Which of the greats just mustn't be forgotten?

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by JnKlm, Dec 8, 2021.

  1. JnKlm


    Jul 24, 2019
    Dear friends,

    I teach musicology at a university and I will soon be starting a new course:
    The evolution of the bass guitar's "language" during the seventy years of its existence.
    Topics discussed: the conception and development of the instrument; the evolution of the techniques (fingers, pick, thumping...) and expressive devices (root notes, octaves, scales...); aesthetics of tone; genres; and influential bass players.
    I have already done some preparation, but I need your help to make sure I do not miss anything essential.


    1. Could you help me compile a list of bassists/songs/styles that definitely must be included and investigated?
    My rough list of bassists is enclosed, could you perhaps suggest a bassline that is representative of any of the bassists's style?
    It is not intended to be the list of the "best" or "flashiest" players, but rather of those who came up with or embodied a distinctive stylistic idiom?

    2. Are there any books, articles or other materials that tell this kind of narrative in a linear or comprehensive way?
    I love the instructional books by Mr. Ed Friedland as well as "Bass Players To Know" or SITSOM, but I am looking for materials that would relate a story in the same way as text books that tell you "after Haydn came Mozart and then Beethoven, and thus the sonata form and harmonic language of the era evolved so and so...)

    3. Do you know about any similar course being taught at a school somewhere?

    Thank you!


    The long list of bass players:

    James Jamerson, Jack Bruce, Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, John Paul Jones, Willie Weeks, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Rocco Prestia, Larry Graham, Geezer Buttler, Steve Harris, Lemmy Kilmister, Anthony Jackson, Geddy Lee, Billie Sheehan, Mark King, John Pattitucci, Cliff Burton, Pino Palladino, Oscar Stagnaro, Bakithi Kumale, Marcus Miller, Michael Balzary, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, Les Claypool, Mike Dirnt, Richard Bona, Robert Trujillo, Richard Bona, Adam Getgood
  2. Bigweasel269


    Jan 29, 2021
    timmy c!
  3. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Michael Manring for sure. Check out his great playing on Michael Hedges's Aerial Boundaries, particularly "After The Gold Rush" and "Menage a Trois". His Drastic Measures and Thonk albums are great as well.
  4. Acoustic356

    Acoustic356 Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2014
    Rufus Reid
    punchdrunk, Dabndug and DrayMiles like this.
  5. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I've never heard of such a course and, honestly, I'd be surprised if enrolment numbers for such a course would be very high. Only one way to find out though! Since you are talking about the "evolution of the bass guitar's language" (and not just "great bassists" then I would definitely include the following:

    - Monk Montgomery (have a look at this: Monk Montgomery oral history interview (rutgers.edu))

    - James Jamerson (highly influential with a unique vocabulary that was very much informed by jazz)

    - Carol Kaye (one of the most recorded bassists of her era)

    - Paul McCartney

    - Jack Bruce

    - John Entwhistle

    - Chris Squire

    - Larry Graham

    - Jaco

    - Stanley Clarke

    - Colin Hodgkinson

    - Anthony Jackson (an innovator in the realm of extended range bass guitars)

    - Aston "Family Man" Barrett (you could also discuss any number of other bassists who helped define reggae bass)

    - Juan Formell (from Los Van Van - very influential)

    - Marcus Miller

    - Bill Dickens

    - Victor Wooten

    - Matt Garrison

    - Andrew Gouché (for gospel bass)

    Depending on how wide a scope you want to provide, you could look at bassists who helped define different African sounds (if you can find the information), different sounds in Latin America, The Caribbean, etc. I would also discuss the connection with double bass, as people such as Monk Montgomery and Jamerson were coming from that perspective.
  6. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    John Deacon as well. While he tended to play more subdued lines later in Queen's output, he wrote some amazing lines on their earlier albums, at least through The Game.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2021
  7. buldog5151bass

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

    Oct 22, 2003
    I think rather than focusing on players, focus on the change in styles - just for pop music:

    - started with root/5
    - went to patterns in the 50s (think Johnny B. Goode)
    - 60s led to different complex patterns (think Motown, Beatles, which were influenced by Motown, the bombastic styles like the Who, psychodelic)
    - studio aces of the 70s were simple but tasty v. progressive
    - 80s were a LOT of pounding roots

    etc. Obviously this is a simplification.

