Q. How long is a usual record date and how many tunes would you record in the studios?
A. The usual length of a record date (sometimes called session now) is 3 hours according to Musicians Union rules with overtime alloted if we recorded past 3 hours, it would go in time-blocks of 1/2 hours. Back in the 60s, we usually record 3-4 tunes, maybe 5 in that time. A few like Phil Spector and Brian Wilson insisted on using their 3-hour time to cut only 1 song. Phil would then have us jam the last 5 minutes on a jazz blues etc. for the "B" side. It got so busy in the 60s we were doing 2-3-4 dates a day quite a bit recording 3-4-5 songs per date.
Q. Were you recorded direct or with a microphone back in the 60s?
A. They recorded my bass amp usually with a mike, very close to the amp...and didn't use any compression or EQ either (except for some compression Armin Steiner added on the LA-Motown 60s dates). They liked the sound coming out of the amp, and later in the 60s, they started to record me 1/2 and 1/2. But in the film studios (TV film, movie scores), they used to always mike my amp (60s-70s). Fine proper technique of the experienced musicians, inc. myself insured that no EQ or compression needed to be used. And the engineers would walk into the studio room to make sure they were capturing our real sounds, such was the respect and knowledge of those fine early engineers. They knew we were ALL fine experienced musicians.
Q. Were you ever required to play with your fingers (since I know you're exclusively a pick player)?
A. No, no-one ever asked me to play with my fingers as I could get a nice warm finger-sounding sound also with the pick by just turning up the bass a little and turning down the treble sound. And never was ever asked to slap either. I was the #1 Call for many many years in Hollywood and other bass players were asked to get the "Carol Kaye" pick sound. Most records cut in Hollywood were recorded with the pick on the bass with flatwound strings, whether it was me or others.
Q. What was it like to work for Brian Wilson?
A. Brian was always a fine guy to work for...sure, he was sort of intensive in his work, but we liked that. He'd come in and play piano to give us the feel for the tune, then go in the booth, where Chuck Britz had set up the board for him and would sit by in case he was needed by Brian who also engineered his sounds - no-one but Chuck Britz helped Brian at all, Chuck mentored Brian Wilson - he'd then give us instructions from the booth where he'd experiment with sounds. I never knew Brian was a bass player until much later, he never played bass in front of me....we knew he was special, he had the bass parts all written out (except for one lick I got in on "Calif. Girls" that was mine, the rest of the notes were his).
Q. Is that you on the Barney Miller Theme?
A. Many people have asked me this question as it sounds like my style. That's actually the fine Chuck Berghofer on elec. bass, plus I understand he made up that line which later was written as years afterwards, Jim Hughart (former student of mine btw, great talent and jazz legend, had elec. bass hits of his own too) did some of the Barney Miller things too. But definitely that's mainly Chuck, who used to play string bass on the Nancy Sinatra and Jody Miller things we'd record together.
Q. Did you do Motown dates in Detroit?
A. No, we did quite a few dates out here in LA from 1963 on - spoken about in Berry Gordy's book, plus a film interview he did in 1964 talking about all the great hit tracks coming out of LA etc. Motown has always had offices out here (2 floors of suites in the Sunset/Vine Tower building since 1963) where Marc Gordon's wife used to work for Motown as a secretary...Marc, Frank Wilson (LA native), Hal Davis and others were the LA producers....then when the Musicians' Union busted Motown for doing sessions w/o a recording license (about 1967) Motown "announced" they were "moving" to LA...but they've been out here for years before that. Armin Steiner speaks of recording many of their Motown hits at his LA studios here in MIX Magazine (mid-80s), as others such as Joe Sample, Earl Palmer, etc. do in magazine articles in the past -- see "Backbeat...The Earl Palmer Story" (Smithsonian). I've always said it was James Jamerson who started the Motown bass styles in Detroit, and played so great on the bulk of the Motown hits. When he moved to LA, I even helped him get studio work out here and had high respect for him.
Recently, I had lunch with a friend of mine, the noted Perry Botkin Jr., famed arranger/composer ("Bless The Beasts And The Children", Nadia's Theme, etc.) and he was stunned that there's even been a doubt that a lot of Motown 60s hits were cut out here in LA as he remembers going up to the Motown offices early 60s - knew that we were *all* busy cutting Motown hits out here since 1962-63....as Lester Sill reports also on his note about my recording Motown bass hits out here (the great Lester Sill is a producer-legend and ran Gordy's Jobete Publishing firm). Perry says "I always thought that Motown was an LA company with all that recording going on out here, was shocked to find out they even were in Detroit at first".
Note: Carol Kaye is credited with playing bass on Frank Wilson's "Do You Love Me", cut in '65 in Hollywood - produced by Hal Davis, hear MP3 on homepage. Also: Nov. 16, 1964 Billboard Magazine, Page 48:
MOTOWN OPENS COAST OFFICE
Hollywood: "Detroit-based Motown Records has opened an office here to handle a.& r. and publishing activities. Marc Gordon and Hal Davis, two Los Angeles indie producers, have been signed to operate the branch.
Already signed to the label by Gordon and Davis are Brenda and Patrice Holloway, 17 and 12 years old respectively.
Besides uncovering New artists for Tamla-Motown, Gordon said he and Davis would record the label's other artists who would fly here for sessions. Already scheduled is an LP session with Little Stevie Wonder............." .
Q. But why isn't there documentation to support this?
A. Most of us naively believed at first that they were just "demos" as we were told - see Armin Steiner's statement in Library-Photos and his 2 Mix Magazine interviews about the Supremes staying at his house with us recording the tracks for them etc..
We did hear recordings from Detroit played for us to illustrate the style ideas they wanted us to record in, as noted in the Earl Palmer biography book, and those sounded pretty good. You never recorded "more demos" from "demos", and we soon understood but kept quiet about it (we liked the music rather than surf-rock we were cutting then) that we were cutting the hit tracks - it was a welcome relief from cutting surf rock we were also recording at that time, 1963 on.
