings with the moto "The Strings the Master Uses" ...

    BTW I use them on several of my basses. If you have the touch they will deliver the sound. I guess I am trying to sell more strings too...;-)
  8. BassLand


    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles
    Jamerson's use of Labella strings might have been related to what he used on his upright. Labella made upright strings way before they made any electric strings. BTW everybody used flatwound strings from 1951 (when the P-Bass was invented). nobody made roundwound strings but James How at Rotosound and some bass companies even said putting them on their bass would void the warranty. Most companies did not even have roudn wounds untill the late 60's early 70's.

    I have played since 1963 and switched to roundwound strings in 1980 and have always had flats on at least one of my basses.
    zortation likes this.
  9. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    Treena, I am sure that LaBella's went on James' bass at some point.:)

    It's all good;)
  10. bassmonkeee

    bassmonkeee Supporting Member

    Sep 13, 2000
    Decatur, GA
    Out of curiosity, how are you so sure he didn't use LaBellas when conventional wisdom and every source in bassdom says he did?

    And, from what I remember, Jamerson's PBass was a gift that he didn't purchase new.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    According to what I read, Chilli Ruth, another session bassist, gave Jamerson his black refinished '57 P bass when Ruth bought a new one. So maybe that one had La Bella's.

    However, most of Jamerson's lines were recorded with a '62 sunburst P, which he bought after the '57 was stolen. Every photo I've seen of him playing was with the sunburst (supposedly that bass was the infamous "Funk Machine").

    Even stranger, THAT bass was stolen too, shortly before Jamerson died. Somebody (or some landfill)out there probably has the bass and doesn't even realize it...

    Go figure.
  12. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    I read the same story. There are early pictures in the SITSOM book that show JJ with the "Black Beauty" as he called it. Somewhere in that book in a picture of an old set of LaBella flats that James used.
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Do you have some reason to think he didn't (change them)?

    That he alwyas stuck with stock strings?

    Just curious. I also don't get what the rolleyes was for?


  14. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Part of the "fun" of this is that since the man is no longer with us, and at the time he was around, people were not listing their equipment the way people do today, it's more like a Greek myth (and many, including myself, would rate him up there on the Pantheon).

    But everything I read says he never changed his strings unless they broke. Also, back then, between the limited selection on strings, and recording techniques, people did not change their strings the way they do today.

    All I know, is try to play his lines to Bernadette, Home Cooking, or half his other stuff, you need an hour to untie your fingers. D*MN he was good!
  15. Bob, that was what I said in my first post on another thread!

    I see we both know our string history. :D

    Yes, an interview with Bob Olhsson and chief engineer (for Motown) Mike McLean. He says he asked Jamerson what he was using on his bass during the session for "Where Did Our Love Go........1965 and he (Jamerson) said...."what ever came on the bass" as an off hand remark at the time, but it has stuck with me.


    Thus, my curiosity as to what others think about Jamerson and his string use. Along with the fact that Fender was the leading flatwound string maker in the 60's and early 70's as I have stated before.

    It's all good. :D

  16. ebozzz

    ebozzz Supporting Member

    May 17, 2001

    Forgive me but would you be kind enough to point out where in that interview it mentions the strings that Jamerson used? :meh:
  17. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    It's funny, the first thing that sprang to mind upon reading this was "Was the bass brand new when he got it?".


    As far as I'm concerned, if his strings were really as old as legend has it I'm not sure how important the brand should be to someone today. It's not like you're going to buy a 5 year old set of strings.

    Oh, that's right... eBay;)
  18. BassLand


    Mar 20, 2000
    Lost Angeles

    Hi All, I read the whoe article and it said nothing aobut Jamerson's strings (That I read). This photo is of Jamerson (inset) and his 2nd son Joey and aside from looking like his father, He and Pops were the same age in the respective photos and Joey's photo is not posed to look like the older photo. The photographer was Anthony McKnight, Jamerson's cousin.
  19. boogiebass


    Aug 16, 2000
    Cool photo! Thanks for posting it, man. :cool:
  20. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    My brother owns the same futon...