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here are a few stories about how I got started playing bass, and
there is a little truth in all of them. As a pudgy, long-haired
geek growing up in a notch of the Bible Belt called Champaign,
Illinois, my role model was Danny Partridge - as played by
Danny Bonaduce - from the TV series
Partridge Family.
Danny was
the bass player in the show, which was about a family that started a rock
.. with Mom as the singer! Danny kind of looked like me, or so I liked
to think, and was the geeky brains of the operation. He usually played
a Fender bass, and had this amazing technique of playing whole songs
without actually moving his left hand up and down the neck.
.. I’m still
working on that one.
Around the same time, a rock band set up to play a free concert on the
tennis courts in a park near our house. I jumped on my bike and pedalled
as fast as I could to see what the noise was all about. The bass player was
playing a dark green Fender Jazz with a matching headstock, the most
beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. A curly white Bar-B-Q cable
connected that dream bass to a Kustom amp with padded silver cushioned
siding and chrome portholes.
I was hooked for life.
I asked for an electric bass that Christmas, and when the day came I
snuck into my parents' room to snoop around and see if they had gotten
it for me. I vividly recall reaching my arm into their closet and feeling my
fingers touch the strings and make them vibrate.
.. they had gotten me
the bass! It was a pawnshop special, maybe an Alvarez - a burgundy red,
double cutaway SG type of deal. The first thing I did, of course, was to put
a Silver Surfer sticker between the tuning pegs on the headstock. You
couldn't do that with a Fender!
When it came time to move up to a real bass, I became the proud owner
of a white 1975 Fender Jazz. What a bass that was! It quickly gained a
brass Schecter pickguard, bridge and nut, and my friend Marietta made
small brass stars that I glued on to frame the body. They cut the hell out
of my right forearm, but they looked awesome. When I went to Berklee, I
had my first active EMG pickups installed. That bass was stolen from my
apartment in Boston, so I briefly played an Alembic budget model and a
fretless Pedulla-Orsini. I eventually got the Fender back and it made the
long trip with me to where all of the loose ends in the United States roll.
Los Angeles.
I played that bass with the Michael Gibbs Big Band, an Elvis
impersonator called El-John, on my audition for Frank Zappa and with
Steve Vai on his
album. There was a time in L.A. that I was so
broke that the bass was in and out of a pawn shop on Van Nuys Boulevard.
Once I couldn't come up with the cash to get it out of hock, and by the time
I scraped up the money it was gone, never to been seen or heard from
since. Damn.
Then I saw an ad in a guitar magazine for a Kubicki X-Factor bass.
Whoa! It was the coolest thing I had seen since that guy on the tennis
.. I went to the NAMM show, searched out the Kubicki booth,
picked one up and quickly drew a crowd by playing music that I had been
experimenting with, which was enhanced by that bass.
When Fender bought Kubicki, I met Fender Master Builder John Page,
who had this crazy idea which he was running out of a garage on the
outskirts of the Fender factory. He called it the Custom Shop. Together,
John and I combined the classic features of what we loved about Fender
basses, and added some new wrinkles for a Fender, including a 24-fret
neck, active electronics, and a more ergonomic design. I'm delighted to
this day to be able to say that we designed the first ever Fender Signature
bass. The first prototype is on display at Larry Hartke's Bass Lounge in
New York.
I just love basses. I love Warwick, who make my signature bass
nowadays. I love Rickenbacker. I love BC Rich. I love Fodera. I love Gibson.
I stare at them and play them all at every music store I visit. Simple and
to the point. Functional and beautiful. Sunburst and sparkly. Just trackin'
cool looking.
Here, then, are a bunch of basses you must play. I want to drool over,
hold and play each and every one of them. This bookazine is a love letter to
all bassists. Enjoy!
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