You can tell in the sounds of the highly skilled experienced jazz-involved studio musicians who recorded those cash-paid Motown dates too, that some of the finest recording sounds came from those round-the-clock recording musicians, and we often spoke of it but knew we all broke Union rules to record for Motown, so most just moved on with their lives, not even thinking about it anymore tho' many have quoted in magazine articles over the years about our recording Motown in Hollywood from '63 on (Earl Palmer, Steve Douglas, Joe Sample, Ray Pohlman, Rene Hall, Arthur Wright, others, including Hal Blaine claims some Supremes hits in his book).
I have 168 record dates in my Log for Motown, who was prolific in their recording out here early in the 1960s (after establishing hits in Detroit). It's impossible that the finest most-in-demand studio musicians of Hollywood would "cut only demos" for Motown. We were cutting the hit-tracks for everyone and that includes Motown. Most of us remember those lines and our involvement with it all, tho' ashamed for breaking the Union rules...it was done out of love of recording better music, and we intended to go Union later yes.
Someone did finally snitch to the Union about our Motown dates, and that's when they announced "they were moving to LA" - and subsequently used Ben Barrett's recording license for awhile then. Ben Barrett, famed studio musician-contractor was a golfing buddy of Berry Gordy's and cordially helped him get into an all-white golfing community at that time. Motown has always been out here and there have been (through the years) no recording contracts around anywhere for either LA or Detroit.
Union contracts - even legitimate-appearing ones -- written on old paper -- don't guarantee those were the musicians on the dates and there's a lot of conflicting things on those later-produced "Detroit" contracts:
musicians in 2 places at the same time, contracts filled out wrong, etc. Music sometimes is re-recorded but it's suspicious how all of a sudden after the "My Girl" contract was made up from scratch, how 20 or so "error-ridden recording contracts" mysteriously appeared after that (circa 1990). The made up one for "My Girl" was for re-use royalty-collecting purposes, to get paid from a popular movie then.
"My Girl" was a Detroit-cut product totally which also had Hollywood horns placed on the contract but all of a sudden "more contracts" were "found" .....With such poor record-keepingit appears "deliberately" as the song-writers had sued Motown late 1960s).... it's a wonder that there aren't more people claiming this and that for their own personal agendas. One such self-serving person, Alan Slutsky an east-coaster and wannabee guitar player, knew nothing of our involvement. BTW, nothing of his book royalties goes to the family of Jamerson, only to him. He said he wanted to help the Detroit musicians but because his ignorance of west coast operations created denouncements of our work to further his aims and book sales imo.
He also sent terrible libelous flyers around the world, with his own padded scenarios around his invented quotes, saying I said this or that, which is completely untrue, it was complete fiction. He began a campaign journey of demeaning me and whoever didn't agree with him - he is still doing this.
This evidently prejudiced writer even screamed at me on the phone and then sued the Detroit musicians after they fired him. Most, including a few at Motown, trusted him at first. He's responsible imo for inventing errata and causing even more mystery surrounding Motown and the lawsuits of the songwriters against Motown, as well as credits of studio musicians. More of this will be in my autobiography which explains the time-line of our contributions to Motown during the 1960s, as well as some history of people-events etc. Slutsky was fired by the fine Detroit musicians (from being "their leader") and he turned around and SUED them!
I, along with our group of Hollywood studio musicians, have always held the deepest respect for Jamerson, and I even helped Jamerson get work here, the only one to do so when he first arrived. At all my 100s of seminars across the country, I've always spoken about how James Jamerson and Benny Benjamin started the Motown rhythm section sounds in Detroit. I am and have been very low profile about my Motown credits which I've always claimed since 1969 along with the rest of my credits when issuing my well-known educational books and courses - there was no controversy at all.....it was a known fact back then the difference between our recordings.
I have nothing to hide, nor anything to gain by "lying" at all, but rather will defend my honor and my credits when attacked yes. BTW, some have posted messages that because I "play with a pick" that it doesn't sound like me on those recordings. Well......if you check out the CD of our Jazz Trio on "Thumbs Up", people will swear that's also with fingers as well as many of my recorded hit tracks. It's easy to get all kinds of sounds with the pick if you have FINE technique. Most who go on the attack about Motown, they follow Slutsky's prejudiced and inciting slander, and do not even know me, nor know of my many versatile sounds but just go off on a wild tangent inventing cruel bully-types of slander.
I've always been able to get a WIDE RANGE of different sounds on the bass, any bass and studio setup, from deep bassy sounds to the most-clicky sounds (according to the wishes of the producers), with the kind of hard pick I use, the studio muting, the wide range of controls of sounds on the bass and amp as well as the flatwound strings. Most attackers on the internet do not even bother to try to find out who I am - they just want to express prejudice against a woman for one reason or another. Funny how they never question men for their credits, nor quote Berry Gordy (who attended Earl Palmer's funeral) about mentioning our Hollywood tracks in his book. And no we don't remember the 10s of 1,000s of tune titles we all recorded!
Yes I played on some hit Motown records as stated by a verification letter from the Pres. of Jobete (see Library Photos) and I was only the 2nd of 9 recording bass players they hired out here from 1963 on in the 1960s. I played guitar on the first 2 dates for Motown, which drummer Jessie Sailes recommended me to Motown for. Along with the 9 bassists recording for Motown here were a number of drummers, including Jessie Sailes, Sharky Hall, Earl Palmer, Paul Humphrey, even Hal Blaine, Ed Greene, Gene Pello.....bassists were: Arthur Wright, myself, Rene Hall, Al McKibbon, James Bond, Ray Pohlman, Bob West, etc.
