I started playing bass in 1963. A childhood friend had gotten a guitar for the Christmas of `62 and he brought it over to my house. I plugged it into the stereo and the RIAA equalization made it sound like a bass so I started playing on the E string mimicking a bass. My friend told me I could get a "electric bass guitar" and we could start a band. I was not aware of such a thing as an "electric" bass. In the early 1960's the electric was still a relatively new instrument and if you saw a bass on TV or in the movies (with few R&B and R&R exceptions) most times you saw the upright bass. Even if there was an electric bass on the actual sound track. I worked that whole (1963) summer bussing tables at a seafood restaurant in Shark River, New Jersey and bought a $50 (brand new) Japanese Rhythmline Bass and a Sears Silvertone amplifier ($129.00 made by Danelectro).

My first gig was the grand opening of the West Side Community Center in Asbury Park, New Jersey in 1964. The band consisted of me on bass, Larry "Adrian" Peek on Drums, Bill Carter on Saxophone, & my friend the late J.B. Williams on guitar. Up until I moved out west, I had a tape of the first time I played before an audience. We each made $10 for the event (not bad for a 14 yr old). The reason I went to BIT was, although I had become a pretty good player by ear, I could not read music (another story). I was faced with a change in occupation (I was an electronics prototype builder) so I wanted to become a legitimate musician and learn to read and understand the language of music (theory).
That first bass was really a beginners instrument. It was brown sunburst and I screwed a Fender logo from a Bassman speaker cabinet right onto the body. I later sold that bass to Brad Walker who in turn sold it to another bass contemporary in my home town, Norman Perkins. Brad was not a player but more an salesman :-). He knew Norman wanted a bass and he was there to oblige... for a profit. The Amp was made in my hometown (but I did not know it when I bought it) by a company called Danelectro. They made cheap amps for Sears and Montgomery Ward. The one I bought (with my Father's help) had a 15 inch speaker (with a choke on it to kill all the highs) and produced 50 watts of distortion.
My first recollection of seeing a professional bassist and his rig was actually at the very same community center that I started in. His name was Dennis. He had a Fender Bass VI six string bass, a Bandmaster 85 watt head and a speaker cabinet that seemed to be as tall as I was. He had built this big cabinet to JBL specifications and it contained two JBL D140 15" speakers. I tell you, this opened by eyes. He could hit a low "E" and have this cabinet actually move across the floor and his sound was great and the power... I later built my first amplifier from parts of another local company called "Tennyke" (pronounced ten-ike). It had 2 of their 150 watt power sections and a preamp section in one cabinet and 2 2-15 cabinets (300 watts and 4-15" speakers). This thing would burn... figuratively and literally, I had to put a fan on the head. Finally it caught fire and I got two Danelectro Coral 100's to replace it.
That original bass was replaced by another Rhythmline. This time with a hollowbody similar to a Gibson ES335. This is the bass I installed a preamp in about 1968-9. I was also given an Egmond (Scandinavian) bass in Jamaica around 1971. I got my first professional bass in 1976. I bought the second production bass made by Stuart Spector.

Early Piano Lessons

I was a Piano student at age 9 (1958) and the only course of study for the piano was classical music. I did not want to play that kind of music so I lost interest in the Piano. When I started playing bass (at age 13), Motown (and Jamerson) was getting international recognition. As a player looking for something to listen to, Someone to emulate, Jamerson was there and what he said as a bassist caught my ear more than any other player except Chuck Rainey (later on). Motown became the music of my youth. I can remember waiting patiently for the next release so I could hear what Jamerson had to say. During this time I never knew who he was. Later it came down the grapevine who he was but, I knew his signature style. The funny thing is I don't have a recollection of which bass he was playing (Electric or Upright) I just knew it was his style, his notes (you gotta remember I was a 13 year old when I started). The book (Standing in the Shadows of Motown) gave a face to the music and I find that I had some things in common with this man I never met.

Copyright 1995-1997 Bob Lee - All Rights Reserved