    There were some standouts, but a lot of bassists have very similar styles. I would look to that, more than focusing on individuals, which would give more of a background of how pop music changed. Unless you are focusing just on bassists as students, I think this would be more popular and relevant.
  8. bass12

    bass12 Have You Met Grace Jones?

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    This kind of approach would probably be a lot more interesting and useful to the average (read: non-bass playing) student, though I would also be looking very much at musical styles and not just eras. Easy then to incorporate key players into the discussion and look at how they helped develop the "language" of the bass guitar.

    I would add that it might be worth looking at bass in general in popular music. This would mean looking not only at bass guitar but also at double bass, keyboard bass and the kind of synth bass found in certain more recent styles of popular music. Hmm, maybe I should design my own course for a local college. :)
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2021
  9. BrotherMister


    Nov 4, 2013
    PVG Membership
    I attempted something fairly similar during the first lockdown here when there was a significant delay between getting the necessary procedures in place to teach students remotely while still being expected to produce work...

    All I can say is you have stepped into a mine field. The history and development of this instrument is also locked into the development of audio technology and mass media consumption as well. We also face the problem that despite touching most popular forms of music since it's inception it's still not a truly legitimised or accepted instrument, all one has to do is look at the realms of higher music education to see it's still less accepted. Unfortunately a lot of the early history is still really muddy as well, the instrument happens fairly simultaneously. We can't really apply the same lineage of Haydn - Mozart - Beethoven - Brahms etc because we have mass media so the progression happens pretty rapidly and in different places.

    I personally wouldn't call scales, chord tones and developing baselines as expressive techniques. Slurs, slides, ghost notes, dynamics and different kinds of articulations are expressive techniques. The other stuff is a bit more how bass lines developed, due to a series of factors including improved recording techniques and audio. You also have to start being slightly cut throat, very few of the big names we all know and love haven't actually pushed the envelope of the instruments development beyond what had already been done.

    Originally I had an extremely lengthy post about what I found out from my attempts to do this but I realised it was getting overwhelming and nobody asked!
  10. LadyLoveStingRay5


    Jul 17, 2004
    Louis Johnson
    James Jamerson
    Larry Graham
    Carol Kaye
    Marcus Miller
    Pino Palladio
    Nate Watts
    Willie Weeks
    Wilton Felder
    Aston Family Man Barret
    Bernard Edwards
    Abraham Laboriel
    Anthony Jackson
    Tina Weymouth
    John Deacon
    Phil Lynott
    Geddy Lee
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2021
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  11. LBS-bass


    Nov 22, 2017
    Pretty much everyone is missing my man Chuck Rainey, so I'd make sure you don't forget about him, as he's massive in terms of catalog and impact.
    RocknRay, Grizelda100, lo fi and 4 others like this.
  12. dogbrained


    Jun 16, 2007
    Chas Chandler, the lines he came up with for the original Animals made so many of their songs unique I don't remember a Bass player before him having such a presence. First Bass player I noticed because of what "he" was playing (meaning he wasn't cute playing in a cute band).
    Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood
    We Gotta Get Out OF This Place
    It's My Life
    Inside Looking Out
    Durham52 likes this.
  13. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    You have to start with Monk Montgomerry
    DrayMiles, B String and LBS-bass like this.
  14. I appreciate you placing Lemmy on this list. Totally distinctive style.
    I think Rick Danko would be a good addition.
  15. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    They will all be forgotten.
  16. Bruce Thomas and Mars Cowling
    REV and Bruiser Stone like this.
  17. deluxetwelve


    Aug 8, 2019
    Carl Radle is frequently overlooked by many, yet played on a number of seminal records including the Layla album. For an example of his style, listen to It's Too Late (She's Gone) for one.
    Dave814, DrayMiles, REV and 3 others like this.
  18. mrcbass


    Jan 14, 2016
    Sacramento, CA
    I agree with @buldog5151bass dog that a history of "style" would be more meaningful - and of course reference example of bassists within each style.

    But since you asked for names, there's a few universally respected names that your list does not have:

    Leland Sklar (everybody)
    Carol Kaye (Wrecking Crew)

    my personal favorite and always overlooked: Tiran Porter (Doobie Brothers)
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  19. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Mike Watt
    Suzi Quatro
    Ed Cynar

    3 that we tend to forget, the influencers of the influencers, so to speak.
  20. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    I can't believe I haven't seen Duck Dunn on any list !

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