Don't be mis-led by so many on the internet who love to attack women musicians. It's a common thing these days, this type of bullying against a woman who has achieved something, who didn't die of drugs, or of booze etc. but led a clean honorable professional life. I was not a spoiled person, but supported my mother as a pre-teen, and then raised my 3 kids. I had to work hard all my life, growing up in the Wilmington projects as a poor kid. I'm grateful for the work I did do as a life-long professional musician, even if it was day and night work.
Because we've dumbed so far down now in the quality of music today, I do believe there's quite a few men who love to complain about women musicians not only out of jealousy, but because they can't believe that women could play as good as, or even better than the men with the bar set so low now in musicianship. Very few magazines care enough about women musicians to dig into the rich history of women jazz musicians who worked with the men since the 1910s, they'd rather have a bikini-clad blonde in their rag.
This was not a problem in the 1950s and 1960s when women, since the turn of the century, worked alongside of men (as well as have their own bands) and were known for their great musicianship and professionalism, spoken about in Quincy Jones' book and Nelson Riddle's book also...this is history, a totally ignored fact and not discussed or known about by most people today.
When you have bands who are struggling trying to play 1 to 3-chord simple music today, it's inconceivable about the history of our wonderful musicianship past decades ago when musicians could easily play (from chordal education of standards etc. for jazz too) - hence the ignorance that prevails in our world today. Their prejudice against women musicians is *their* problem, not mine.
PS. Studio musicians were never "stars" - they recorded backgrounds for decades for records, film scores, TV show-films, ads, and industrial films.
Q. What kind of strings have you always used?
A. I've always used medium-gauge flatwound strings since I play exclusively with a hard pick (with a flat wrist, not like guitar players). Most of the 1960s hits out of Hollywood were cut on flatwound strings by bass players who played with a pick. And I always use a doubled up piece of felt muting on top of the strings just over the bridges to dampen the over- and under-tones for a cleaner recorded sound too (good for live work also). If you play with fingers and maybe sometimes with a pick, I'd advise to use only the foam underneath the strings barely touching the strings for this sort of muting of unneeded extra-tones. Strings still ring if the muting is done correctly.
Q. When did you first start playing elec. bass?
A. I was a jazz guitar player, beginning my professional gigs in 1949, and finally playing in jazz clubs in LA in the late 50s, was a well-known hard-working jazz musician, when Bumps Blackwell came in and asked me to do some record dates w/Sam Cooke in Dec. 1957. I was playing with Teddy Edwards, Billy Higgins, Curtis Counce etc. at that time when I got asked to do my first record date.....and worked as a studio guitar player for many years until sometime in 1963, someone didn't show up to play elec. bass on a date at Capitol. Can't remember what date it was, but was asked to play someone's elec. bass (it was called the "Fender Bass" back then), and it was a hit I believe. I remember thinking "ooh, this is kind of fun, and if I just played bass, I wouldn't have to carry in all the different guitars as required": acoustic and elecs 6s and 12s, Dano, banjo, gut-string, mandolin etc. Being free to create innovative basslines was a factor too. I just was lucky to fall into something that was more fun than playing guitar on rock dates.
Q. Did you record from 9 to 5, regular business hours?
A. Whoa....(smiling), I wish it was only 9 to 5. You had to run when they called you...and we all wound up recording from about 9AM in the morning to almost midnight almost every day of the week mid-60s on. The business had grown so hot by then, you didn't dare say "no", it was highly competitive. You had to be on call for anything and everything in the way of styles, the studios, hours, who you worked for etc. and be on time etc. It was a clean, highly professional on-time no-drug, no-booze, no-nonsense business. Only the top musician professionals were allowed in the studios and stayed in for any length of time.
Q. What was it like to work with Glen Campbell and Leon Russell?
A. As you all know, Glen was a fabulous guitar player - long before he ever sang on his own hit records, and he was an excellent studio musician. Leon also, they were very unique in what they could create with in the way of sounds, soloings, funky licks and especially w/Leon, his left-handed gospel lines on the keyboards. They were both witty, very different tho', Glen being more outgoing, telling jokes, etc. and Leon kind of quiet, throwing in some great 1-liners here and there (he did stand up and do some "preaching" tho' one time). Most of us being from years of big-band, jazz combo work, etc., this was an unusual mixture of highly creative people who at first made up arrangements in the late 50s and early 60s either having bare-bones arrangements (maybe even just chord charts or none too), or being hired because we could augment someone's chart to turn the tune/singer/production into a hit record. Producers knew as soon as key people like Glen, Leon, or Earl Palmer (and a few others) walked in the door, "it was going to be a hit". Other HOT guitarists were Howard Roberts, excellent jazz legend who loved playing his fantastic rock solos too, as well as Billy Strange, another very fine guitar player and arranger too. Both Glen and Leon couldn't read really well when the arrangements got more complicated, and I swear this had something to do with them being "stars" too - Howard Roberts relished playing both rock and jazz, I don't know of another great like Howard who could do that, and go out at night to play his bebop jazz gigs and concerts....they all did well, were good to work with and for. I never forgot what a thrill it was to cut "Wichita Lineman" for Glen. And yes, he borrowed my Dano 6-stg. bass guitar to play his famous solo on (also for Galveston).
Q. What did you think of the Beach Boys, and did you see them on the dates?
A. They were really nice guys....would drop in and listen to the track we cut later in the session, say hello, exchange a joke, smile and wave good-bye. Carl sometimes sat in the booth to record with us on guitar, but that was pretty rare...he's not on the contracts, only Brian would know which ones he was on. Carl was the youngest, a very nice young man. Brian was always the one in charge and had a wit, would sometimes put us on, and we saw him grow very fast in his music....a genius imo. We had to create parts for all the other groups we cut for, but not Brian. Oh...he'd let the rhythm guitars and drums play what they want (with direction from the booth sometimes), but it was all Brian in the production, sometimes mentored by Chuck Britz, the engineer who he trusted (and Chuck adored Brian too) but no-one else, the kid learned and grew fast within the confines of the studio, working with the fine studio musicians who respected him and liked to do his dates. And the rest of the BBs were really nice young guys, appreciative of our tracks.
