When I was very little my friend’s dad had a double bass in his den. I was fascinated, but I couldn’t imagine playing it. A few years later I started playing guitar then I got an electric bass. Wow! The power, the tone, the simplicity. It was really cool. As the years went by I gained some proficiency on the instrument and I really dug deep into it. I played fretless basses and lucky me, I worked at a music store, so I bought, traded, and played every kind of bass ever. I’ve said before, reverting back to old-school instruments and playing styles was the best thing that I ever did as a bass player. I was getting gigs, playing with amazing players.
I was playing with Charlie Chesterman and he was very interested in my playing upright, so I bought on and tried to figure it out. What little bit of playing upright I did in high school and randomly plucking one here and there, did not give me any insight as to what I was really supposed to do. And there was no YouTube to help me out.
Then it happened. We were booked to open for the Bad Livers and I stood on the edge of the stage and watched Mark Rubin beat the shit out of his upright bass. He and I chatted for a bit and he sent me a VHS that he made with Kevin Smith of High Noon. Every night I watched the video and played till my finger blistered and bled. This sent me on a lifetime of searching for the right pick-up, the right amp, the right STRINGS!! UGH! Playing upright in a loud rock band is my than just frustrating, it’s impossible. Why would I put myself through this? Well, when it’s done right, and the sound is right, there is a wider breath in the upright, you can feel the band “breathing” with an upright on the low-end. It also limited my choice of notes and my swing and rhythm. Plus, thanks to Mark Rubin, I learned to really make a racket, so when we (the motorbikes) went without a drummer, I covered all the drum and bass parts. Later doing trio and duo gigs with just the upright and a guitar or two was great. I eventually got back into bluegrass and country. I’m alway tempted to bring an electric on gigs, and if its a wedding or a tribute gig, I break out the electric bass. But I always feel better with the big bass booming under my fingers.
I know it sounds like I’m anti-electric bass. I’m not! I would lover to have a band or gig that would require me to play electric. So if you have an 80’s tribute band, call me up! I’m happy to play an electric bass.
And I have a handful that can get the job done. I have two late 50’s Danelectro/Silvertones. A Musician (well OLP) fretless 5 string. A Twelve string, yes 12, each string is tripled, like Cheap Trick. I have a Uke Bass (again I yanked the frets out of it). And then there is my workhorse, the Chandler Jazz Bass. back in the late 90’s I had Paul Chandler’s guys build me a ’62 Jazz bass copy, robin egg blue /sea-foam green. It’s got a Hip-shot for dropped D playing, Bartolini pick-ups and now a new active preamp. It’s strung up with the heaviest Labella black nylons I could find. It’s been my baby for almost 30 years.