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The first bass book of its kind, The Way They Play: The R&B Bass Masters is a detailed look at the most influential bassists from the golden era of R&B. These players shaped the history of electric bass and, in many ways, modern music. The electric bass as we know it first appeared in 1951 when Leo Fender introduced the Precision Bass. Acceptance of this instrument was slow at first; many of the R&B and rock 'n' roll recordings of the 1950s were tracked with the upright bass. Gradually upright players and as well as guitarists gravitated toward the new electric instrument, finding the relative ease of playing and greater volume without feedback better suited the high-energy music they were creating.
Nonetheless, while there were electric bass players in the 1950s, the instrument didn't really come into its own until James Jamerson picked it up as a session bassist for Motown Records. By 1963 he had begun to develop a style that broke all precon©ceptions of what an electric bass could do and how a bass line should function in pop music. His contribution to the instrument became the starting point for all electric bassists. The other players represented in this book are descendants of Jamerson's original concept, yet each has added his own individual stamp on the art of R&B bass playing. The '60s and '70s were a time of unparalleled growth in music, and the per©colating, funky, soulful lines created by the players in this book were the underpinning of the biggest hit songs of the day-songs that are still being played and discovered by new audiences.
In the 1950s, '60s, and into the '70s, the music industry was still a very regional busi©ness. Many records were cut in the major music-industry cities of New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, but towns like Memphis, Detroit, Muscle Shoals, and New Orleans had studios staffed with the best players on the local scene. These studios (and the players that lived in them) had unique traits in their styles of production and the grooves they created. The differences are apparent; a knowledgeable listener will easily distinguish a track cut by James Jamerson in Detroit from the work of Duck Dunn in Memphis. After absorbing the material in this book, you will, too!
R&B bass playing has evolved over the years, but its foundation was laid by the great pioneers profiled in this book. To approach modern R&B with authority, you must go back to the source and study these great early masters. Ironically, with all the advances in music technology, the sound of a thick, chunky Fender Precision (or Jazz Bass) is still one of the most sought -after tones for R&B. What's old is new-or, more likely, what's great is always and forever great. As early R&B was the seed of rock, funk, and blues, the lines played by this group of electric bassists form the earliest known history