Q. How old were you when you first started playing music and do you think this is a factor when learning music?
A. I was 13-14 when I first took lessons from Howard Roberts' teacher, Horace Hatchett in Long Beach. Being born from professional musician parents, I usually heard a lot of music early on and think that was a huge influence...my mother's ragtime and classical piano playing and my dad's wonderful trombone sound. No I don't think age is a factor at all. Having known so many different kinds of musicians, some started early in life, some started late....it doesn't matter when you start but the right materials do matter. It was a lucky thing that my teacher was excellent....music was all around you during the 1940s and 1950s, so many could learn to play music fast...because the education was chordal. You had to to learn your chordal notes for ear-development, and know how chords functioned since standards (and jazz) all function chordally. The fun of playing real music was everywhere back then.
Q. How do you get such a deep bass sound playing with a pick? Why not use a felt pick?
A. First of all, you have to use a very hard pick (a felt pick doesn't get a good defined sound, and limber picks don't either) as that gets the thicker bass sound and with the right amp/bass settings, you never hear a "click" either unless you set the settings for more treble. But you must play with the beat: downstrokes on the downbeats and upstrokes with the upbeats, with a flat wrist, the bottom of your thumb muscle usually touching a bottom string (no, not for muting but for a home-base" strong solid feel), this is where your fine deep bass sound comes from as well as picking close to the end of the neck , never next to the bridges.
I had the pleasure to show Victor Wooten this picking system recently at the NAMM Trade Show, and he got it quickly within minutes, saw the logic, the strength, and the pick-stroke ideas, how good everything worked together, an honor to teach him. Sometimes tho', it does take awhile to get this system, much different than playing guitar with the movement only coming from a flattened wrist. For the double-time funk, you just pat your foot twice as fast (on every 1/2 beat, 8 beats to the bar) and accordingly 8/8, you pick that way also, it works fine, records rhythmically-perfect (engineers loves you and there's no need for compression or EQ then), this way of fine inside meter picking.
And your sound can vary from very "clicky" (with highs all on like what I recorded the "Mission Impossible" theme, "Boots", some of the Beach Boys recordings etc. with) or very low like the Andy Williams, the Motown, the other hit recordings and TV shows and movies with ("Across 110th St.", Henry Mancini, Ironside, Bill Cosby, Kojak, MASH, Streets Of San Francisco, True Grit, Airport, Sweet Charity, McCloud, Hawaii 5-O, Thomas Crown Affair etc., it's all in the settings and heavy pick right-wrist technique/sounds.
First ones to play bass with a pick (most Hollywood recordings were done with a pick on bass) were Rene Hall, Ray Pohlman, Arthur Wright.... all 3 from 1956 on...then myself in '83 (I was a studio guitar player from 1957 on direct from the jazz club work in the 1950s), Lyle Ritz, Bob West, Larry Knechtel and later, Joe Osborn, Chuck Berghofer, Jim Hughart etc.
Q. I love your website! You have so much here to discover, so much help to give musicians on your Playing Tips Page and a great friendly Message Board. Was wondering, is there a reason why you don't have a counter?
A. Thanks for your kind words. We decided against a counter as that can be falsely set to any am't. Many sites like to "impress" with totally wrong counter settings....we get 100s of hits everyday and don't need a counter to impress. There are even "false" awards on other sites, unbelievable what people try to do. We'd just rather have you enjoy the site.
Q. Where did the term "wrecking crew" come from?
A. That is Hal Blaine's self-promotional invented name of his auto-bio book, published in 1990. He said in his book, the older studio musicians tho't we 60s studio musicians are going to "wreck the business"...we worked around the clock, even as many as 4-5 recording dates a day and not dressed well). NONE OF that is TRUE! The older studio musicians never said that! Hal was never a part of the movie and TV-film industry and so I believe that is the cause of him saying that.
To be honest with you, no-one heard that term until he put out his book. He got his term from the 1980's east coast rock group "Wrecking Crew" that backed Darlene Love . And no, I never heard any of the older studio musicians ever say any unkind or critical word about us at all...if anything, they praised and admired us for creating such a great recording business.
Our group, 50-60 of us, TOTALLY INDEPENDENT Studio Musicians, out of the 350-400 heavily working group of Hollywood Studio Musicians, were individual free-lance 60s studio musicians, responsible for many of the hot-sellers of the 1960s coming out of Hollywood. Most of us had very big careers before ever doing studio work, we were NEVER part of "Hal Blaine's band", and were known only as "studio musicians", or the "CLIQUE" never Hal Blaine's touted self-promotional name at all. Phil Spector probably used Earl Palmer on drums as much as Hal, so the phony term didn't come from Phil either...we were all making great monies (about like "doctor pay") in recording in LA studios at that time, but most of us are retired now. Piracy has almost shut down the entire industry in recent years.
Please do NOT donate any money to that wrecking film either, it's skewered, misogynist, prejudiced, and not about us. It's false that older studio musicians ever complained about the younger studio musicians - in fact, they actually admired us and complimented us for helping to expand the recording business, it doesn't list many of the #1 call musicians, but instead presents a biased and prejudiced view, and making money "using" us fraudulently for that purpose (don't believe the "charity status" either).... that film, rightfully called a "piece of Hollywood fluff" by creditable journalists, is a skewered wrong film which maligns me and others, It's not about us.
Q. Do you still teach?
A. Yes, it's very pleasurable to be able to pass along all the experience, the theory, the multi-styled lines, techniques, reading, inventing etc., to others. I've taught guitar since 1949 (the year I became a professional musician) except for the very busy 60s studios years, and then elec. bass beginning in 1969. have written over 30 tutorials, done 100s of seminars, and was the educator for elec. bass for years at the prestigious Henry Mancini Institute at UCLA. (note, this was written a few years ago, that school has been closed for a few years now.) and many other famous schools, personally teaching 1,000s of students. I've done over 500 seminars across the USA, and currently am using Skype also for teaching, I enjoy it. Also am preparing new educational projects.
