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Steppenwolf- who's on first bass??

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by So Low Bass, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. I grew up with that sound... super deep... pushing UP on everything else..Steppenwolf!

    The album "Steppenwolf" knocks you out. Hootckie Kootchie Man has the most perfect sound!! Desperation begins with one of the best bass hooks
    ever. I must add here that digital does not do justice to the original.

    Who was palying bass when. How was this sound maintained? Was is John Kay's ears? Were these Ricks with flats? Was the bass injected into THE ABC board that's now in the hall of fame??

    Info please!!
  2. EclecticElectrk


    Aug 26, 2008
    Wikipedia to the rescue!!!
  3. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
    I think the old Stepenwolf had a Rickenbacker 4005 providing the bass lines.
  4. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I grow organic carrots and they are not for sale
  5. JimK


    Dec 12, 1999
    ...and more recently, if the reviewer from a "Letters To The Editor" in Bass Player can be believed-
    A Steppenwold concert he attended had canned/programmed bass, i.e. No bassist on-stage.
    That's Rock 'n' Roll?!?!

    That's Nick St. Nicholas on bass in the above photo, IIRC.
  6. JimK-
    The reviewer is correct... I saw a "Steppenwolf" fundraiser on PBS perhaps two years ago. The show was a live one in front of a crowd of what looked like Young Republicans. I could not see and bass, and barly heard any bass sound in the mix. "Born to be Wild" without bass!! I saw the same show this past winter and now I'm positive of what I didn't see the first time. I blame that on John Kay. He must have been very difficult to work with. If he weren't a genius I couldn't love him!!!

    Yep, that old St. Nick in the pic. There's a great pic of him and his Rick inside of "Steppenwolf Live" album.

    My question really was... with three bass players over the seven years, the quality of the bass sound stays the same. I guess I have to blame John Kay again... and thank him too. But, then there's the PBS thing.

    Go figure.
  7. Sneckumhaw


    Apr 26, 2006
    I saw that too. Absolutely terrible and this 'Wolf fan had successfully blocked it from his mind. Until now. Boy that was an uncool show.
  8. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    The original big hits were almost certainly done by LA studio musicians even though the original band members were very competent live players. It would have made more sense economically for the record company and set their mind at ease considering the amount of money involved. The session players would have been much more able to create the good hooks and sounds needed for songs of that caliber. They did that 7 days a week for sometimes 12 hours a day. And Steppenwolf wouldn't have minded if they got hits which using studio musicians would have made it more possible. I know, it's a big shock for many to believe that most of the records of that day were not played by the live band but by session players, but it's true. The record companies kept it quiet and so did the bands. I know first hand because I was quite active and in L.A. recording with my band back then. We were working with a very good producer and some of the top engineers in the hottest studios. It was a shock to me too when I first found out. Because we were from Canada and had a producer willing to take a chance on us playing our own sessions and because we all had a lot of previous recording experience in Canada, we were allowed to play our own. But that certainly wasn't the norm then.

    I saw the original band live in L.A. back when they were hot, right around Born To Be Wild was getting big. They were very good back then. I don't know who the bassist was as I didn't recognize him.

    Carol Kaye may know who played on those earlier sessions. I don't think she played on them but there were a number of very good session bassists who could have and she knew all of them. If you sent her an email she'd probably tell you if she knows.
  9. I'm sure any of us who are ole enough remember the big "Monkees don't play their own instruments" scandal. Naturally, this reminds me of that. I recently saw a Biography episode on the Monkees. this came up. Davy's response was, "We didn't want to blow the whistle on the Beach Boys and the Byrds." Given the expenses involved in recording (as if I'm an expert), it would make sense to use musicians who would likely get the song right the first time and leave the live musicians for the screaming girls and crowds who may or may not notice mistakes on stage.
  10. 62bass


    Apr 3, 2005
    You're right on. I was expecting to get flamed and maybe still will. :)
  11. LHbassist

    LHbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2003
    Reno, Nevada
    Nick St. Nicholas was a big influence on me, as Steppenwolf were my favorite band back in '68. I also, as a fan, found a 'John Kay and The Sparrow' album, same band pretty much, more blues, and the bassist was the same, Nick St. Nicholas. His sound is the same dark bassy sound on all the recordings during the time he was in the band. I've also done quite a bit of session work, and he doesn't sound like a session player to me. I loved his work on "The Second' and the bass lines he plays are atypical of the known session players of the day, like Joe Osborn, Tommy Cogbill, Bob Babbitt, and Carol Kaye. None of them would have been around for the 'Sparrow' sessions, as that was pre-Steppenwolf. That to me, is indicative of St. Nicholas' carrying over as a band member who actually recorded his parts. I absolutely LOVE Joe Osborn, and Babbitt, Jamerson, Cogbill, and all the session bassists.... but they did NOT play on everything recorded during that time. I'm convinced due to the sound of the early band, Steppenwolf did their own records as a group, because they were great players.
    I must admit as this point in this post that I'm not all that familiar with Biondo's work with Steppenwolf, although I'm sure I've heard and enjoyed it.
    I met and became friends with the late Jack Ryland, a great guy, and fine bassist, when I moved to Reno in 1993. He replaced Joe Schermie in Three Dog Night, and then played in Steppenwolf after George Biondo. I don't think he did any recordings with them, but did appear on Three Dog Night's work after Schermie. He did tell me some things about John Kay and the band, and I'll not repeat them here, this is about bassists, not the gossip...that said, he also told me that circa 1995 Steppenwolf weren't using a bassist...and that seemed ridiculous to me. By the way, I saw Steppenwolf in concert at The Pavillion- on the old '64-'65 N.Y. World's Fair site in '69. Some trivia: To non- New Yorkers reading this, that actual site, The former N.Y. State Pavillion, is the place that appears in the movie "Men In Black" where Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones fight the alien cockroach. The openers- Spooky Tooth- a great band, and Rhinocerous, who blew everyone off the stage! Steppenwolf had a nightmare gig. Goldy McJohn was sick, and didn't make the gig.??? Nick St. Nicholas had a PINK Rick 4001, and a Rickenbacker 'Transonic' triangular shaped bass amp, which he promptly blew up. They had to borrow the Fender Showman amps from Rhinocerous... killed the momentum of the show, and I felt bad for them, and let down at the same time. John Kay said over the mic- I'll never forget this: "That's the first time Rickenbacker has let us down." P.S. The Bass on "Born To Be Wild" is a Fender Precision, strung most likely with flats...listen closely, and you'll hear it, and the mistake in the track as well. There's a GREAT clip on youtube of the band on 'Playboy After Dark" circa 1968 doing "Sookie Sookie" St. Nicholas playing on a white p-bass through a Sunn 200s is killer sounding! here's the link:

    AMMENDED 9-17-08 It turns out, to my surprise, that the bassist on the first and second albums is Rushton Moreve, and HE was the big influence on me after all. I still like Nick St. Nicholas' playing very much, and I see by the tracks I remember, that George Biondo did some really nice work with the band, after doing some more research. Live and learn.
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  12. bassman10096

    bassman10096 Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2004
    Nah. That was the reality. What I find most surprising is the relatively small group of studio musicians played on almost everything. The Byrds and Beachboys were only the tip of that iceberg. Carol Kaye's website and some of the other interviews she's done give a clue to who was actually playing on the recordings played a million times over. Many of the folks are luminaries because of other things they did. http://carolkaye.com/www/library/index.htm. For the Motown side of things (Funk Bros) I recently picked up Standing in the Shadows of Motown (the video). My bass instructor is 55 and grew up playing bass in Detroit. Needless to say, he has some cool stories about that music community in the 70s.

    So, to anyone so inclined - flame away. But you can't change the facts just 'cause you don't like 'em.
  13. Anyone noticed the bassist's mistake on original studio released Born To Be Wild? I only noticed it after listening carefully as we were covering it last Christmas. In the 3rd verse he doesn't go up to G on the "yeah darling"!
    Great bassline though, much more to it than 1st meets the ear.:eek:
  14. Funny that this topic would "rear it's ugly head"....:D

    If I'm not mistaken, George Biondo has visited this place once or twice......

    Additionally, I was in LA "back then" and knew the guys fairly well. Good players and, as I recall sitting in the studios at Dunhill records, they did all their own work. To this day, I have been pissed at John for "doing away" with the bass.........terrible decision, IMO. However, toward the end of his "touring days" I don't think he gave much of a hoot...still, I have been a HUGE Steppenwolf fan since the 60s.

    imagine that - lyrics that actually SAID something!
  15. keyboardguy

    keyboardguy Supporting Member

    May 11, 2005
    The main reason he's getting a big sound is where his right hand is: playing around the 17-19 fret......
  16. jerry

    jerry Doesn't know BDO Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 1999
    The bassplaying on the early Steppenwolf was hip, especially by '68 rock standards. I'm tagging on to see if it was a studio pro, or as I always thought, Nick St. Nicholas. We know it's not Carol Kaye because she definitely would have claimed it, plus it doesn't sound like her at all.
  17. Thanks for all the info and experiences.

    I really doubt any studio musicians were ever used except perhaps the "EUU" chicks on "Happy Birthday". Those guys were musicians...THE musicians.

    The point about playing in upper positions is a good one, and helps define "that" sound, but listen to HK Man again... that E string is in a world all its own. Meckler and Podoler/Cooper MUST have had a sound in mind that they stuck to. I think Meckler also produced Three Dog Night. Again, that puncky, full bass is there (though in a different style).

    In a world of digital, transistors, rounds, active pick ups, and 10in speakers, I wonder if we'll ever hear that sound in the mainstream again.
  18. Easy8


    Sep 5, 2007
    Austin, Tx
    I can vouch from personal experience that this was a common practice (and may still be, for all I know).

    I was with a band that was signed to a major label contract in the early '80s. We were flown out to LA to record at Capitol. The producer had Tim Drummond and Jim Keltner waiting in the wings to lay down the basic tracks.

    Wasn't a big deal for me, but our drummer took it very personally.
  19. No, you are, indeed, correct. Especially in the "pop-country" environment that exists in Nashville today. I have a couple of good friends who make their living laying down tracks for artists like Toby Keith.

    After the recording is done, his "band" learns the parts and off they go.....IMO that sucks, but so be it....not my dime..:rollno:
  20. Don't mix up 1968 with 2008, OR Steppenwolf with that Ford Salesman guy.
    (can you picture John Kay pitching VWs???)

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