GIGGING & RECORDING > ON BASS
WHERE’S THE LOVE? BY STEVE COOK
My first bass was a King (I think)—a Les Paul-looking pawnshop baby I
bought in 1984 for $110. The
date was May 19 (I remember because it was also my
brother’s birthday), and when
I walked out of Littman’s Pawn
in Norfolk, Virginia, I was the
happiest kid in town. The cardboard case couldn’t be opened
fast enough when I got home,
where I quickly started showing off my acquisition to the
big kids on the street, all while
brimming with a new confidence and purpose.
Fast-forward a thousand
years to today. My love continues to grow and my sense
of purpose is renewed every
time I open my case. If you
play bass, or any instrument
for that matter, then your love
should grow as the years go
by. You may ebb and flow in
Where the adventure began for
me in 1984. Here’s to another
28 years of groove!
terms of your commitment—
be it practicing, maintenance,
or gigging live—but the love
will be there. Ask an older
person who used to play and
you’ll most likely see their eyes
Your passion for tone, reach-
ing new levels of musicality,
and your “love of the game”
should not be in question. Of
course, that changes when the
guitar player says he tracked all
the bass parts in Pro Tools. But
don’t sweat it—you are better
than he is. To play bass is not
second-rate, as the guitarist may
imply, but rather an honor to
hold such power in your hands.
Use your powers for good.
40 PREMIER GUITAR FEBRUARY 2012
To play bass is not second-rate,
as the guitarist may imply, but
rather an honor to hold such
power in your hands.
whole vibe. Take that,
time you (correctly) play a
George Porter, Jr. bass line.
a solo with distortion,
Fire version of “Got to Get
You Into My Life” with a
full horn section. Just once.
before every other gig.
note every four measures
and still keep a groove.
One item I omitted from
the list, but happened upon
later, was the sense of community I have found from playing
bass. The bassists I know are
gracious, helpful, and willing
to share gigs. When there is an
audition, they don’t get upset
if they end up not getting the
gig. Instead, they are humble
and happy for the bassist who
did. This is how it should be
all the way around.
Let’s go back to watching the ladies. It seems there
are two main inspirations for
being a musician: the Beatles
and getting girls. Of course
these aren’t the only reasons,
but humor me for a moment.
Since we can’t be in the Beatles
(though Brian Ray is awfully
close, isn’t he?), we opt for the
getting girls part.
The industry joke goes, “John
Mayer told me never to name
drop,” but here I go. Back in
2010, I was in the studio with
Steve Cropper rehearsing some
of his classic hits for a show. The
engineer was in the control room
with a female friend. As we started playing Steve’s song, “634-
5789,” I looked up and I saw her
moving her hips. It wasn’t like
we were in a rocking venue full
of moving bodies—it was just
one person in a room who let her
subconscious take over. I smiled
at that moment, thinking I had
proof that a sick bass groove—
even a 50-year-old groove—is a
timeless and powerful thing.
These are just a few of my
favorite things, so this list is by no
means absolute. I encourage you
all to think of your own reasons
for playing bass and send them to
me. I want to know what makes
you tick as well, and maybe we
can follow up with some of your
answers in a future column.
The love you had when
you first started playing is the
most powerful inspiration you
can possess. Like any successful marriage, it takes work to
keep it all together. Harness
that passion and use it to your
advantage. Don’t worry if your
love has slipped a little—there
is always time to get it back. If
your love remains strong, keep
it that way. Because it only
has been fighting his rock-star frontman urges for
decades, holding down the
low end for such artists as
Steve Cropper, Sister Hazel,
and Phil Vassar. Join in his
“touring therapy” on Twitter @shinybass.