Q. What instrument/amp did you use in the 60s recording sessions and how often would you change strings?
A. I used the Fender Precision bass, with the Fender Super Reverb open-back 4-10" speakers amp for a long time. Then about 1966-67 or so, I started using the enclosed cabinet double-amped Versatone amp (3-4 amps carted around by my cartage company, Van Cartage). You always wiped your strings after each date, and I would carry a chamois for this purpose plus would wipe the strings off with jewelry cleaner once in awhile to keep the strings sounding live, being careful not to get any on the instrument.
There was no time to change strings, and instead traded the bass in every 2 years or so. Later in the 70s, I tried the Gibson Ripper bass for a short time, but switched back to Fender Prec. as I missed the punchy sounds. I used the stock Fender Precision when playing live with Hampton Hawes 1974 on. Later I used the Music Man with Walter Woods Amp top & Fender 4-10 bottom, then a Hybrid Fender Copy, Fender Prec. Lyte w/Polytone MiniBrute Amps, since 2003 I have used the Ibanez SRX690 with GK 150 amps, and also a new Gibson Tribute SG elec. guitar for jazz.
Q. Am thinking of getting a 5-string bass, did you ever play a 5-string?
A. I've tried 5-string basses, think they're OK, just not for me ...the low B string sort of controls the band on the bottom end a little too much in my opinion, good for church tho'. The jazz bass players of my group only use 4-string basses altho' some of the younger ones still play a 5, but many out here in LA have gotten away from 5-strings, opting for 4-string basses (and they play the whole neck). the low B gets in the way of the bass drum for most styles of music like real jazz and it's not right for the sounds of most music imo.
Q. How did you stay awake and keep the tension off while working so many record sessions, and what is an "A&R" man?
A. Believe it or not, we drank tons of coffee, and while the guys smoked a lot (from boredom, there's no tension once you've done 2-3 dates, just trying to stay awake is the problem), I never acquired that habit. Also, you never saw any drugs used by session musicians until a a little in the 70s. Drugs and booze were totally frowned on (and always have been in the TV and movie score sessions) while drugs were sometimes popular with live-players. The term "A&R" stands for "artists and repertoire", an older term meaning "producer". Please don't judge studio musicians by the antics of the "drug crowd", the 2 are totally opposites.
Q. I know you are playing elec. bass with the click sound on Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made For Walking" but how'd you get that opening sliding sound?
A. That's Chuck Berghofer on string bass on that sliding sound. Chuck played "longer" sounding sliding notes at first, but producer Lee Hazelwood asked him to make them much shorter sliding notes, and after a quick 2 takes (it was the last tune on the session), the rest was history.
Q. Who played the sax part on the "Pink Panther" TV show and movie?
A. That's Plas Johnson, wonderful studio sax man who also did some yakety-sax solos on the 50s and 60s rock and roll dates, altho', being black, he didn't want his name on some of that rock stuff. Plas also is a fine live jazz sax legend, did some on the Beach Boys dates too. Normally in the 60s, it was Steve Douglas who was known for all the hot rock sax solos (he was the #1 rock sax man in LA studios), the Jack Nitzchie dates etc. but Plas did do a few of those too, he's probably the most-recorded sax man in history.
Q. Do you still do session work?
A. Yes, only for the people I want to work for and if the situation is right...not much these days, believe me if I don't feel like doing something I won't. I love to teach, have been an educator since 1949, and am leader in my field.
Q. How do studio musicians get their work? Does the Musicians Union get you the work?
A. No, the Musicians Union does not refer you for work at all But they do protect your monies, your benefits, pension, etc. with the signatory record and film companies. The Union does help more nowadays with networking, and some locals provide reasonable recording facilities for demos for you to help you get your own work. Back in the late 50s, 60s and 70s etc. and even now, you are known for your fine musicianship, your trustworthiness (you're on-time, you can be counted on for excellent reading and creating abilities etc.) and for your correct studio instrumentation gear.
Many fine musicians just accidentally got into studio work as they were heard somewhere in a jazz club by producers (how I got asked in 1957), were recommended by good reliable sources (friends, contractors, golfing buddies even), or some other means...musicians who were on just one hit record of some kind, and had something unusual to offer (like Glen Campbell, Leon Russell etc.), or who had decades of track records as fine big band musicians (also in the military bands etc.).
You insured yourself by belonging to one of the 3 most-popular answering services, so contractors could easily put out calls to you for record dates, and were super-professional when you did get the chance to record. It was really up to you to prove yourself worthy of this prestigious occupation -- the tape "don't lie" as we used to say. Smooth-talking, submitting resumes, bragging, ego etc. did NOT get you to 1st base here -- it was strictly could the record/film co. make money off of your talents and did you "fit in"? That was the criteria...fitting in, your playing was always excellent, you were always on time, you had the right studio gear, you were mostly pleasant to work with, took direction well, didn't have a big head, had years of playing experience under your belt in most styles of music, could read as well as create music on the spot etc. and weren't on drugs, booze, or was an angry person. Being mature and experienced were the top pre-requisites and most-important esp. for film-work, you didn't have addiction problems.
They didn't care if you were a famous person, great player or not, if there was a "problem", you weren't allowed in the studios. No-one played your instrument for you. No, it wasn't "cold-hearted" at all, but it's unfair to the self-disciplined studio musicians to put up with a "less-than" talented or problem-person....it was very intensive recording, harder playing than ever on-stage, and your professionalism had to be the utmost in the studio where it was more important to cut a hit-recording, than to be a "performer".
