For those of us who grew up listening to the music of the 1960’s and ‘70’s there are a few consistencies that we may not be aware of.
One of those was the fact that most of the recorded music of that era featured a group of professional session players that recorded the instrumental music for the popular singers of the day.
Though recording took place in New York City, Detroit, Nashville and Memphis, much of the hit recordings of this era were done in several Los Angeles studios by a group of talented musicians nicknamed “The Wrecking Crew”.
Carol Kaye is indeed a legend and an American treasure. You may have never heard her name but I guarantee that you have heard her distinct bass guitar lines. Ms. Kaye recently celebrated her 85th birthday.
|Carol Kaye In The Studio|
|Carol playing a |
|Kaye Playing a 12 String Guild|
"Mission: Impossible Theme" (Lalo Schifrin), "Mannix Theme" (Lalo Schifrin), "Out of This World" (Nancy Wilson), "Wichita Lineman" "Galveston" "Rhinestone Cowboy" (Glen Campbell), "River Deep - Mountain High" (Ike & Tina Turner),"Scarborough Fair/Canticle" (Simon and Garfunkel), "Sixteen Tons" (Tennessee Ernie Ford), "Somethin' Stupid" (Frank and Nancy Sinatra), "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" (Nancy Sinatra), "This Diamond Ring" (Gary Lewis & the Playboys), "The Twelfth of Never" (Johnny Mathis),
|Kaye With A MusicMan |
Bass and Amplifier
Carol Kaye played on The Neil Young album and was featured on the LP Music from Mission: Impossible (Lalo Schifrin, 1967). She backed up Frank Sinatra on many of his later hit songs.
|Playing A Fender|
Other TV themes that feature her bass guitar lines include Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Mission: Impossible, M*A*S*H, Kojak, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, The Love Boat, McCloud, Mannix, It Takes a Thief, Peyton Place and the previously mentioned Cosby Show. She is credited with performing on the soundtracks of Hawaii Five-O, The Addams Family and The Brady Bunch along with Ironside, Room 222, Bonanza, Wonder Woman, Alias Smith & Jones, Run for Your Life and Barnaby Jones.
Carol Kaye played 12-string guitar on several Sonny and Cher hits, as well as on Frank Zappa's album Freak Out!
Carol Smith nee Kaye was born on March 24, 1935. Her career as a musician has spanned 50 years.
|Carol Kaye Through The Years|
She began working as a guitar player for producers Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. After a bassist failed to turn up to a session in 1963, she switched to that instrument, quickly making a name for herself as one of the most in-demand session players of the 1960s. into playing on film soundtracks in the late 1960s, particularly for Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. Carol Kaye authored a series of tutoring books such as How To Play The Electric Bass. She became less active towards the end of the 1970s, but has continued her career until retiring in her 70's.
|How To Play The|
Electric Bass by Carol Kaye
During an interview she was asked if she was ever upset by being a ‘no-name’ background player, and not enjoying the fame acquired by the big name bands and singers that she backed up. Her reply was no. She got to be home, and enjoy her family, raise her children, and not have to travel.
She was born in Everett, Washington, to professional musicians Clyde and Dot Smith. Her father was a jazz trombonist who played in big bands. In 1942, he sold a piano in order to finance a move to Wilmington, California. Her parents moved, but divorced soon afterwards when she was young. Music was the one thing the that united their family. When she was 13 Carol received a steel string guitar as a gift from her mother and she quickly took to the instrument. So much so that she began teaching professionally the following year.
In the 1950’s Kaye played bebop jazz guitar with several groups on the Los Angeles club circuit, including Bob Neal's group, Jack Sheldon backing Lenny Bruce, Teddy Edwards and Billy Higgins.
She played with the Henry Busse Orchestra in the mid-1950s, and toured the US with them.
It was in 1957 that record producer Robert "Bumps" Blackwell heard her play and invited her to do a recording session for Sam Cooke's arrangement of "Summertime" on which she played guitar. This was a wake up call. She realized that she could make significantly more money with session work than playing in jazz clubs, so she decided session work was going to be her full-time career.
|1959 Tommy Dee With|
Carol Kaye and The Teen Aires
Along with several other musicians including drummer Hal Blaine and guitarist Glen Campbell, her work with Spector attracted the attention of other record producers and she found herself in demand as a regular session player. In 1963, when a bass player failed to show for a session at Capitol Records in Hollywood, she was asked to fill in on the instrument.
She quickly discovered that she preferred playing bass, and found it was a key component of a backing track and allowed her to play more inventively than the relatively simpler guitar parts she had been playing until then. From a pragmatic viewpoint, it was easier to carry a single bass to sessions instead of carrying and swapping between the three or four guitars that session players had to carry with them depending on the song.
After Wrecking Crew bassist Ray Pohlman left studio work to become a musical director, Carol Kaye became the most in-demand session bassist in Los Angeles. This was all during a time when session work was considered to be an all ‘boys club’. So it was it unusual for women to be experienced session players. However she is remembered by players at those sessions being generally good humored and united by the music.
|Kaye At A Brian Wilson |
Recording Session For Smile
Kaye is often credited for creating the bass line on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" single, although it is not her bass heard on the recording.
Brian Wilson remembers Kaye as one of the session players hired for the many sessions devoted to the song: "The bass part was important to the overall sound. I wanted Carol Kaye to play not so much a Motown thing, but a Beach Boys-Phil Spector riff".
By 1969 Kaye said she was exhausted and had become disillusioned from doing session work, saying that the music had "started to sound like cardboard". At the same time, many newer rock bands disapproved of using session players, preferring to play the instruments themselves.
So Carol set about reinvented herself by writing books and performing mostly soundtrack work for films and television. She regularly collaborated with Quincy Jones.
In the early 1970s, she toured with Joe Pass and Hampton Hawes, and continued to do sessions. In 1973, she played on Barbra Streisand's single "The Way We Were", which was cut live.
In 1976, she was involved in a car accident, and semi-retired from music. In 1994, Kaye underwent corrective surgery to fix injuries stemming from the accident, and resumed playing and recording.
|The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Carol Kaye|
She collaborated with Fender to produce a lighter version of the Precision Bass that reduced strain on her back and made it more comfortable to play. In 1997, she collaborated with Brian Wilson again, playing on his daughters' album, The Wilsons, while in 2006, Frank Black asked her to play on his album Fast Man Raider Man.
|Carol Kaye's Equipment|
By the 1970s, she sometimes used the Gibson Ripper Bass.
In 2001 she collaborated with Fender to create the P-Bass Lite which eventually became the Zone bass.
It was lighter, and featured twin humbucking pickups as well as a 3 band active preamp/EQ.
Later has used an Ibanez SRX700 bass because she felt it gave her more of the Jazz sound she was looking for.
|Kaye with Ibanez |
Bass and Guitar
Kaye primarily uses a pick, or plectrum, on both guitar and bass, rather than plucking the strings with her fingers. During her peak recording years Carol put a piece of felt between the strings behind the bridge on her Precision bass to enhance the sound and reduce unwanted overtones and undertones.
If you view the videos below you will note that she puts masking tape on her Ibanez bass for this same purpose.
|Kaye with 1946 |
She also played an Ibanez RG321 guitar as well as an Ibanez RT150. Very Early in her career Carol Kaye used as series of Jazz style guitars including a 1946 Epiphone Emperor, a 1955 Gibson ES-175, and many other instruments.
Click on the links under the pictures for sources. Click on the links in the text for further reading.
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