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  1. #1

    Motown Bass Players

    Hi all, new member here from UK, although been a lurker of the forum for many years. Been a Motown/Soul fan since mid to late 60's, starting in my school years. Hoping to learn/contribute.

    Always love following the bass line on Motown tracks and assume James Jamerson is almost exclusively on every track but there must have been occasions when he wasn't available due to say illness or holidays. Who else would be brought in to play bass on these occasions?

    Have always been intrigued from reading there were 2 bass players [[J.J and Tony Newton) on Supremes "Love is like an itching..." and wonder about the story behind this. Did HDH want to give the track more "oomph"?
    Was this ever done on any other recordings, although it is known JJ sometimes overdubbed double bass with electric bass [[or vice-versa?)?

    Steve.

  2. #2
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    Welcome Steve, of course James Jamerson did play on most of the Detroit tracks as you suggest and that Tony Newton was involved too. Bob Babbitt joined in the late sixties and was very active in sessions. Carole Kaye was responsible for most recordings in California and also Chuck Rainey. Her sound is distinctive as she played with a pick and the sound to me is quite wooden. There were others used as well.
    Our expert on bass players is Stu Bass - come in Stu!

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Stax_of_Motown View Post
    Hi all, new member here from UK, although been a lurker of the forum for many years. Been a Motown/Soul fan since mid to late 60's, starting in my school years. Hoping to learn/contribute.

    Always love following the bass line on Motown tracks and assume James Jamerson is almost exclusively on every track but there must have been occasions when he wasn't available due to say illness or holidays. Who else would be brought in to play bass on these occasions?

    Have always been intrigued from reading there were 2 bass players [[J.J and Tony Newton) on Supremes "Love is like an itching..." and wonder about the story behind this. Did HDH want to give the track more "oomph"?
    Was this ever done on any other recordings, although it is known JJ sometimes overdubbed double bass with electric bass [[or vice-versa?)?

    Steve.
    HDH seemed to have been onto something in the way of developing a sound or style with quite a few things they did around '64-'65. I first picked up on it with "Stop In The Name of Love"; I never noticed it for years but one day it really jumped out that there are two bassists on that track. I remember reading in one of those Motown books how HDH would employ two bass players on some tunes - one playing lower notes or the main line while the other played the uppermost notes or sometimes a pulsating riff.

    "Back In My Arms," "The Only Time I'm Happy," "Who Could Ever Doubt My Love," "Nowhere To Run," "Just Ain't Enough Love" [[the original Eddie Holland version), "I'm In Love Again," "Beach Ball" are a few HDH things off the top of my head that I remember using two bass players.

    "Beach Ball" and "Just Ain't Enough Love" are two of the most interesting of these. On the instrumental break of "Beach Ball," and near the end, you can really hear both guys just going at, as if they were carving out territory. With Eddie Holland's "Just Ain't Enough Love," it's fascinating because the bass lines are minimal: one barely played more than 3 ascending notes per 8 beats while the other bass player doggedly and dementedly plucks one note in a strobing fashion from start-to-finish. It creates an incredible sort of tension throughout.

    Probably some will question if any of this is true. I won't fight it. I'm too old for that.
    Last edited by WaitingWatchingLookingForAChance; 08-07-2022 at 10:28 PM.

  4. #4
    Thanks, I must dig out the CD's for those tracks and carefully listen but even knowing about Love is like an itching, have not been able to discern 2 basses although i'm not a musician. Will be some weeks before I can do this as HiFi dismantled for decorating.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Stax_of_Motown View Post
    Thanks, I must dig out the CD's for those tracks and carefully listen but even knowing about Love is like an itching, have not been able to discern 2 basses although i'm not a musician. Will be some weeks before I can do this as HiFi dismantled for decorating.
    It's kind of one of those things where the casual listener won't notice it. Plus the effect is fairly subtle so that it doesn't jump out at you. I think the only reason I pick up on it is because of my learning to play the bass decades ago. I was trying to learn to play the bass line for "Tears Of A Clown" but this was the single, 45, mono mix. As I was playing the song, I noticed there were spots where it seemed like the bass was going in two opposite directions at the same time. I kept hearing this weird distortion as if a low note and a high note was being played simultaneously, which I thought was impossible. I had my Dad listen [[he's a musician) and that's when we figured there were two bass players on the record. I'd never heard of that before but I thought it was amazing. You won't hear the overdubbed bass on the original mix of the song, just the mono/45 version. Anyway, playing bass over the years has made them a bit keener to picking up when a song features two bass players.

    On "Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart, " one guy is playing a "busy" line. It's a sort of climbing line that starts on a very low note and progressively climbs. The pattern lasts 8 beats, then repeats. Meanwhile, the second bass is more of less playing the same note over and over. He might vary it up at times but mainly he's stuck on one repeating note played against the main bass line.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Stax_of_Motown View Post
    Thanks, I must dig out the CD's for those tracks and carefully listen but even knowing about Love is like an itching, have not been able to discern 2 basses although i'm not a musician. Will be some weeks before I can do this as HiFi dismantled for decorating.
    It's kind of one of those things where the casual listener won't notice it. Plus the effect is fairly subtle so that it doesn't jump out at you. I think the only reason I pick up on it is because of my learning to play the bass decades ago. I was trying to learn to play the bass line for "Tears Of A Clown" but this was the single, 45, mono mix. As I was playing the song, I noticed there were spots where it seemed like the bass was going in two opposite directions at the same time. I kept hearing this weird distortion as if a low note and a high note was being played simultaneously, which I thought was impossible. I had my Dad listen [[he's a musician) and that's when we figured there were two bass players on the record. I'd never heard of that before but I thought it was amazing. You won't hear the overdubbed bass on the original mix of the song, just the mono/45 version. Anyway, playing bass over the years has made them a bit keener to picking up when a song features two bass players.

    On "Love Is Like An Itching In My Heart, " one guy is playing a "busy" line. It's a sort of climbing line that starts on a very low note and progressively climbs. The pattern lasts 8 beats, then repeats. Meanwhile, the second bass is more of less playing the same note over and over. He might vary it up at times but mainly he's stuck on one repeating note played against the main bass line. Once you get your ears tuned to it, you'll be surprised when you actually hear it.

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