The payoff was huge, great pay and Union benefits and respect by everyone, you didn't have to leave your family to go on the road, you had the admiration and respect of the whole city of LA, as well as your fellow-musicians, arrangers/producers/composers etal. and your job was fairly secure (especially in the movie and TV-film studios where age was not so much a factor as on record dates) as long as your musicianship was great, and you could be counted on.
Word of mouth got you your work more than anything, and fine studio musicians liked to work with other fine studio musicians -- it made the dates less of a drudge, and more pleasant. Remember, this was a BUSINESS, not for someone's personal "fun" playing on stage in front of an audience. It is an art to record and create a hit-record, cut a TV or movie film score, record a fine commercial and industrial film....and they all wanted the finest of musicians, most-skilled self-disciplined musicians. Most can't do it.
Q. What was your hardest recording session? Your weirdest? Your funniest? Your most exciting time?
A. Well...the toughest had to be "Beneath The Planet of The Apes" (Fox), a Leonard Roseman score, very very tough. They had 3 of us bassists (2 string bassists) playing an odd-time (something like 11/8) against another odd-time the rest of the band and the other bassists played (think it was 4-1/2 time). That literally made me sweat...first time my heart pounded on record dates in all my life. Beautiful score, great music, but hard to read and execute - the toughest.
The weirdest one has to be "The Duel", one of Steven Spielberg's first films (maybe his 1st) we recorded out at Universal. You get to see the movie as you record. Most of the orchestra would be counting bars (you always wore the click track headsets, and then counted the bars to when you entered, no problem) and you'd occasionally look at the movie. After a few scenes, it was apparent the truck driver was the bad guy - out to kill this lone driver on the road (no dialogue). I played low double stops in that movie, a few other cues, I was the "gear-shifting" of that truck. They paid me a lot of money to play those truck gear sounds!
OK, the funny one, well two funny ones. I worked quite a bit out at Fox, great scoring stage, nice guys, good bass sounds (MASH, Room 222, The Foxes, many great films cut there). Emil Richards is this short Italian excellent percussionist. At a dull moment, he starts laughing into his vibes mike which has the Echoplex attachment repeater on it, so it kept repeating his laughs. Pretty soon, we're all getting the giggles so hard, they had to call a break - it was hard to stop...Mancini did that too on one of his dates, and we couldn't stop laughing - his infectious giggley laugh (when he'd accidentally play the wrong bridge to something he started as a piano solo on a take), kept us going, a fun moment.
Another funny time was at Gold Star Records when the echo ran through the women's rest room, there had to be no flushing on the playbacks.
Q. Did you ever write a song?
A. Yes, wrote a few, and Tenn. Ernie Ford recorded one of my songs (Billy Strange was the arranger) in 1965, and it was on the Billboard chart with a bullet at about #63 when they decided to put out our newly-cut version of "16 Tons", thereby ending my "hit-writing" career. Oh well. But I do have some of my tunes on some of my tapes and Fantasy Records is re-issuing my "Soul Reggae" which is on Charles Kynard's "Reelin' With The Feelin'" lp. And also on the great Joe Pass "Better Days" CD (see my Catalog for that one).
Q. What was it like being the only woman in a man's world, you were the first one at a time before the women's lib movement? Were you hassled by the men?
A. All I had to do was play great and feed back to them what they said to me, saying something like "well you play good for a guy", or "you sure are sexy for a fat guy". Just make sure you're not defensive about your musicianship being poor, you first need to get your musicianship together which usually stops all hassles... I had had year of top professional playing gigs and concerts as a guitar player since 1949..it wasn't new to work with men, howbeit a couple were over the line, you just realize the kind of person you sometimes have to work with....the better the player tho', the better the attitude and you excuse an occasional flub as the kind of background they're from - 98% were wonderful to work with.
No, I *never* thought of myself as a "woman playing guitar" or "a woman playing bass", I was a guitarist and then a bass player. I do advise women to let the men be men but if they get in a bind, feed it back to the guys what they sound like, but never just go and attack them except don't let them walk over you either. It's important to have a good sense of humor as well as a wit that gets the others laughing at the perpetrators...they don't like to be laughed at, and soon stop. And I always out-played everyone, no problem.
We were locked up in the studios together, and the men were and still are my family too. I love all those guys, well most of them, there were a couple, but that's life. Plus there were many many fine women jazz musicians back in the 40s and 50s, it's not like it started with women's lib.... I was a recognized jazz guitar player back when rock started for studio work. No, no hassles at all, but a ton of respect and admiration...but you can't let anything go to your head, just go and do the work - don't play the biz like a "female" but as a good pro, it always works out. With one, I did sue for his "d--- c---" remarks tho' later on and won some monies from the major studio for that.
Q. I've been playing now for a few years and want to expand my musicianship - what should I buy from your tutorials to get more ideas and how much should I practice to get to play really well?
A. This is a variable question...it depends on what styles you're after. My tutors are all designed just for people like yourself (altho' some outright beginners have done well with them too). If you're interested in commercial music (rock-funk-blues-pop-Motown-soul-gospel-latin etc.), then I'd probably advise the Bass Video Course, Rock-Funk Bass CD & Guide, (and/or Jazz Bass CD & Guide) and books with the CDs to them if you're not much of a reader.
Since you play already then probably you don't need the "Rock-Funk Bass CD and Guide", that's mainly for beginners. But if you're looking ahead to learn jazz theory and theory for soloing and walking, then the "Jazz Bass CD and guide" will be good for you in addition to the Bass Video Course...those items don't require a lot of reading ability at all.
Later you can get the "Standards I & II" (good for walking practice and ideas), "Pro's Jazz Phrases" (good for the right lines to play) and the "Jazz Improv For Bass" as well as the Jazz Improv Soloing DVD Course (be sure to get the Elec.Bass Lines #3 book for interval training too, it's the best for that)....be sure to stay completely away from those unworkable backward note-scales that stop your ear-training. Real music functions chordally, you never play something "over the chord" - you play the chord. Use the fine chordal tone, pivot b5, stacked triads methods that work as illustrated in my endorsed acclaimed tutors.
