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Major Holley strings? (was Doug Watkins strings?)

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by hdiddy, Mar 22, 2006.


  1. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I've always been a big fan of Major Holley's sound on Kenny Burrell's "Midnight Blue" album, especially off of the track "Mule". Low, growly, lotsa character. Can anyone confirm if he's using gut or what not? And any deets would be great too. Thanks.
     
  2. bassdogEmer

    bassdogEmer

    Sep 14, 2005
    San Francisco
    Endorsing Artist: Mesa Boogie Amps, Bag end,Thomastik - Infeld Strings
    Major Holley is the bassist on that album; Midnight blue - not Doug Watkins.. however, both were gut strings players.
     
  3. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    blah, I'll change the thread title. I got them mixed up with another Kenny Burrell album that has Doug Watkins on it.
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I used to sit in on a Duo Gig down on Bleeker Street (NYC) at a place called Jacques on Sunday afternoons in the early 70s or maybe even back in '69. His Bass was either French or English and his Strings were 'Rope Core' as he called them. These were stiff Steel strings as far as comparing them to Spirocores.

    I don't know the dates you are asking about but for the time I knew him, he was using Steel.
     
  5. Mike Carr

    Mike Carr

    Feb 5, 2002
    Hong Kong
    I have what I'm pretty sure is a recording made early/mid 90's of him playing with some fine Dutch musicians. It sure sounds like steel strings to me. He sure makes them work good with the bow on this one though. I miss him, and Slam too, but try sometimes to pay tribute by doing a little bit of scatting along with myself on the mic durring an arco bass solo from time to time. The Chinese here sometimes don't quite know what to make of this, most have never heard anyone do this live before. But they do seem to like it!
     
  6. I think he was using Super-Sensitive strings, but I may be wrong.
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    There was nothing Sensitive at all about the Strings he was using. These strings were like bridge cabels. They didn't call him 'Mule' for nothing.

    I think sometimes when I was called up to play it was a privilage and other times it was punishment. Imagine youv'e played a tune or two, no amp and the Pianist is Kenny Baron or Sir Roland Hanna. Your fingers are about to bleed from the blister you got on the first tune and then in the next set as you sit and drink a coke you are invited to play. Yikes.. You are out of Gas with a flat tire and the Starter fires the gun for the race.. That's what I call being put on the spot!.. Oh, and did I mention I was still a teenager at this time?

    One time in his crude but educational way he asked me "is the Bass dead or alive?" pointing to the Bass he was holding.. I thought well.. the tree was cut over a hundred years ago and they made a bass with it.. So I answered "Dead!" .... "then your'e Dead!" he relpied in a loud and scolding voice.

    Major was a one of a kind guy and he was a real and down to earth person as well.
     
  8. bassdogEmer

    bassdogEmer

    Sep 14, 2005
    San Francisco
    Endorsing Artist: Mesa Boogie Amps, Bag end,Thomastik - Infeld Strings
    hi guys - I am ONLY refering to that album - midnight blue- that is Major Holley and those are definitely gut strings.. what they used in the 70's-80's-90's I am not talking about
     
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Thanks for all the replies guys so far. Mightnight Blue was recorded in 1967, so maybe it was on the cusp, I dunno. I'm also curious about his setup and all, especially when Ken is saying that he's playing with bridge cables & no amp. Ken, if you can give more deets about if possible, that would be awesome.

    Thanks.
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Major was a strong guy. He was old school as well. One day while trying to play a line that Ray Brown played he replied, "he cheated" when Major realized how Ray either played a Harmonic or open string to get the line in. Major was a pure player. No tricks with fingerings, just hard work. His action was not low at all. I use 4-5mm on the G now and his must have been almost double. The Ropecore strings he had were not Thomastic but another brand with Green silk at the tailpiece if my memory serves me correctly. I am guessing this was around 1969 or 1970 when I first met him. It didn't seem with his set-up and bowing that he had just switched from Guts. He had a clear and sustaining sound on the recordings I heard him on which had to be steel strings. In a way, he was like a teacher to me and sitting in was a type of performance class.

    Around that same time I was going uptown one week night to Reggie Workmans duo gig with Bass and Guitar. It might be Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Attilla Zollar or one of those guys. Sometimes Reggie couldn't make it and sent a sub like Sam Jones or Wilber Ware. They were all cool about a young player sitting in. Playing on so many different players' Basses was also an experience as well.

    Sorry for going off topic but no one that I ever saw had Gut Strings at that time.
     
  11. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Ken, please go off topic like that more often. Great story. I envy you that experience.

     
  12. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    +1.....tales from guys like you and Paul are a great connection to a lot of our idols from the past. Not to mention the roots of an education in old, glorious double basses. Much appreciated.
     

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