My books all have the great commercial lines (except #3 the interval book) I've invented and used in my career as a studio musician and are wonderful for study and playing as they are in so many various different styles....something the ordinary bass player needs as they normally don't have that type of experience.
The tutors all work well for you to expand your natural talents with. And the Courses are logical and well-explained -- "user-friendly" with no waste, derived from the experienced decades of teaching I've done....with plenty of knowledge and practice for you. You won't find any other books on the market like mine.....I was the #1 call on 1,000s of record dates of the 1960s, 1970s Hollywood recording scene and others were required to get the "Carol Kaye" sounds and try to invent like I did - why I had tons of bass students from 1969 on.
I wouldn't practice more than 1 hour a day at first, except when for jazz soloing sometimes -- your mind can turn to mush with too much practice. But do visualize yourself playing when listening to music too, that's almost as good as outright practice without the boredom. Also, except a little warmup with a jazz lick, never a scale, don't play the day of your gigs to keep it all fun and fresh. When you start to function more, then it's OK to increase your practice time later.
FAQ 28 (written in 1997, edited later.)
Q. I always thought the groups of the 60s recorded their own music, and just recently found out it was your bunch of studio musicians who recorded my favorite hits. Was our baby-boomer generation scammed about our 60s music, since studio musicians were never credited with recording the 60s music we grew up with and lived our lives by?
A. From posting on many Boards on the Web, I sense a feeling at first of one of disbelief, then real anger, and finally total acceptance of how things went down about the way that music of the 60s was recorded, advertised and written about. There is always a certain amount of wrongful data getting out. It's not a science, it's the music business.
The Earl Palmer Story" by Tony Scherman (and Earl Palmer, publisher: Smithsonian) is the most comprehensive to date as well as the one by Bob Keane, producer of note ("La Bamba" other big hits) for many decades. Others to come out soon as well as more-factual documentaries than the phony one out right now. I'm also working on my own auto-biography.
To say it was a "scam", in some sense, yes....when the Monkees kept repeating in news releases that they "cut their own music" (when we all knew we did their musical tracks for them in the 60s), well...that's show-biz, and others too, same way.
I've publicly (in my tutor books) claimed the same credits since 1969 when I wrote my first educational book, and in my 1970-written bass cassette course (now a DVD Course), wrote quite a bit about our studio work, the artists etc. This got out some to the general public back in the 70's and there was no general feeling of disbelief back then, but seems to be some isms of sort going on today when the same information is out in the press.
For instance, somehow, today, it's harder for people to believe today that a "woman" can play as well as men for some reason (which wasn't a problem for me at all back in the 70s).
Maybe it's the lack of connectedness to the time when fine women musicians proliferated in the world of 50s jazz, maybe it's because there are so many women being made out to be "stars" who really can't play well, maybe the "categories" of who can play soul and who can't jazz are more severe these days, not sure...but the prejudice is there more than ever imo.
And sometimes the vision thing doesn't "fit" in people's minds...there will always be generations of people wanting to believe what is being preached to them in magazines, books, the press as "the truth", something easier to live their lives by tho' it's filled with errata.
But as one matures, it's easier to see the discrepancies and it's this fact that is the hardest to accept if you've been close to music of the 60s, the background of which was hidden because of prejudices of blacks and whites working together back then (and now).
The 60s sales distribution force was interested in sales, not truths as to how the product was "made", that was immaterial and some even knew about us and told others about us. But in-general, we were not widely known as the studio musicians who recorded everyone's hits for them. So you were led to believe certain untrue things and the visual touring groups weren't going to say "it wasn't us on our records."
One thing, to look at our 60s group of musicians together in photos, do you think the music would have been bought as much in the turbulent 1960s had everyone known mixed races, people as old as the parents of the boomer generation, mostly jazz musicians with one blonde white lady on bass had done all those recordings?
It's up to people to believe things with a grain of salt in the news media which gets it wrong more than right sometimes. Music is a very personal thing to most people, and that's wonderful, it's a beautiful art-form, but to make it a sort of "god" is not right either.
Some people get carried away as their belief system cannot accept "new" ideas, new isms and you'll find plenty of zealots posing as "historians" taking advantage of any confusion to get their agendas across too.
Studio musicians, mostly, were NOT interested in becoming "stars"....we were part of the process in business to make people into "stars". We knew the ropes on that, saw the whole thing from the inside, something the general public, including many live musicians have little or no idea of.
It's a business, but a tough competitive business - you had to be extremely great on your instrument and very self-disciplined, having a multitude of all kinds of musical skills, and be totally reliable as well as totally experienced to succeed..
We were very content making a great living recording music (howbeit, sometimes very boring, playing very mundane music styles maybe we didn't like to personally play, but that's got nothing to do with it, our personal likes and dislikes do not enter into this at all. It was a business and we were all grateful to do it, and enjoyed making the recordings we did yes!).
We took care of our families by insuring that we would have work "next year" by doing an excellent job in all styles of music: rock, surf, blues, pop, funky stuff, soul, latin-soul, gospel, commercial music of all kinds inc. some commercial jazz....jazz was not much of a money-maker for record co's tho'....and saw what a grind being a "star" was, how fragile, how much work to be "on-stage", dealing with managers, record co's, accountants, road managers, back-up traveling musicians, repertoire, rehearsals, and yes, the press and PR stuff.....it was unbelievable!!
No, we were content just to be "in the background", recording (and in most instances at first, helping to create) their hits for them, having the respect of all of LA, and making more money than any musician could possibly make altho' it took a toll on our health to play intensely all those hours, drink so much coffee, smoke so many cigarettes and be alert up to more than 16 hours a day when we did it...playing probably more hours than 10-20 other musicians ever would in their lifetime, yes it was a GRIND!
But it paid the bills, helped us raise our kids and we still played music, better than traveling on the road, making 1/4 as much, and being away from our families. Our Musicians Union insured our pension and re-use benefits...if they chose not to insist that our names be on the back of the record albums back in the 60s (as they were from 1973 on), then that didn't bother us at all.
But the new music of the rock and roll led people to believe in the 60s a certain way...and that's too bad as it coincided with heavy drug uses ("to be like my idols") I believe, and that was unfortunate. Most of the studio musicians were never into drugs and booze, you couldn't do your job on drugs, no way, and we didn't want to use drugs, why do that?
It was known as stupid back then-- most of us saw what happens to live musicians on drugs as we played jazz in clubs for many years before studio work.
So yes, in a sense it was a "scam" to the "credit-conscious" world, but the world is full of scams...you just have to be aware and as you get older. .
It's wonderful to admire people who do something beautiful like create music - enjoy it but know there'll always be some arguments about music credits -- the record co's only want to sell records, other people have their agendas.
Remember that, and remember to question who is making a lot of money by presenting controversy too...it's a shame to defame people to do that, sometimes it happens..
Q. Why are your credits sometimes in question and not anyone else's?
A. In one word, because I am a "woman" .....Ignorance, prejudice, and stirring up business w/controversy (and attention) plus the fact that they can't believe a woman did anything like that (imo), plus the fact that no credits were given back in the 60s (very rarely) and were not required until maybe a few in 1973.
Upon mentioning this a few times to my friend, and wonderful Boss Billy Strange (Arranger of Nancy Sinatra things, Jody Miller, Glenn Yarborough, so many wonderful dates, even Elvis etc.) the wonderful arranger/composer/producer/guitarist Billy Strange was shocked after hearing of some of the libel out there, wanted me to quote him on this:
"Dear CK, all the musicians in L.A. know you to be the MOST truthful and honest person in the music business. Yes, you have been known to speak your mind on many a subject, ALWAYS TRUTHFULLY. I take that as being a badge of honor and courage, upholding what you know to be fact, and telling it like it REALLY IS, and WAS, concerning the early years in the L.A. recording industry.
Those of us who have worked with you over the years, and most particularly during those times, can attest to the fact that YOU DID A GREAT DEAL OF MOTOWN PRODUCT IN L.A. Having done a much smaller amount of recording with the Gordy/Motown group myself, I can verify the fact of your having done 0NE HELL-UV-A-LOT of those L.A. produced Motown product. I only wish that I'd been privy to ALL of your work with them, and that I could rattle off each and every artist and song title that you were involved with recording for the label during its hey-days, there in Los Angeles.
Carol, we, the recording musicians of Los Angeles, KNOW what enourmous contributions you made to the Motown cause. And what you have contributed to the entire L.A. music community over the great many years in which you have participated in, and given of your extremely unique talents to the recording industry as a whole.
Love to my most favorite bass player in the entire world, Billy Strange (The Boss)
Feel free to use the above quote also."
Thank-you Billy, you've always been so great to me, and wish everyone could know you like we all do....you're the salt of the earth, with a big beautiful heart that matches your great talent, Boss - hugs, CK.
Q. Do you play different licks for different styles in your playing and did you always play hard "like a man"?
A. You bet, it all depends on the kind of song it is, the character of the mood of music, the way you fit in with the rest of the group you're playing with. A drummer may fill in a totally different way than another drummer, and you take that into consideration...you don't want to step in "their territory", you want to compliment them.
The bassist is unique in the sense that what you play puts a total framework around everyone else is playing, as well as the song, the singer, what is happening around you. When you do this quite a few 100s of times in the studios, it gets automatic. You cut it and then forget it and go on to the next date. You don't even remember the name of the tune a lot of times (unless something memorable, the style music you especially love, or interesting stuff about it etc.) -- remember, these were NOT hits at the time you recorded them. I just heard "Urizon" for the first time in years when a DJ sent me a tape of our recent live radio interview. Probably haven't heard it since we cut it....but it all came back to me, and it was really fresh, nice to "go back and touch bases again with your past".
Some people just usually listen to "Hikky Burr" and think I did "nothing else hip like that" when there were literally tons of things I did which fit the situation, but a few maybe think "it had to be a man" because I usually always played hard (FYI the musical note knows no sex, and anyone can play "hard"!). Hahahaha, the "bongos" effect again!
(note: Am listed as bongos player on a great deal of the Ray Charles hit records contracts!). One player even had the nerve to say about his playing "I play like a man - you can tell on ______TV show" trying to differentiate himself from me in a metaphor one time...I was on the floor laughing! The one with balls was me, he was on the "weaker-sounding lines".... Guess he never heard Mission Impossible and others. But yes, tons of licks, it depends on the style and the tune of course.
On the Elec. Prunes stuff, I was trying everything until Dave Ax said "yeh, stick with that a little" that kind of thing. He later wrote, taking advantage of our invented stuff he to put on top of our track then. But we really had no clue much of the time.
Ray Charles along with Brian Wilson knew I did some of the Motown recordings and Ray loved that way I played. Brian loved the orig. I Was Made To Love Her and altho' what we cut with him was with a different drummer, and I couldn't quite remember note for note (tons of notes) what all I had played on the orig., the feel and most of the notes and sounds do match....he liked that.
Yes, I've always usually played like a "man" except for some special sensitive parts maybe, you do have a little leeway on elec. bass.
I have to tell you a story: one time I was doing a Glen Campbell date about 1974 in a Hollywood studio and we were done recording, walking out the door together when an excited fan rushed up to our group looking for "Carol Kaye" in the front part of the studio. Everyone pointed to me and he looked shocked "but you're a woman"! "Yes" I said, "my ex-husband, my kids, my boyfriend, everyone thinks I'm a woman"! The guys including Glen just roared....they love this kind of stuff. I think that poor guy took was still shaken as I signed an autograph for him, probably took awhile to get over that.